‘We don’t want your money, we want freedom!’ Salvini unleashes scathing attack on EU

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The former Italian deputy prime minister warned the EU executive should work to ensure vaccine doses are delivered to member states whilst allowing them the freedom to spend the bloc’s recovery funds as they please.

The leader of the right-wing party League told the New Europe: “We haven’t asked for anything.

“Europe should only respect the existing pacts and let us continue to work on our own.

“The EU should deliver on its promised numbers of vaccines and let Italian entrepreneurs, farmers, fishermen and researchers work without ridiculous regulations that block the further development of a company like Alitalia.

“We’re not asking for money, just the right to the freedom to work.”

The Recovery Fund, the bloc’s flagship economic project aimed at helping member states recover from the catastrophic effects of the pandemic, comes indeed with strings attached.

Italy, which pushed hard for more EU support at the height of the crisis, is set to receive the largest share: 209 billion euros, or 28 percent of the entire rescue fund.

To put extra pressure on the EU, Mr Salvini met with Hungarian right-wing nationalist premier Viktor Orban and Polish ally Mateusz Morawiecki on Thursday, to lay the groundwork for a new European political grouping.

Nationalists have tried and failed to unify their forces for a long time in Europe, partly due to clashing national interests and partly over big differences in views on external relationships such as ties with Russia.

Mr Orban cultivates a very warm relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Hungary has spoken up against EU sanctions on Russia, uses Russian oil, gas and nuclear power, and became the first EU country to use a Russian vaccine for COVID-19.

Mr Salvini is also pro-Russia, as are some other parties in the potential alliance.

Speaking after the meeting, the Italian politician said: “The top priories are the EU repatriation policy and border protection.

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“When we’re talking about these two specific issues, we’re asking for ‘more Europe’.

“In some policy areas, we want the other members of the European Union to be able to decide for themselves on other issues, but on these two specific points, we think Europe should have a major role in terms of cooperation.

“Speaking about a larger vision for the future of the European Union, I think after the COVID crisis, the EU needs to reinvent itself and find a new soul.

“The political groups inside the European Parliament should seize the occasion and use it as a way to change.

“If today we could fuse together the European Conservatives and Reformists and Identity and Democracy groups, we could have the second biggest group in the parliament, a true alternative to the European People’s Party/Socialists and Democrats duo.”

Mr Morawiecki’s PiS party is the main force of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), while Mr Salvini’s League is the strongest member of the Identity and Democracy (ID) group that also includes Marine LePen’s National Rally from France.

Those parties together have 135 of the 705 European Parliament seats, with Fidesz adding another 12.

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