Italy, Poland ‘to work together on new Europe’ - Salvini

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Salvini's meeting later with Polish ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski is being watched as an early sign of whether the Italian firebrand can effectively mount a nationalist challenge at the European level. Commentators in Poland also argued that there are good reasons for Polish wariness about Salvini, who is seen as overly pro-Russian by many people in Poland, which has suffered under Moscow's rule for most of the past two centuries.

Salvini is also meeting with Joachim Brudzinski, the interior minister, but the meeting with Kaczynski is being watched with greater interest given Kaczynski's role as the country's de facto leader, the official understood to be the real power behind the government despite his lack of any formal government portfolio.

"We are preparing a new equilibrium and new energy in Europe and Poland and Italy, absolutely, will lead this new European spring", Salvini said in the Polish capital Warsaw, adding that "we have a new plan for Europe" meant to replace the dominant "French-German axis".

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Poland's government, run by the eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party, has also demanded the European Union offer more sovereignty to member countries and meddle less in national affairs.

Brudzinski said he rejected accusations that the Polish and Italian governments were seeking to leave the EU, saying their aim is "to have influence on what our common, European home is going to look like".

"The Europe that will be born in June will have a different pace compared to the one of today, which is guided by bureaucrats", Salvini said.

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during the weekly government news conference in Budapest, Hungary, January 10, 2019.

Both populist governments have been embroiled in conflicts with Brussels over topics of national sovereignty.

The European Parliament elections will be held across the EU from May 23-26.

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"One country has a budget deficit of 2.4 percent (Italy) and another country has a deficit exceeding 3 percent (France)... and they are treated differently because of some other aspects", he said, referring to a budget dispute between Brussels and Rome. "But that doesn't mean that he wants to build an alliance with forces that want Europe to move in a direction that from a geopolitical point of view would not be acceptable to Poland". Salvini's visit is seen as sounding out a possible alliance with Poland's ruling EU-skeptic party ahead of spring elections for the European Parliament.

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