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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 April 2019

Far-right meeting does not end divisions ahead of EU vote

Salvini is attempting to form an eurosceptic alliance named Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF)

The far-right politicians hope to take more seats in the May's European Parliament elections. Bloomberg
The far-right politicians hope to take more seats in the May's European Parliament elections. Bloomberg

Leader of Italy’s Lega party Matteo Salvini is trying to build bridges before elections on May 26 to the European Parliament, posting selfies with far-right politicians as he tours Europe in what he describes as “cordial meetings.”

In the latest of such meetings on Friday in Paris – where Mr Salvini met French far-right Marine Le Pen – he repeated his intention of forming an eurosceptic alliance with enough seats in the assembly to block or hold up legislation.

“Our idea is to come together ... into a new party that better reflects the euroskeptical views that unite us,” Mr Salvini’s foreign affairs advisor, Marco Zanni, told Reuters. “Now is our chance to unite forces once and for all.”

Mr Salvini officially went to France to meet fellow interior ministers of the G-7 group, but some observers point to Mrs Le Pen’s absence from the rally of far-right groups organised by Mr Salvini for Monday in Milan as one of the underlying reasons for the deputy Prime Minister’s trip to France.

A spokesperson for Mrs Le Pen told The National that the leader of Ressemblement Nationale would “absolutely not” participate in Monday’s rally.

Representatives of Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party (PiS), which governs Poland, will also fail to attend.

Mr Salvini promised a bigger rally for next month, but the absence of Le Pen and other leading far-right and nationalist leaders is a sign of the policy differences and rivalries that have long stood in the way of unity among such groups.

The anti-immigrant League is forecast to more than quadruple its representation in the EU assembly with 27 seats. Mr Salvini is preparing to pitch a populist alliance – Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) – that will comprise other far-right groups that are projected to increase their weight in the European parliament.

Among them is Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD), which expressed interest in the its hat in the ENF group.

Following its unprecedented success in a regional election last December in Spain, Vox is now being courted by both by Poland’s PiS and Italy’s League. Polls suggest Vox will win about five seats in the European elections.

Poland and Italy have not resolved their issues and are unlikely to be able to reach an agreement that will bring them together in a united front. Their main obstacle is Russia, which the League sees favourably and which the PiS vilifies.

Updated: April 7, 2019 05:32 PM

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