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Salvini and Le Pen meet to discuss migrants ahead of European elections

Italian Deputy Premier, Interior Minister and League leader Matteo Salvini met with French National Rally party chief Marine Le Pen in Paris, sources said on Friday.

Published: April 6, 2019, 12:56 pm

    The pair, whose parties are allied at the EU level, had a “cordial meeting” about the political situation and May’s European elections. The leaders discussed the possibility of organising a joint rally to conclude the campaign for the European elections.

    At the joint event, they also plan to “announce the start of a new Europe”, according to the sources. Salvini told Reuters that Le Pen remained his main ally in France.

    President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to fight nationalists Salvini and Le Pen in upcoming European parliament elections. The Italian leader seemed unfazed by Macron’s efforts: “I have never met Macron. We have different histories, different interests.”

    On Friday, Le Pen said: “I make a difference between the European Union and Europe. I wish for a European organisation, that Nations agree on a number of subjects, but without a Commission that has the legislative initiative and is composed of people who are not elected.”

    She said that France was not multicultural, even though Socialists are trying to enforce multiculturalism upon the French people by means of mass immigration.

    Italian Deputy Premier and 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Luigi Di Maio on Friday however expressed concern over the meeting with Le Pen. “I’m concerned about this ultraright drift at a European level with political forces that will be part of the group the League will ally with, which go so far as to deny the Holocaust in some cases”.

    He said “we’re talking about parliamentary groups who have left the parliament when the Holocaust massacres and what they did in the concentration camps were being commemorated, and so when I see these things I am worried.

    “It is my duty as a political force and political head of the M5S to say that those things do not belong to me, in fact we will create a single and independent group in parliament with other civic movements like our and we won’t be with these ultraright (forces), which worry me a lot when it comes to ideological clashes”.

    Salvini is seeking alliances with other sovereigntist leaders and groups including Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Poland’s Law and Justice party, among others, ahead of the May elections.

    On Thursday, Salvini also warned Berlin to take responsibility for 64 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by a German charity ship, the Alan Kurdi, run by German migrant rescue NGO Sea Eye.

    The ship is currently reported to be zigzagging about 15 nautical miles from Lampedusa, respecting an Italian interior ministry warning Thursday that its course was to be considered “not inoffensive” to Italy, sources said.

    The ship has yet to obtain permission from Rome’s coast guard maritime coordination centre to enter Italy’s territorial waters. At Lampedusa, coast guard motor launches and finance guard vessels are said to be monitoring the situation, local sources said.

    Lampedusa is gateway island for migrants, closer to Libya than to Sicily and has borne the brunt of migrant arrivals over the past few years.

    Two migrant children, aged one and six, their mothers and the pregnant woman were given permission to land in Lampedusa for medical reasons by the interior ministry earlier. “All that remains is to wish them bon voyage towards Berlin,” said Salvini. Sea Eye said later its policy “was not to split up families”. But the children and their mothers are refusing to leave the ship, Salvini said.

    A German foreign minister spokesperson, meanwhile, said that “we are in direct contact with our Italian partners” about the ship.

    A European Commission spokesperson said that the EU executive was following the case and had requested the creation of a coordination group.

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