ROME: Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that whether a united European Union “still exists or not” will be decided within a year, adding he is aware his stand on migration could topple German Chancellor Angela Merkel from power.
Salvini, who is also deputy premier, told German magazine Der Spiegel, in an interview to be published Saturday, that talks on the EU’s budget, as well as the European Parliament elections in 2019 will reveal “whether the whole thing makes no sense any more.”
Salvini said he is aware that his hardline stand on migrants could lead to Merkel’s political downfall, according to Spiegel, adding this isn’t Italy’s intention “even though we’re very far apart, not just on the migration issue.” In a reference to migrants, Salvini said: “We can’t take even one more, actually we want to hand over a couple.”
Salvini, leader of the anti-migrant League, has dominated Italian politics since the populist government took power earlier this month. He has sidelined his bigger coalition partner the Five Star Movement, and sparred with France, Spain and Malta over his refusal to allow ships carrying rescued migrants from across the Mediterranean to dock at Italian ports.
Italy is gearing up for another clash with EU partners at emergency talks in Brussels Sunday, called specifically on stemming migration, as the new government in Rome protests that it is being left alone to deal with migrant arrivals. The issue is vital for Merkel, although she dismissed speculation Friday that her government is in trouble, vowing to keep her three-party coalition afloat.
Merkel’s showdown over border security with the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union party is putting that government on the brink after 13 years in power. Faced with a CSU threat to send certain asylum seekers back at the German border, the chancellor will seek to lay the groundwork for a European solution that avoids border closures at the Brussels meeting.
Salvini again reprimanded France in the Spiegel interview, saying its government must stop “giving lessons” to Italy.
“Many have detested Europe but now you are seeing it spreading like leprosy in places you never imagined, even in friendly neighbours,” French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday — clearly a reference to Italy. “They are saying the most provocative things and no one, no one, is outraged.”