Poland, Italy will be key to 'new spring' in Europe: Salvini

Premier Matteo Salvini

Salvini says populists could spark 'European Spring' as he meets Polish ruling party leader

Salvini, who heads Italy's anti-immigrant League Party, has repeatedly criticised the European Union and says the May elections are vital for creating a "reformist" bloc that can overhaul the Brussels institutions from within.

Italy's hard-line interior minister vowed Wednesday to work with Poland to create a "new European spring" as he sought to build an alliance with Poland's ruling populists ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.

Salvini's planned meeting 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.

The Maltese government has refuted claims by Matteo Salvini that Malta had failed to abide by its pledge to take in a number of migrants who had landed in Italy last summer.

Salvini, fellow deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, held talks late into the night on Wednesday.

His ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has clashed with Brussels on a range of issues, including the rule of law in Poland, environmental protection and migration.

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.

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"Kaczynski showed that he doesn't want to be a part of a euroskeptic alliance under the patronage of the Kremlin", Szuldrzynski wrote in Thursday's paper. He voiced hopes that the Polish and Italian governments can play a guiding role in a European nationalist surge.

Both populist governments have been embroiled in conflicts with Brussels that have seen them strive for greater national sovereignty.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he would like to see anti-immigration parties dominating the European Parliament after May elections.

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"In Europe, one has always spoken about a French-German axis", Salvini said in a news conference there.

European Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is ready to talk to Italy about the reallocation of migrants, the Commission said on Thursday.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the media during an worldwide press conference in the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.

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