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Verhofstadt on a Roll, Calls Italian President ‘Puppet’ of Populists

Italy's prime ministerial candidate Giuseppe Conte addresses journalists after a meeting with Italy's President Sergio Mattarella on May 27, 2018 at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome. Italy's prime ministerial candidate Giuseppe Conte gave up on Sunday his mandate to form a government after talks with the president over his …
VINCENZO PINTO/EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty
VICTORIA FRIEDMAN

Guy Verhofstadt has called Italy’s President Giuseppe Conte a “puppet” of the populist deputy prime ministers and said the country was suffering from “political degeneration.”

The remarks came during a heated exchange in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday after President Conte, an independent, gave a speech where he said that the EU had “lost contact” with Europe’s people and demanded Brussels come to a permanent solution to the migrant crisis, according to Politico.

Leftist and progressive MEPs launched attacks on Conte, with socialist grouping leader Udo Bullmann saying that Italy was heading “into political and economic isolation.”

While French MEP Renaud Muselier blamed the populist Italian parliamentary coalition of the right-wing League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) of “interference” in French politics following deputy prime minister and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio’s meeting with French anti-government Yellow Vest protesters.

Belgian MEP Mr Verhofstadt called Mr Conte a “puppet” of Mr Di Maio and deputy prime minister and League party leader Matteo Salvini, saying he regretted that the country had gone from “being a staunch defender of Europe to the back of the line.”

“Today, it hurts me to see the political degeneration of Italy,” Mr Verhofstadt said, adding, Italy “sometimes behaves in an anti-European way, openly spiteful against other member states.”

President Conte responded, “I am not a puppet, I am very pleased to represent my people.”

“The puppets are those who work for lobbies and other powers, and that’s not the case here,” he added.

The incendiary comments by the arch Europhile, who also serves as the European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator, came the same day that Verhofstadt implied in a press conference that Brexiteers like Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, and Jacob Rees-Mogg could go the way of Brissot, Danton, and Robespierre during the French Revolution and “end up on the guillotine.”

Mr Verhofstadt is well-known for his flamboyant remarks and theatrics. Last year, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe group chief launched a campaign van on a tour of Brussels, and then on to Budapest, bearing a picture of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán with the caption, “First he took our money, now he wants to destroy Europe.”

However, the colourful Belgian politician did not seem to be able to take what he dished out, decrying the conservative Fidesz party-led Hungarian government for launching its own billboard campaign to mock the Eurocrat’s claim that there was no migrant crisis, saying it reminded him of “the darkest days in European history.”

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