Representatives of Germany's right-wing populist AfD have urged the creation of "Fortress Europe" with the help of Hungary's Viktor Orban and Austria's Sebastian Kurz. Thousands protested AfD party congress in Augsburg.
Some 600 AfD representatives gathered in Augsburg for the start of a two-day congress of the German populist party on Saturday, as left-wing protesters staged demonstrations in the Bavarian city.
Addressing the delegates, senior AfD lawmaker Jörg Meuthen slammed multiculturalism as a "quixotic ideology" and "the great ideological fallacy of the early 21st century."
Meuthen also pushed for a new immigration policy that would turn the EU into "Fortress Europe."
As potential allies in this endeavor, Meuthen named Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, his populist vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, Italian right-wing leader and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, and Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The AfD "wants to, has to" cooperate with these leaders, Meuthen said.
Soon after Meuthen's speech, however, a spokesman for the Vienna government stressed that conservative Kurz was no ally of the AfD.
"We are a clearly pro-European government," the official said.
Also speaking at the congress, the leader of the AfD's parliamentary group, Alice Weidel, signaled that her party would be willing to enter a coalition with the CSU conservatives following Bavarian elections in October.
She said the alliance was "conceivable" in the long run, as long the CSU modified its political stances and "swapped out its people."
CSU-leader and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had already rejected the possibility of a coalition with the AfD.
AfD deputy party leader Beatrix von Storch slammed Chancellor Angela Merkel and her immigration policy, telling DW that "everything that Mrs. Merkel has asked for has failed."
AfD: Seehofer will do nothing
Protesters throw tomatoes at Augsburg mayor
The AfD event prompted protest rallies in Augsburg, with police estimating some 5,000 people taking part in two demonstrations in the Bavarian city.
Police said the protests were "emotional, but peaceful." However, security forces also reported using pepper spray against a group of around 10 demonstrators who attempted to block cars with AfD delegates from reaching the congress venue on Saturday morning, as well as against some 200 protesters who tried to block a street in downtown Augsburg later on Sunday.
Protesters gathered for the main rally in the center of the city chanted slogans including "There is no right to Nazi propaganda." Several mainstream politicians addressed the crowd, including representatives of the Social Democrats and the Greens.
However, protesters responded with anger when Augsburg Mayor Kurt Gribl, from the conservative CSU party, took to the stage, throwing tomatoes and eggs. Separately, a police spokesman said police officers near the stage had "pyrotechnics" thrown in their direction, but added that nobody was hit.