Former Italian prime minister and current Forza Italia President Silvio Berlusconi outlined his ideas for the party’s future, discussed next year’s EU elections, and levied harsh words against China in a video address he made before the Forza Italia convention in Milan.
On Friday and Saturday, the Forza Italia Convention – ‘The Strength of Italy’ – took place in Milan. The most awaited guest was Berlusconi, Italy’s former prime minister and current MEP in the European People’s Party (EPP) group.
With the Italian and EU flags behind him, Berlusconi recalled on video the birth of the party and his plans for the country. His twenty-minute speech was interrupted by applause and breathlessness due to the illness for which he went into intensive care last month.
“Here I am. I am here for you, for the first time in a shirt and jacket after over a month,” Berlusconi said in the video filmed in hospital.
“We are the essential and loyal pillar of this majority. We are the backbone of this government. That is why we are in the field, to make sure that its decisions are truly correct, fair, balanced”, the leader stressed, thanking allies Matteo Salvini (Lega/ID) and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (Fratelli d’Italia/ECR).
Berlusconi then spoke about the EU, from the upcoming 2024 election to the needs imposed by the new and precarious geopolitical balances, reiterating Forza Italia’s strongly pro-European line.
“Europe is our reference horizon. Only Europe can be a protagonist in the great global challenges, starting with the one posed by Chinese imperialism”, Berlusconi said, proposing new voting rules for the Council to be adopted after next year’s EU elections.
“We must move from unanimity to qualified majority,” he said.
Berlusconi’s anti-communist and anti-Chinese rhetoric appeared stronger than ever.
“If China – I say this absurdly, of course – one day decides to occupy Italy, and perhaps some other European country, we would not know how to oppose it at all, and the best thing for us to do would be to go to school and study Chinese,” he said.
Hence the call for investment in a single military policy, strong cooperation between the armed forces of all European countries, and an increase in military expenditure with a rapid intervention corps of “at least 300,000 men.”
“All this, which I have been calling for since 2002, has never been realised. And unfortunately, in this way, Europe counts for little in the world”, he concluded.
During the convention, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and the leader of the EPP group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, spoke via video. Weber’s attendance was not guaranteed after Forza Italia questioned his leadership after criticising Berlusconi for his words against Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.
“This time, I will not be able to be there with you in person, but I send you my best wishes. First of all, to President Berlusconi (…) Forza Italia is the guarantee that the methods and values of the EPP are at the heart of government action”, Weber said.
“The Italian model is particularly interesting for the EPP (…) I think we can learn a lot from your experience given the upcoming European elections. Winning, for us, is a responsibility. Who else could lead Europe in these difficult times” he added.
Forza Italia does not contemplate ‘after Berlusconi’
Berlusconi “is our leader and will be so for a long time to come,” said Foreign Minister and Vice Prime Minister Antonio Tajani (FI/EPP).
“With 30 years of history, Forza Italia is looking forward (…) The political objectives we want to achieve are to confirm to Italy that Forza Italia has a great leader whose name is Berlusconi and who represents our history, our present and our future”, Tajani continued.
In short, the ‘Azzurri’ do not give up, they do not contemplate ‘after Berlusconi’ and, indeed, they emphasise in every way that there is only one leader who will remain exactly where he has been for the last 30 years since he took the field in 1994 to prevent “the victory of the communists” in Italy.
“Berlusconi will be back. Forza Italia stands on two legs: one is Silvio Berlusconi, the other is the values he has transmitted, which are our strength”, Sicilian Regional President Renato Schifani said from the stage.
“No one will be able to defeat us. You will see that the Italians will consider us their secular saints, the saints of their freedom and well-being”, Berlusconi told his people.
“I will be with you with the same enthusiasm and commitment as in ’94. The future belongs to our ideas. The future must guarantee us true and complete freedom,” he concluded.
(Federica Pascale | EURACTIV.it)
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