Polish prime minister defends meeting of European populists

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Poland's conservative ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, left, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, back left, stand together during a meeting of conservative populist party leaders in Warsaw, Poland, on Dec. 4, 2021. The leaders of right-wing populist parties gathered 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. (AP Photo)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday defended a recent meeting of European populist leaders by saying Poland is seeking allies in its challenge of what he called a “centralized Europe.”

Morawiecki was reacting to criticism of the meeting hosted Saturday in Warsaw by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party. Far-right politicians including Marine Le Pen of France and Santiago Abascal of Spain's Vox party were among the participants.

Referring to numerous tensions between the Polish government and European Union's leading bodies, Morawiecki told a news conference that Poland was being treated unfairly and receiving “low blows.” He said he was “seeking allies in this struggle against federalized Europe, against centralized Europe.”

But Morawiecki distanced himself from comments Le Pen made to Poland's Rzeczpospolita daily. She said that Poland’s neighbor “Ukraine belongs to Russia’s sphere of influence.” The comments go against the basic tenets of Poland’s foreign and security policy, in which Poland promotes and backs Kiev's aspirations to join the EU.

“We do not need to agree on everything ... we can differ on many things, like in this case," Morawiecki said, adding that not all in the West necessarily understand the situation in Eastern Europe.

Opposition Sen. Krzysztof Brejza described Le Pen's comments as “disgraceful” and “scandalous” and called on Morawiecki to condemn them.