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Over the last decade, politicians associated with the Law and Justice party repeatedly stated that in opposition to the Civic Platform, which they saw as being a loyal servant of German interests in the EU, they were looking towards an alliance with forces of the "new Europe" that was to emerge after the financial and migration crisis. „Their” Europe was to be more attached to traditional and national values; it was to be based on equality between sovereign states, as opposed to the German „diktat” reproduced by Berlin’s clients at Berlaymont.

In 2018, after two years of near ceaseless conflict with Brussels, the appointment of Mateusz Morawiecki as Prime Minister and Jacek Czaputowicz as the Minister of Foreign Affairs was seen as an attempt to turn the page in PiS’ relationship with the EU. Jarosław Kaczyński's party took a step back with respect to its efforts to take over the Polish Supreme Court and supported Ursula von der Layen's candidacy for the presidency of the European Commission. It even seemed that PiS might be joining the European People's Party.

These hopes were dispelled by the then EPP president Joseph Daul who argued that there was no place in EPP for a party that violated the rule of law. The appointment of Donald Tusk as Daul’s successor was the final nail in the coffin of Law and Justice’s EPP membership. The party stayed put in ECR, despite it being the main loser of Brexit among all parliamentary groupings due to the exodus of Tory MEPs.

The recent expulsion of Fidesz from the EPP created a new opening. The combined forces of Orbàn’s party, PiS and the Northern League would form a third largest faction in the European Parliament. What unites the three groups is their aversion to the "dictates of Brussels" and its bureaucracy, and their authoritarian inclinations.

With Angela Merkel's announced resignation from the office of chancellor, her departure will leave a huge void on the European scene. It may also weaken the largest national party in the EPP - namely the CDU/CSU. In April 2022, there will be presidential elections in France, where Emmanuel Macron may very well lose to Le Pen. Then will come that time of the new Europe longed for by Eurosceptics.

In 2019, Steve Bannon proclaimed that the future of Europe belonged to Kaczyński, Orbán and Salvini. If a new Polish-Hungarian-Italian populist club ends up being formed, its patron will be Vladimir Putin.

Orbán's Hungary is a Russian Trojan horse in NATO and the EU. It has become a bridgehead for Russian energy companies - Gazprom has access to Hungarian gas pipelines, while Rosatom is developing a nuclear power plant in the town of Paks. Orbán has resisted extending EU sanctions on the Kremlin. Currently he is also the leading advocate of using Sputnik, Russia's vaccine for the coronavirus.

The degree to which Russia has infiltrated Hungary's secret services is so great that NATO intelligence has stopped sharing its secrets with Budapest. Russian spies found a safe haven in Hungary.

Salvini does not even attempt to hide his fascination with Putin and eagerly accepts Russian funding. His subordinates were recorded during the negotiations with Kremlin envoys, when they were caught saying that "the new Europe must be close to Russia, just like it used to be". They announced that with Putin's support, they would overthrow the rotten European status quo and create a new order.

Their success would spell the end of the European Union as we know it. The pooled sovereignty of 27 member states in Brussels would be replaced by nation states fending for themselves and looking for patronage in Moscow and Beijing. Orbàn, Kaczyński and Salvini appear willing to take such a devil’s bargain. After all, their new sponsors wouldn’t bother them with irritating concerns about things such as the rule of law and democratic liberties.

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Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

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