In the lead-up to national elections, League candidate Matteo Salvini has laid out an ambitious pro-sovereignty plan for Italy promising sealed borders and resistance to Brussels bullying.
Among his promises, Salvini insisted that during his first year in office, Italy would take in no new migrants. “We have to dispose of a backlog of half a million illegal immigrants,” said the aspiring prime minister. “The first task is to seal the borders, from the Alps to Sicily. Enough, do not pass, stop.”
The leader of the former Northern League (now just “the League”) underscored the particular threat posed by Islam.
“The Islam of today is a danger. I don’t want it,” Salvini said Monday on the Italian television program “Fatti e Misfatti” (Deeds and Misdeeds) “Either it evolves and opens itself or it is a danger. Once in office, Salvini will put a halt to every irregular or abusive presence of Islam in Italy.”
Recent reports in Italian media suggested that Silvio Berlusconi, who is now allied to Salvini and other conservative groups in the newly formed “Center-Right Coalition,” had been cozying up to European Union leaders in an attempt to soften Salvini’s hardline stance on immigration and other issues. In Monday’s broadcast, Salvini denied the rumors, assuring viewers of a united front.
“I trust Berlusconi and our clear pacts because we wrote a program together, we didn’t just meet at the bar to have a coffee,” he said, adding that media reports suggesting a secret agreement between Berlusconi and Juncker was just “fake news.”
“My opponent is Renzi,” Salvini said, referring to Italy’s ex-prime minister and leader of the center-left Democratic Party (PD), “who has sold out Italian businesses and Italian citizens.”
“Either we are self-sufficient or good night,” he added. “The League will never give its support to a technical government appointed by the president.”
Salvini also doubled-down on resistance to Brussels, which the leader insists has acquired too much power at the expense of individual nations, especially Italy. Invoking the example of U.S. President Donald Trump, Salvini called for putting Italy first.
“We are the only fools who don’t feed our children just because Europe asks us not to,” he said. “The Union already has 52 tariffs that protect European goods. As Trump is defending washing machines and solar panels, we have a duty to protect some of our own products. I am thinking of textiles, shoes, toys and what we eat and drink,” he said.
In one of his campaign posters, Salvini takes on the European Union head-on, asking “Slaves to Europe? No Thanks,” a notion that resonates among Salvini’s base of Italians who believe that their nation has yielded far too much of its sovereignty to Brussels bureaucrats.
Salvini’s other slogans are equally provocative, promising stricter border controls, deportation of illegal immigrants and resistance to George Soros campaign for “unlimited immigration.”
“The right to legitimate defense, control of borders and deportation of all illegal aliens, in the common program of the center-right,” Salvini announced recently on social media, along with a hashtag to vote the League.
Italy is set to hold national elections next March 4.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome