By VANESSA GERA, Associated Press
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Europe’s right-wing populist leaders said on Saturday they would cooperate more closely in the European Union’s parliament to defend the sovereignty of their bloc’s 27 member countries.
A statement at the end of the meeting did not result in a statement aimed at creating a new alliance in the European Parliament, an idea some of the party leaders sought out but has yet to materialize.
Yet the leader of the French far-right party, Marine Le Pen, said the meeting was “a key step” towards closer cooperation. It brought together party leaders from more than a dozen countries united by conservative values, nationalism and the feeling that the EU is appropriating powers never granted to it in Union treaties.
“This is a step forward which is greatly appreciated and allows me to be very optimistic for the future,” said Le Pen.
Political cartoons about world leaders
Party leaders have agreed to meet at least every two months in the European Parliament, while another meeting is scheduled in Spain in two months “to continue to move forward in strengthening and creating this great European force”, Le Pen said.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Nationalist Party in Poland, hosted the meeting, which was also attended by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and leader of Spain’s far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal.
Saturday’s event follows a joint statement by 16 right-wing parties in July and a visit by Le Pen to Budapest in October.
The meeting was also a show of solidarity for the Polish and Hungarian governments from like-minded politicians.
The governments of the two central European countries remain stuck in a stalemate with the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, withholding funds from the two countries due to a democratic setback. Warsaw and Budapest argue that the commission is taking a step that was never foreseen in any EU treaty.
Saturday’s statement said the populists needed a model of cooperation to “put an end to the disturbing idea of creating a Europe ruled by a self-proclaimed elite.”
“We reject the arbitrary application of the right to organize, distorting or even violating the treaties. Only sovereign state institutions have full democratic legitimacy, ”he added.
They also castigated internal guidelines according to which the Commission had proposed to replace the “Christmas period” with “holiday period”. The EU retracted after a backlash from the conservatives and the Vatican.
Citing the incident, populists said they oppose attempts “to ideologically change our languages is a means that will detach a human being from his culture and heritage.”
Wojciech Przybylski, editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight, a central European-focused political newspaper, said there is a paradox in a “transnational meeting of nationalist parties”. He believes the event was organized so that party leaders can show their constituents “that they are not alone”.
Ruling Hungarian and Polish parties, he noted, are “in big trouble”, with Orban’s Fidesz party forced out of main conservative group in European Parliament and ruling populists in Poland seeing popularity fall in their country.
“This is basically a publicity stunt,” Przybylski said.
Le Pen’s reception by the Poles marks a recent turnaround for the ruling conservatives in Poland, who have long refused to cooperate with the French presidential candidate due to her warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Le Pen’s position is taboo in Poland, a country long dominated by Russian and Soviet rule.
“We have as much in common with Ms. Le Pen as with Mr. Poutin,” Kaczynski remarked in 2017.
As Saturday’s meeting opened at a hotel, a small group of protesters outside hissed and shouted accusations that the leaders were extremists serving the interests of the Kremlin. The demonstrators held signs saying “Russian Pact” and chanted “Warsaw freed from fascism!” “
Polish party officials defended the meeting with Le Pen on Saturday, saying key European leaders had done much more than Le Pen to help the Kremlin, citing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was backed by outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel .
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