ROME - Hard-line Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and members of nationalist parties from around Europe met Monday in Milan to discuss forming a broad international alliance within the European Parliament. Their talks come as the European Union prepares for May 26 elections aimed at choosing members of the parliament.
At the gathering in a Milan luxury hotel, the nationalist and anti-immigrant forces said they want to create a major new grouping to shake up the European Union following elections next month.
Matteo Salvini, who also serves as Italy's interior minister, organized the meeting held under the slogan, "Toward a Common Sense Europe." Joining him were Joerg Meuthen, chairman of the Alternative for Germany party, Olli Kotro of the Finns Party and Anders Vistisen of the right-wing Danish People's Party.
Germany's Methuen said the planned bloc would comprise at least 10 nationalist parties from different EU member states.
Far-right populists in power in a number of European nations, including Italy, Austria, Poland and Hungary, are expected to do well in the May 26 elections. Salvini has pledged to bring about a "new European spring." He said they are working for "a new European dream."
Salvini was clear about his plans as he addressed the news media.
"The ambitious objective of those present is to create the leading group of the next European Parliament, the largest, most important, most decisive, and most addressed to the future,” said Salvini.
He added they will have the newest ideas and hope to be present in nearly all of the European countries that will be voting.
Salvini said he does not do something with an eye to losing or simply to participate, but that the objective would be to win and change the rules of Europe. He said many others will be joining the group and that plans are under way to hold a large gathering for the new Europe in Milan's Piazza Duomo May 18.
Salvini said that what they have in mind is "a new Europe that looks toward the future and to the coming generations."
Although there were notable absentees like Marine Le Pen of France's Nationalist Rally and Austrian far-right politician Heinz-Christian Strache, Salvini appeared confident that his planned large international bloc of nationalists would be created.
Most share common views over immigration and the desire for certain powers to be returned to the member states' capitals, but not all of them agree on economic and social policies. Observers have voiced fear that far-right groups are no longer on the fringes politically and are becoming more mainstream.
Salvini also addressed the issue of Turkey, which is seeking to join the EU. Salvini said talks with Turkey, which have been suspended, should be canceled. Salvini has said he believes Turkey would be an Islamic influence that is not needed in Europe and that the country is too different culturally.