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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 tensions between the nationalist Polish government and the European Union in Brussels, which says some of the Polish government’s policies violate the rules of democracy, Morawiecki told reporters that Poland was being treated unfairly. He said he was “seeking allies in this struggle against federalized Europe, against centralized Europe.”

He said the parties whose leaders met in Warsaw are “patriotic” and want a “Europe of homelands and a strong European Union that draws its strength from its member states. We want that, too.”

But Morawiecki distanced himself from comments Le Pen made to Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily. She said that Poland’s eastern neighbor “Ukraine belongs to Russia’s sphere of influence.” The comments go against the basic tenets of Poland’s foreign and security policies, in which Poland backs Kyiv’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 understand the situation in Eastern Europe.

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

Brejza noted growing tensions around the world as Russia keeps a strong military presence on its border with Ukraine. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that could herald plans by the Kremlin to attack its neighbor. Russia already annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.


This story has been corrected to show that the AP style for Ukraine’s capital city is Kyiv, not Kiev.