Salvini slams EU agreement 'imposed by Macron and Merkel'
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The League leader, known for his historic eurosceptic stance, has come under attack in the past few weeks for appearing to have backtracked on anti-EU policies as he backed former European Central Bank chief Draghi to become the new Italian Prime Minister. But mere days after his party was awarded three seats around the new Cabinet, Mr Salvini has already delivered his first provocation to the new Italian leader, allowing a comeback of his more familiar stance on the EU.
Back in 2018, as he led the ECB, Mr Draghi claimed the euro was “irreversible” arguing more and more people across the world wanted to join the eurozone and its successful monetary union.
He said: “The euro is the currency of 340 million people and enjoys now the support of 74 percent of citizens across the euro area.
“And more countries want to join the euro today.
“You can draw your own conclusions, but one of these conclusions is that the euro is irreversible because it is strong, because people want it and because it is of no benefit to anybody to discuss its existence.”
Confronted on Italian TV channel La7 over Mr Draghi’s 2018 comments, today Mr Salvini took a brutal swipe at the Brussels bloc and renewed his criticism of the common currency.
He said: “Right now, there are thousands of lorries that have been waiting for hours to cross the border.
“In this ‘united Europe’ Italian lorry drivers have to take a Covid test to cross the Austrian border.
“But Austrian lorry drivers have to do nothing to cross the Italian border.
“So my objective is to bring more Italy in Europe, to change Europe in the name of the Made in Italy.”
Pressed on whether he believed the euro was “irreversible” like Mr Draghi would say, he replied: “Only death is irreversible.”
The answer on the common currency, albeit deliberately ambiguous, is destined to cause discussion in the executive born in the name of Europeanism.
Democratic Party (PD) leader Nicola Zingaretti, whose party also benefitted from the new administration, immediately stigmatised the words on the single currency.
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He wrote on Twitter: “The euro and Europe are the dimensions in which to think and strengthen the future of Italy.
“It should also be superfluous to repeat it.”
On Monday, allies of the new Prime Minister also criticised one of his government’s first moves – a decision to unexpectedly extend a shutdown of Italy’s ski resorts just hours before the slopes had been due to re-open.
After a months-long closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, Italian ski operators were poised to re-start their ski lifts on Monday, only to see their hopes dashed on Sunday evening when the health ministry said it would maintain the lockdown.
Health experts said the decision was necessary because of the growing spread of the more contagious British variant of the virus. Tour operators and some of the biggest parties in Mr Draghi’s new unity government complained that the announcement had come far too late.
Mr Salvini, whose rightist League party has quit opposition ranks to join Mr Draghi’s administration, said: “We need to communicate in a timely fashion…Let’s change tack.”
The centre-left PD was also unhappy.
PD Senate leader Andrea Marcucci said: “We are not questioning the ongoing health emergency, but they can’t just shut things down hours before their reopening.”
Almost all ministers from the previous government have been replaced, but Health Minister Roberto Speranza has remained in place. He informed Mr Draghi before announcing the ski decision, a political source said.
Ski operators were stunned to hear the ban on recreational skiing had been pushed back until March 5 – close to the end of the traditional season.
Most ski slopes are located in the northern regions, the worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tour operators say they risk losing billions of euros as a result of the shutdown.
Although the number of daily COVID-19 cases in Italy has fallen from a high of some 40,000 in mid-November to under 15,000 now, the infection rate is edging higher and several hundred people continue to die each day.
As of Monday, Italy’s official death toll stood at 93,577 – the second highest in Europe after Britain and seventh-highest worldwide.
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