The leaders of right-wing populist parties are gathering Saturday in Warsaw to discuss how they can work together to bring change to the European Union, which they accuse of acting like a super-state that is eroding the traditions and powers of the EU’s 27 member nations.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s nationalist ruling party, was expected to open the gathering in Warsaw. Scheduled attendees include Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, among others.
The meeting follows a visit by Le Pen to Budapest in October that was part of an effort by her and Orban to consolidate the European right.
It also comes as both the Polish and Hungarian governments remain locked in a bitter standoff with the EU, which is withholding funds to both countries over democratic backsliding.
Wojciech Przybylski, editor in chief of Visegrad Insight, a policy journal focused on Central Europe, said there is a paradox in a “transnational meeting of nationalist parties.” He thinks the event was organized so the party leaders can show their voters “they are not alone.”
Both the Hungarian and Polish ruling parties, he noted, are “in deep trouble,” with Orban’s Fidesz party forced to leave the main grouping of conservatives at the European Parliament, and Poland’s governing populists seeing a drop in popularity at home.
“This is essentially a PR stunt, Przybulski said.
Kaczynski’s welcome of Le Pen marks a recent change of heart for Poland’s governing conservatives. The ruling Law and Justice party had long refused to cooperate with the French presidential candidate due to her warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin — a turnoff in a country long dominated by Russian and Soviet rule.
“We have as much in common with Ms. Le Pen as with Mr. Putin,” Kaczynski remarked in 2017. Two years later, he described Le Pen’s party as being among several groupings in Europe that were “obviously linked to Moscow and receive its support,” citing such ties as an impediment to cooperation.
But Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki met with Le Pen in Brussels in October and hosted her for a dinner in Warsaw on Friday evening.
In a tweet, Le Pen posted a photo of herself with Morawiecki and thanked him for his welcome. She said they share a wish for “a Europe of nations to give back to the peoples of Europe their freedom and their sovereignty.”
Sixteen European populist parties issued a joint ideological statement in July objecting to the EU’s current direction. Among the signatories were Kaczynski’s Law and Justice, Orban’s Fidesz, Le Pen’s National Rally, Austria’s Freedom Party and Spain’s Vox.
There have been rumors that the parties were working to form a group at the European Parliament, something Polish officials denied this week.
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