Salvini Says Bankers and Bureaucrats Made Europe a Nightmare

(Bloomberg) -- Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini lashed out at the European Union, saying the organization has betrayed its core principles and does more to hinder its citizens than to help them.

The populist politician is launching a new movement aimed at putting nationalist politicians in control of Europe. At a Monday event in Milan to kick-start an alliance aiming to win European Parliament elections in May, Salvini promised to “save Europe."

"Those who are wrecking the European dream are bureaucrats and bankers,” he said.

Salvini was flanked on the stage at a five-star hotel in Italy’s business capital by just three allies, representatives from Alternative for Germany, the Finns party from Finland, and the Danish People’s Party, a far cry from the 15 to 20 euroskeptic groups he had aimed to bring into the fold ahead of the European ballot.

Nonetheless, the leader of Italy’s anti-migrant League party wasted no time in skewering the EU, saying the Brussels-based organization is in the hands of elites and no longer serves its citizens.

“I start the European dream from the Maastricht treaty, which spoke of full employment,” Salvini said. “If the EU is based only on business and finance, it’s not a dream but a nightmare.”

Europe Vision

Salvini laid out some of his vision for the future of the EU -- more protectionist, less open to immigration -- while remaining coy about his own plans to possibly head the European Commission.

The League leader reached for a profanity to deflect a question about why Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally didn’t show up in Milan on Monday, then said the other parties in the would-be alliance decided he could speak for them. “A news conference with 15 people” would be impossible, Salvini said.

Salvini returned repeatedly to the themes of tighter borders and protecting “Made in Europe” products, and said he wants to “defend European production by revising some trade agreements” which have hurt businesses in the bloc.

“The EU has delegated trade to the WTO, another international organization which dialogues directly with Brussels,” Salvini said. “We must have our say on trade accords, on industrial policies and on multi-lateral accords.’

Asked if he or Le Pen could be the so-called Spitzenkandidat, or lead candidate, to head the European Commission, Salvini replied, “we’ll decide together who the spokesman will be, as far as I’m concerned, I have no personal ambitions for now.”

Joerg Meuthen of the AfD said Salvini would make a “perfect” Commission leader. But he added, “I suspect he’ll be needed here, doing a big job in Italy.”

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