Italy Wants to Be America’s ‘Most Solid’ EU Ally, Salvini Says on Washington Trip
Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, has declared that his country wants to be the closest ally of the United States in the EU as he went to Washington on a high-profile visit.
Salvini’s far-right League party is technically the junior partner to the leftist Five Stars Movement in Italy’s governing coalition.
However, the existing balance in the coalition has been upset after the League did substantially better than Five Stars in last month’s EU elections.
“At a time when European Union institutions are fragile and changing significantly, Italy wants to be the first, most solid, valid, credible and coherent partner for the United States,” Salvini said on his Facebook page.
In what has been described by observers as an unusually high-level foreign trip for an interior minister, Salvini was welcomed in Washington on Monday by US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Technically, Salvini has no direct authority in Italy’s foreign policy, which is the responsibility of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero — neither of whom have direct political affiliation with any group.
Nonetheless, Salvini seemed eager to reposition Italian diplomacy during his trip, stating he shared a “common vision” with Washington on China, Iran, Venezuela, Libya and the Middle East, Reuters reported.
Certain recent foreign policy decisions in Rome angered Washington – such as the refusal to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s President, and becoming the first major Western power to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Both of those moves, however, appear to have been championed by the leftist Five Stars Movement, while Salvini openly boycotted the latter, directly refusing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In a news conference on his Washington visit posted on his Facebook page, Salvini said the Italian government was considering banning China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd from bidding for infrastructure projects, thus following warnings from the United States that it could endanger national security in the West.
“When you raise the issue of national security and also have a shared vision and shared values with the United States, then you reach a time when business deals have to stop,” he said.
Salvini was one of the first prominent EU politicians to throw his weight behind Donald Trump in 2016 as he campaigned to become US president and even attended one of his election rallies.
“[The next Italian budget] will have to be Trumpian,” he said, referring to tax cuts introduced by the US administration.
He also commented on his pledged to introduce a flat tax in 2020, an idea disliked by the European Commission, the EU executive, because of worries that the indebted Italian budget cannot afford such change.
“We will try to convince the EU with numbers and by being polite. But we will cut taxes regardless and they are just going to have to get used to the idea,” Salvini stated regarding the possibility of the Commission starting disciplinary action against Italy.
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