(From left) Lega leader Matteo Salvini, Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi and Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni stand on stage on September 22, 2022 during a joint rally of Italy’s right-wing parties Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia, FdI), the League (Lega) and Forza Italia at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, ahead of the September 25 general election. — AFP pic
ROME, Sept 23 — Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini condemned EU chief Ursula von der Leyen today after she said the bloc had “tools” to manage trouble from Rome if his alliance wins weekend elections.
The eurosceptic anti-immigration League leader demanded the European Commission president resign or apologise for what he described as her “threats” ahead of Sunday’s vote.
At an event in the United States on Thursday, von der Leyen was asked if there were any concerns about the election, in which Salvini’s coalition partner, far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, is hoping to become prime minister.
“My approach is that whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we’re working together,” she said.
She added: “We’ll see. If things go in a difficult direction, I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland, we have tools.”
Salvini, who entered office after 2018 elections but risks losing swathes of support this year to Meloni, responded with outrage.
“What is that, a threat? Shameful arrogance. Respect the free, democratic and sovereign vote of the Italian people!” he tweeted.
Speaking to the Corriere della Sera daily, he said von der Leyen should “apologise, or she should resign”.
Antonio Tajani, of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party — which is also part of the right-wing coalition — condemned the EU chief’s “interference”.
In Brussels, von der Leyen’s spokesman, Eric Mamer, highlighted her willingness to work with whoever wins Sunday’s elections.
“It is absolutely clear that the president did not intervene in the Italian elections,” he told reporters.
“When she made reference to tools she specifically referred to procedures under way in other EU countries.”
The EU has accused both Hungary and Poland of flouting the rule of law, and last weekend the Commission proposed suspending 7.5 billion euros in financing for Budapest. — AFP