Italian populist politicians Matteo Salvini and Beppe Grillo are calling for the Schengen zone to be suspended, with Grillo calling Europe “a sieve” for terrorists and Salvani stating “we are at war”.
Declaring that Italy was “in a time of war”, leader of populist party Lega Nord (Northern League) Matteo Salvini (above left) demanded the “renegotiation of the Schengen zone and free movement. Restore internal border controls – we are in a state of emergency.”
His comments come following the Berlin Christmas market attack where suspect Anis Amri, whilst being the most wanted man in the world, managed to leave Germany, travelling first to France and then to Italy, and cross at least two international borders unchecked.
The Soft Underbelly of Europe
“Italy is the soft underbelly of Europe,” Mr. Salvini told Italian press. “Leftist governments allow everyone to make themselves comfortable in Italy.”
Speaking at the “Stop Invasion” march on Saturday morning, the Lega Nord leader reiterated, “Close Schengen. And reintroduce border controls. I do not want to wait for another two, four, five massacres for Europe and Italy to wake up.”
The march was organised in Sesto San Giovanni, the square where in the early hours of Friday morning Amri was shot dead by Italian police after drawing a weapon on a young police officer.
Italy has now surpassed Greece as the main entry point for migrants illegally travelling to Europe. Noting that the migrants from Africa and the Middle East are overwhelmingly Muslim, Salvini told crowds, “At this historical time, Islam cannot be integrated into our society.”
“All incidents of terrorism in [Europe] have claims in the Islamic world. I do not see Buddhist bombers, Waldensian, Protestants, Hare Krishna, atheists, or Christians.”
Transit for Terrorists
Founder of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) Beppe Grillo (above right) also called for the suspension of Schengen and slammed the leftist government for its failure to deport the 55 per cent of migrants denied asylum saying, “The migration system is out of control.”
“Italy and Europe are a sieve,” Grillo added.
The M5S leader criticised the Italian and German asylum systems for “tolerating [Amri] as a refugee” and for both nations failing to deport the suspected terrorist – who for several months was being observed by German intelligence on suspicion of preparing to carry out a terror attack – when his asylum applications were denied.
“Italy is becoming a transit for terrorists who we are not able to recognise and report. Thanks to Schengen, they can cross borders unmolested throughout Europe. We must act now.”
The Italian politician published on his blog proposals to fight terrorism including a revision of the Dublin Regulation, deportation of all illegal migrants, and a renegotiation of Schengen which would include the immediate suspension of free movement and restoration of borders during times of heightened security and following a terror attack.
“Until now it was the time of pain, emotion, and solidarity. Now is the time to act and protect ourselves,” Grillo concluded.
Calls for an Election
Following the resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi after losing the referendum on Italian constitutional reform, there have been calls from M5S and the Northern League for an immediate general election.
By executive order, President Sergio Mattarella chose to appoint a team of unelected officials from the same Democratic Party (PD) that the Italian citizens resoundingly ousted in the referendum, giving rise to accusations of cronyism and partisan politics.
The last year has seen M5S emerge decisively as Italy’s biggest opposition force with around 30 per cent of voters likely to back it. Backing for the Northern League has been largely stable at around 15 per cent of voter intentions.
According to Vincenzo Scarpetta, a senior policy analyst at the Open Europe think tank, under current electoral rules M5S would have a chance of winning the next general election.