Matteo Salvini meets Jarosław Kaczyński

The leader of La Lega met with Jarosław Kaczyński.

Two leaders of two major political parties in two more populous member states. No wonder there was a buzz about this meeting that transcended borders and melted snow outside of the PiS HQ. Even Jarosław Kaczyński noticed Salvini’s popularity in Warsaw: “I see you are very popular, there are so many news people around here!”, he greeted his Italian guest.

What happened?

Mr Salvini arrived in Warsaw on a mission. The mission? To create a new major force in the European elections. What does he want: “Poland and Italy will be part of the new spring of Europe, the renaissance of European values” and “the Europe that will come to form in June will lead us all than the one that exists today and is run by bureaucrats.” Later in the day he said that he wants the new force to be the second, maybe the first in the EU vote.

Deliberately I shall not label Salvini or Kaczyński “Eurosceptic”, as major outlets have done. Let’s listen to their arguments.

The Interior Minister Business

First, Matteo Salvini met his Polish counterpart, the interior minister, Joachim Brudziński.

Brudziński, Polish Interior Minister and interlocutor of Salvini in the EU Council of Ministers: “Poland and Italy are not leaving the European Union. We are an integral part of the EU and we want to have an influence on how our common European house looks like. To those, who would like to see us on the fringe positions, anti-European, we can say only one thing: it’s mission impossible”.

Poland and Italy just don’t like migrants. Brudziński and Salvini agreed, the process of deportation needs to speed up. They also love “the family”. Salvini: “John Paul II talked about Europe that needs to come back to its identity and Judeo-Christian roots, and this is denied in Brussels madly. The family is negated, only other values dominate”.

The Future of Europe

The second meeting of the day – Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki. During this meeting Mr Salvini used the most quoted words about the new “European spring” or a “Warsaw-Rome axis” replacing that of Berlin and Paris. According to Salvini, this European renaissance means recreation of the “true European values, where there will be less finances, less bureaucracy, more jobs and more family, and most of all – more security”.

If Brudziński and Morawiecki were the entrée, it was the Kaczyński meeting that was the main course. Apparently, the Italians have asked for the meeting for months. The Poles like to be courted, and hesitated. Their (PiS) natural instinct is: ALERT, ALERT! After all, their counterpart is all-the-way pro-Russian, Russian sanctions critic, his party is even affiliated with the Putin’s One Russia. As for the Poles – since 2015 no high-ranking visit of a Polish official to Russia or from Russia. When the Polish President Andrzej Duda shook hands with Putin at the UN one year, he was questioned for doing so…

So the Italians requested, courted. Why? La Lega is outside of European mainstream. La Lega is affiliated with ENF, chaired and created by the done-with-the-EU Front National, or whatever its current name is. PiS is very cautious about talking with the Euro-leavers. The Polish opposition accuses the government of a secret Polexit strategy. Salvini also is on the defensive: ever since coming into power he had to defend his positions. Just last December ha had to repeat once again: he does not want a “Brexit all’Italiana” or to leave the Euro. His government complied with the EU Commission about the 2019 budget figures, too.

La Lega is not a fringe party anymore. La Lega dreams big. In Italy and it needs partners.

PiS is not a fringe party, but like La Lega is outside the mainstream.

The two needed to talk.

Mr Salvini visited the Polish leader in the Law and Justice HQ on Nowogrodzka street in Warsaw. They talked for over 1:30 hours. We know little about the meeting, except for what the spin doctors of PiS want us to know, that the Polish leader is happy about the meeting and there will be follow up. There is the invitation for Kaczyński to visit Milan in March, should his health permit. There is a commitment: Salvini will commemorate the Monte Cassino II World War battle memory event, scheduled for 18 May.

They talked about what unites them. They talked about being accused of Euroscepticism, or even anti-Europeanness. They talked about Italian contribution to NATO and Polish-Italian business. They talked about family and religion and migration. Salvini repeated what he said elsewhere: “Because of that [migration] I have many enemies in my country, but the more critical they are, the more support I get among the society”.

They talked politics, too. The context is the European elections comes May. PiS is an orphan following Brexit, as the Tories leave ECR. La Lega wants to step up its participation in European politics from ENF. After all, they run a government now! Meetings about future cooperation will continue, the message stands.

Et alors?

My take is simple, La Lega and PiS made a deal, or are about to make a deal. A Polish politician was already making calculations: La Lega can become the largest national delegation in the European Parliament with some 30 MEPs. PiS’ own expectation – 24. Just those two partners and a simple math: 54 MEPs. This is a solid base to continue to dream.

PiS has one condition: La Lega cannot bring the Front National from ENF with them to their new group. That’s too toxic.

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