Italy's Salvini seeks to build new European order with Poles

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

Italy's far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and the leader of Poland's ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, will discuss on Wednesday the possibility of forming a eurosceptic alliance to contest the European Parliament elections in May.

In turn, the PiS government has been accused by opponents at home and overseas of tilting towards authoritarianism and is the subject of an unprecedented rule-of-law investigation by the EU.

Italy's hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini has rejected a European deal to end a deadlock that left 49 migrants adrift in the Mediterranean for almost three weeks.

Later in the day he was to meet Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party.

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.

The Maltese government on Thursday voiced "disdain and surprise at the inaccurate allegations by Minister Salvini", pointing out that Italy had promised to take 50 migrants from Malta and that the two countries had agreed the two deals cancel each other out.

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

Salvini could try to unite the Europe of Nations and Freedom bloc, to which his League belongs, with the European Conservatives and Reformists group which includes PiS to create a single, powerful eurosceptic force in the EU Parliament.

"In Europe, one has always spoken about a French-German axis", Salvini said in a news conference there. They are shaping up into a battle between leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron who seek greater integration, and populist euroskeptics like Salvini and Orban.

"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.

His aim, Salvini said, is to build "a common alliance of who wants to save Europe".

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.