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Two setbacks for Salvini in Brussels

Matteo Salvini, leader of The League [personal archive]

In just a couple of days, the rising star of Italian politics Matteo Salvini suffered two setbacks on the Brussels front.

First setback: there will be no pre-election alliance with Orbán.

Viktor Orbán Fidesz party will stay in the EPP and will join no other alliances, Hungary’s Undersecretary of State and government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács said loud and clear in Brussels last Monday (28 January). This was a lethal hit to any ideas about a partnership with The League and its leader Matteo Salvini, to whom the eastern country in any case is denying aid in sharing the migration burden.

The idea of redistribution of asylum seekers among EU member states “is a bad idea, under all point of view and in any case”, Kovács told the Brussels press, adding: “We are very skeptical on migration. It is the danger number one of our daily security, as well as for the culture and the future of Europe”.

Orbán’s is solidarity illiberal-style. “The solution is to address the problem outside the European borders”, his envoy said, adding that until NGO boats will be in the Mediterranean to rescue migrants “they will keep coming, as it happened in 2015”, the year of the major crisis. “If we give hope, human traffickers will exploit it”, Kovács said.

But Brussels received another visitor on the next day, Enrico Letta. The former Italian Prime Minister, who is now president of the Jacques Delors Institute, presented the report “For a European policy on asylum, migration and mobility” penned by Jérôme Vignon, an advisor to the same institute.

Vignon’s main idea is that instead of trying to obtain consensus to reform the EU’s Dublin asylum system, countries should address the issue on the basis of enhanced cooperation.

The former Italian PM added that migration would be the central issue in the upcoming European elections, which would be something new, after having been only a minor topic in 2014.

“Because of the lack of adequate response, the migration issue had the decisive influence for the exit of a country from the EU, and has had a decisive influence on the political earthquakes in several European countries, including mine,” Letta said, adding: “but I could also cite Germany, I could cite Austria and several others”.

Second setback for Salvini: pro-EU forces are getting organized

“We must draw the lessons and no longer consider that this is a marginal issue we could lead on the side, or abandon the issue in the hands of those who want to exploit people’s fears.”

“We absolutely need pro-European voices to talk about solutions to this issue. We cannot leave in the big public debate this issue to Salvini, Le Pen, Orban, and to the other – the NGOs of the Mediterranean and Pope Francis,” he added.

Without naming Salvini, Letta also revealed an interior minister of a country he knows well does not want a solution to the migration issue. He made it clear that Salvini’s strategy was to amplify the crisis with every single boat – Aquarius, Diciotti, Sea Watch, and create the impression that an invasion is going on.

“These people want to leave the problem open, in crisis, they want to fragment the problem, as it has been the case since several months with the different boats that arrive: each case becomes an emergency. This is done on purpose, to maintain a state of continuous urgency,” he said.

If pro-EU forces get organiszd, Salvini would not be able to monopolize the migration rhetoric in his favor. But there is still work to do. 

(Georgi Gotev contributed to this article)

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