Santiago Abascal, leader of the Spanish party Vox arrives in Warsaw for a meeting with Jarosław Kaczyński, the chairman of Law and Justice (PiS). The purpose of the meeting? To meet and study each other, as both actors do not know each other too well. Exploration ahead of the next European Parliament. Vox, after all, entered the European political scene only last December after the surprising Andalusian elections, which saw Vox receive 11% of the vote.
The latest opinion polls suggest Vox can receive over 10% of the Spanish vote in the May European elections as well as a month before in the national poll.
Vox is as a very conservative party protective of the Spanish nation and statehood. It stands against migration and multiculturalism (‘purity’). It voices opposition to same sex marriage (‘tradition’). In Spain it supports recentralisation of power against regions (‘unity’). The party also voices strong anti-feminism and anti-women rights arguments. As for the EU it seems to endorse the sovereignist approach. Mr Abascal in 2015: “Spain must be in Europe without complexes, claiming the historical, industrial and agricultural role that we deserve. We should not be vassals of Merkel or Tsipras.”
On Wednesday the Vox leader met with the leadership of PiS. In the official communication after the meeting it seems there was a mutual understanding. Both parties are interested in defending nation states against the federalists “which implies the loss of national sovereignty“.
Vox statement also voices opposition against Macron’s vision.
A happy face of Santiago Abascal after meeting PiS: “We have a lot in common with Poland, Law and Justice”. Clearly this exploratory meeting shows that those two parties are close to each other. Mr Abascal expresses the conviction that the talks are going “in the right direction” regarding a possible future alliance with PiS in the European Parliament.
Europe moves away from fundamental Christian values, accepts mass immigration and interferes too much in the policy of sovereign statesSantiago Abascal
The Vox leader continues: “We are looking for an understanding and alliances with other parties in other countries. Besides, we are big fans of Poland, Spain is a sister country with Poland, we have a lot in common: today Poland and other countries represent the core of Europe, including Hungary.”
Presenting his party in Poland Mr Abascal says about Vox: his party “speaks truth and defends common sense”, which is why many Spaniards identify with this message against “the dictatorship of political correctness of the left”. “In Spain there are many people tired of politicians who dictate what to think and interfere with the Spaniards’ religious, patriotic or family feelings”. “Vox transformed into a huge wave that began in the south of Spain”, he concludes.
In his earlier tweet, Mr Abascal described the Wednesday meeting with the Polish partners fruitful. “A very fruitful meeting with the Polish government aimed at analysing common policies based on respect for the sovereignty of European states, Christian values and migration control”.
So far chairman Kaczyński met Matteo Salvini in January. In February there was an ECR summit in Paris hosted by Debut-la-France of Nicolas Dupond-Aignan. Now Vox leader is in Warsaw.
It is easy to dismiss every party on the continent right of the EPP as far-right. It is easy to be scared of the mass and amount of the far-right in the European Parliament. I won’t, because there are certain key actors within this crowd and there are important limitations for some of the actors. There are reasons why there are two groups in the EP now (EFDD and ENF), not one. There are reasons why some parties were even too toxic for other far-right-wingers out there (Jobbik from Hungary, Golden Dawn from Greece).
In the large pool of right-wing parties the crucial for future EP will be the popular parties in the populous states: AfD in Germany, National Rally (RN), which is the current party of Marine Le Pen in France, the Italians – La Lega and M5S, the Spanish Vox and the Polish main actor: PiS.
Clearly the Hungarian Fidesz enters the pool of seeking potential new allies as of today. Also the Dutch party PVV of Geert Wilders is widely known, the Swedish Democrats and the Austrian FPO, too.
Can we expect a wide coalition including all those actors?
PiS seems to have two major limitations in seeking out new partners. The first problem are the Russian money. It will be very difficult for the Polish governmental party to be associated with a partner who is not only dependent on Russian support, but who is perceived in Poland as an agent of Russian (unwanted) influence in Europe. This means it will be very difficult for PiS to cooperate with actors like RN or La Lega.
The PiS government policy towards Russia is frozen since 2015. The latest stint: invitations for the 80th anniversary of the start of WW2 are out. The war broke out in Gdańsk on 1 September 1939. Vladimir Putin of Russia has not been invited by the Polish head of state Andrzej Duda.
The second argument is a bit more subtle. PiS presents itself as the sovereignist party, but also as the defender of the European integration. That is, PiS wants to change the EU and reclaim sovereignty (especially in the rule of law area), but is far away from advocating exit from the EU or dissolution of the Union. Hence, those who are openly hostile to the membership are not likely to be considered partners.
Last, minor, is the obvious statement, that the Polish party calls for respect. PiS is not going to be associated with parties of anti-Polish rhetoric (PVV).
Unless people make corrections in their policy, that is. Matteo Salvini January visit was an attempt to prove himself in the eyes of Jarosław Kaczyński of being free of La Lega’s Russian links. Two months on it seems the criticism towards la Lega among PiS is growing. Still, it may change by May.
With La Lega (maybe), Vox (probably) and Fidesz (likely) the biggest challenge for PiS in their attempt to win the European elections is to win votes for their group (ECR or a new one) in France and Germany. Relations with AfD are dire since the 2016 split. Today AfD is close with the Austrian FPO – anti-European and sometimes disrespectful of Poles. It is very unlikely for any German MEP to be included in the upcoming PiS-led group.
France is another story. RN is a no-go for PiS, but in Paris Law and Justice announced its large block to include the Debut-la-France party of Nicolas Dupond-Aignan, which is polling currently at 5%.
In the Netherlands passing by the Wilders’ PVV there is a new actor, too, who has been reached out to: it is Forum of Democracy (FvD) of Theo Baudet, who just came second in the Dutch provincial elections beating every party except for the VVD of Prime Minister Rutte. It means there is a reservoir of support for the future PiS/ECR+ group in the Netherlands.
If the four parties (PiS, La Lega, Fidesz and Vox) are the core of the next group in the European Parliament, they come from four different houses: PiS is an ECR party today. La Lega is in ENF. Fidesz is/was in EPP. Vox is not yet associated. Together they could amount to over 60 MEPs with each of the parties contributing at least 10 (Italians and Poles at least 20) members. This could be a good start for building of a larger sovereignist group right-of-the-EPP, including the parties of DLF and FvD and alike.
Yet it is very clear: there will be more than one group on the right side of the European Parliament. The other group, openly anti-European could be based on RN, AfD, PVV and FPO.
Where will M5S go?