Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

Salvini invites far-right parties to Italy to forge alliance ahead of EU vote

The leader of the League populist party is attempting to overcome policy differences and form a right-wing united front

Italy’s Interior Minister and deputy PM Matteo Salvini addresses the World Congress of Families (WCF) conference on March 30, 2019 in Verona. AFP 
Italy’s Interior Minister and deputy PM Matteo Salvini addresses the World Congress of Families (WCF) conference on March 30, 2019 in Verona. AFP 

Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini is set to host a meeting of European far-right parties in Milan next week aimed at building an alliance ahead of the European elections in May.

Mr Salvini, who heads the populist League party, is attempting to position himself as the leader of a populist force in Europe that will comprise parties in Hungary, Austria, Poland and Italy. In France and the Netherlands, right-wing anti-immigration and Eurosceptic parties are also expected to make gains in the next elections.

“The difference between us and others is that they have to go abroad to seek alliances ... but the League invites European movements to Italy, our country has become central, thanks to this government,” Mr Salvini said.

In order to present a united front, the Italian firebrand will aim to iron out the policy differences between parties, which include contrasting foreign positions towards Russia. According to Italian media, far-right parties from as many as 20 countries are invited to the event, due to be held on Monday.

The leader of the League has spent the past months rallying far right groups ahead of the European elections. In January, he held meetings with Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of the right-wing polish ruling party Law and Justice in Warsaw, and spoke of Italy and Poland launching a “European spring” that would end German domination of the EU.

However, the two countries do not see eye to eye on Russia, with Mr Salvini praising Russian leader President Vladimir Putin and Mr Kaczyński maintaining frosty relations with the country.

In 2010, Lech Kaczyński, then president of Poland and Jarosław’s twin brother, died in a plane crash in Russia along with 95 other people, including many prominent Law and Justice politicians. Mr Kaczyński at one point said he believed his brother had been assassinated.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far-right, previously expressed interest in an alliance between her National Rally (RN) and Mr Salvini’s League into a “grand coalition” of nationalist forces. Mrs Le Pen, however, is "absolutely not" planning to attend the Milan gathering, according to her party’s press office.

Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán, who referred to Mr Salvini as a “hero,” was suspended last month by the European Parliament's biggest grouping, EPP, in a row over defiance of EU policies. It is not yet clear whether Mr Orbán will travel to Milan to explore the possibility of an alliance with Mr Salvini.

Updated: April 4, 2019 06:55 PM