Italy’s Salvini: ‘Within a Year, We’ll See if a United Europe Exists’
Italy’s right-wing populist leader and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has suggested the European Union (EU) may not have “a future in its current form” and said the next 12 months are crucial in determining how the bloc changes.
He made the comments following a discussion about the ongoing migrant crisis that is causing tension between the bloc’s leaders, slamming other nations for placing the burden on Italy, and insisting his country “cannot take on a single additional [asylum] case”.
“In the coming months, it will be decided if Europe still has a future in its current form or whether the whole thing has become futile,” the League leader told Spiegel Online.
“It’s not just about the budget for the next seven years. Next year will see new European Parliament elections. Within one year, we will see if a united Europe still exists or if it doesn’t.”
Mr Salvini, who has praised U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s approach to immigration, also restated his view that NGO ships, including several operated from Germany, should not be operating off the coast of Libya as they “support the migrant traffickers and boost the incentive to risk a crossing”.
Italy has continued to deny such ships the right to dock on their shores, with the German ship Lifeline, carrying 234 migrants picked up off the coast of Libya, forced to dock in Malta just this week.
“After the NGO Aquarius ship was sent to Spain, now it’s the Lifeline NGO that will go to Malta, and this outlawed ship will eventually be seized,” tweeted Mr Salvini Tuesday. “For women and children who are really fleeing the war, the doors are open, for all the others, no! #stopinvasion”
Rather, the “Libyan, Tunisian, or Egyptian coast guards” should be the only ones picking up migrant boats near the coast of Africa, he said in the interview, as well as backing “establishing hotspots not just in North Africa but also in the Balkans”.
Mr Salvini also revealed he does not speak to German Chancellor Angela Merkel but communicates with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer instead.
Although the two men disagree on the issue of sending migrants back from Germany to Italy, they agree on a harder stance on migrants generally and securing the bloc’s external borders.
Mr Seehofer and his Bavarian party have disagreed with coalition partner Mrs Merkel and her party on this proposed harder stance, and he has threatened to close borders independently unless she finds a solution to the migrant crisis.
On France, Mr Salvini reiterated his criticism of the nation’s perceived hypocrisy, stating: “The French lectured us on morals, and yet according to the statistics, they should long since have accepted 9,000 asylum seekers from Italy.
“Still today, armed border guards are marching to the border with Italy, in Ventimiglia. It is their right to do so – if they would just stop lecturing us.”