Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called to visit Poland on January 6, where he met the chairman of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) party Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The secretive meeting suggests the pair are cooking up a new united "illiberal" front.
Kaczynski met the Hungarian leader in a private guesthouse in southern Poland, where they spent six hours. No details of the meeting were reported other than trivia including what was on the menu and the gifts exchanged. However, the meeting suggests the controversial pair are building a good relationship, while their policies continue to irk the European Union and puzzle international investors.
Kaczynski has long suggested his admiration for the policies of Orban's populist Fidesz, which has enjoyed a firm grip on power since 2010. Both are similar in their strongly nationalistic views and contempt of the "liberal elite". They enjoy confrontation with the EU as a means to whip up support at home.
Many of PiS' efforts to consolidate its grip on power in Poland look to have been lifted directly from Orban’s playbook. However, with Kaczynski lacking the constitutional majority enjoyed by Orban, that has earned him a swifter reaction from Brussels. The European Commission has put a review of Poland’s commitment to EU law on the agenda of its next meeting on January 13.
Speculation suggests Kaczynski may have been consulting Orban on the fight to install "illberal democracy" - as the Hungarian PM once termed his ideology. Certainly the meeting clarified just who calls the shots in Poland. Aware of his divisive image, Kaczynski pulled back in the campagin for the October election, which saw Poles elect Beata Szydlo as PM. The PiS chairman holds no official role in the government.
The Central European leaders are also thought to have been consulting over their efforts to join forces with the UK, another government that seeks to limit Brussels' power and push the EU back to become a economic and trade club. Orban will meet Prime Minister David Cameron on January 7.
While the three countries agree on many issues, the huge numbers of Hungarians and Poles working in the UK are a stumbling block. Cameron is currently on the campaign trail to win support for his plan to limit in-work benefits for migrant workers.
Earlier in the week, Poland’s foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski caused controversy by telling Reuters Warsaw could accept UK’s idea of curbing social benefits to migrants in return for London’s support for NATO's stronger presence in Poland. Waszczykowski later denied proposing such deal, claiming Reuters’ reporters "over-interpreted" his words.
PiS officials – who were not present at the meeting – told the Polish press that Kaczynski and Orban likely also discussed cooperation within the Visegrad Group and the migration crisis. Other points of discussion may have included relations with Russia - a topic that sees the pair at opposite ends of the spectrum.
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