Matteo Salvini targets Metsola as far-right fires early salvo in European election campaign

Italy’s Matteo Salvini accuses Roberta Metsola of wanting ‘messy’ political arrangement that includes socialists and greens to side-line far-right

Matteo Salvini (right) has fired a broadside at Roberta Metsola who has suggested a broad pro-EU alliance to counter the resurgence of the far-right as European elections loom next year
Matteo Salvini (right) has fired a broadside at Roberta Metsola who has suggested a broad pro-EU alliance to counter the resurgence of the far-right as European elections loom next year

Roberta Metsola was in the crosshairs of Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini as Europe’s far-right fired its first salvos of the European election campaign.

Salvini, who heads the Lega Nord that forms part of Italy’s centre-right coalition government, accused Metsola of seeking a “messy” political arrangement to side-line a resurgent far-right.

He was speaking in Brussels on Monday evening, 24 hours after welcoming a gathering of Europe’s far-right political parties in Florence where speakers lambasted the EU and accused Brussels of overarching powers.

Salvini’s retort was a reaction to Metsola’s reminder, following the Florence meeting, that in Brussels there was a big enough majority to propose “a European choice” for citizens.

The European Parliament president was referring to the European People’s Party (EPP), from which she hails, the Socialists and Democrats, the liberal Renew and the Greens. It was this broad arrangement that determined who occupied key EU posts after the 2019 European Parliament election.

“There are those who are proposing once again a messy arrangement with parties on the Left, that has created the problems Europe is facing today,” Salvini commented on X, formerly Twitter. Salvini also railed against the imposition of green taxes and called for more security at Europe’s borders.

Ironically, Metsola will be meeting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome on Tuesday.

Meloni heads the Brothers of Italy party that forms part of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) in the European Parliament. The centre-right ECR describes itself as a Euro-realist party and attempts to distinguish itself from the more hard-line Identity and Democracy, which groups together Salvini’s Lega Nord, the French Rassemblement National led by Marin Le Pen, Germany’s AfD, and Austria’s FPO, among others.

The EPP had been courting Meloni after Brothers of Italy emerged as the largest party in last year’s Italian election.

The far-right has seen electoral success in several EU countries with the latest being that of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, whose party emerged as the largest.

ID is the sixth largest bloc in the European Parliamen, trailing just behind the ECR.

But polls have suggested ID could become the fourth largest grouping after next year’s European elections, followed by the ECR.

Far-right leaders are pushing for a broad alliance of the Right that would include ID, the ECR and the EPP after next year’s European Parliament election.

However, Antonio Tajani, who leads Forza Italia, a member of the EPP, has ruled out an EU-wide coalition with Germany’s AfD and Marin Le Pen. Forza Italia is the third party in Italy’s coalition government.

The EPP is widely expected to emerge as the largest grouping in the European elections and spearhead the horse-trading that will take place afterwards to choose the bloc’s key positions.

The far-right wants to influence those talks but can be blocked out by a shaky grand coalition of pro-Europe parties just like had happened in 2019.

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