By praising Matteo Salvini’s efforts to fight immigration when he was Italy’s interior minister, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is once again targeting the head of the Italian government, Giorgia Meloni, whose country has been facing a large influx of migrants in recent days.
Le Pen, leader of the Rassemblement National (RN) party, attended the annual meeting of Salvini’s Lega on Sunday in the northern Italian town of Pontida in a show of unity ahead of the European elections on 9 June of next year.
“This year commits us […] to the same fight: the fight for our freedoms, for our peoples, for our homelands”, said Le Pen at the start of her speech.
Le Pen hopes the forthcoming elections would provide an opportunity, among other things, to protect “our peoples against the migratory submersion that is now being organised”, she said.
We must defend “our peoples, as Matteo [Salvini] did so brilliantly with courage and pugnacity when he had the power to do so […], by drastically reducing the number of immigrants”, she added, recalling the time when Salvini was interior minister and in charge of migration.
At that time, “the whole of Europe looked to Italy with admiration in the face of so much determination” shown by Salvini and the Lega, Le Pen added.
‘May that moment return’
“We are waiting for this moment to return for Italy, but also for France”, continued Le Pen, making it clear that this is no longer the case with Meloni at the head of the Italian government.
Italy has been facing huge inflows of migrants since the start of the year, even though Meloni had made the campaign pledge to set up a “naval blockade” against irregular immigration.
Without mentioning Meloni or other leaders by name, Le Pen condemned “those who, in order to explain why things are the way they are or to justify their cowardice, claim that there is no other alternative”.
But Lega activists and leaders had “shown that political will can do anything” and that they “embody the political will that Europe needs”, she added.
This is not the first time Le Pen has used the term “political will” to attack Meloni.
In June, Le Pen said that while her country’s budget situation was “hampering” even the fight against migration, “it’s all a question of political will”.
According to Le Pen, Meloni was being forced to make “concessions” to Brussels on immigration, for example, in order to be able to access the EU recovery plan funds earmarked for Italy.
Salvini is ‘the only choice’ for Italians
Le Pen, therefore, concluded that voting for Salvini and Lega “is the right choice, and even the only choice”, thus excluding Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party.
On Saturday, Le Pen was even clearer as she spoke at a party gathering in Beaucaire.
She said she was “taken aback by those who call for the European Union while claiming to be patriots”, as reported in Sunday’s edition of Le Parisien – something Meloni did when she invited European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Lampedusa on Sunday.
Also, according to Le Parisien, MEP and RN president Jordan Bardella said he would have been “disappointed” by Meloni’s policies if he were Italian.
Le Pen, also a three-time French presidential candidate, also had harsh words for von der Leyen, whom she described as an “immigrationist” on BFMTV.
Von der Leyen, who was in Lampedusa on Sunday with Meloni, “is imposing this location of migrants in our countries against the will of the people of Europe, and the French people will have the opportunity to say ‘no’ on 9 June”, the day of the European elections.
Political leadership issues on the far right
With the upcoming 2024 EU elections, Salvini’s Lega is losing ground to the spectacular rise of Giorgia Meloni’s party in Italy.
Whereas in the 2019 European elections, it generated more than 34% of the vote and won 29 MEPs, Salvini is only likely to keep nine, according to recent projections by Europe Elects for Euractiv. In contrast, Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia could go from six MEPs in 2019 to 27 in 2024.
In France, Le Pen’s Rassemblement National is on the rise and leading the polls.
Although it should, therefore, be able to claim the leadership of the ID group, it could also lose some points to the second far-right list launched in France, that of Éric Zemmour’s Reconquête! party.
This list, led by Marion Maréchal, Marine Le Pen’s niece, is currently credited with 6% to 7% of voting intentions and hopes to be able to join, with five or six MEPs, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, headed by Meloni.
(Davide Basso | Euractiv.fr)
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