Salvini could take Italy out of EU, former PM warns

Lamezia Terme, Italy – Matteo Salvini, who has plunged Italy into turmoil by pulling out of a coalition government, could eventually take the country out of the EU, a former prime minister has warned.

Interior Minister Salvini, who said last week that he was pulling his anti-immigrant League party out of an increasingly acrimonious coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), “has no principles,” Enrico Letta told AFP on Sunday.

“One day, he can say he wants Europe, the next that he wants to leave. With Salvini, an Italian ‘Brexit’ is not impossible,” said Letta, who was Italy’s premier between April 2013 and February 2014.

Both the League and M5S campaigned in the 2018 elections on an anti-EU platform, but have since stepped back from demands to exit the eurozone single currency bloc.

Salvini said Saturday that pulling the country out of either the euro or the European Union “has never been in the works.”

Meanwhile, another former Italian premier, Matteo Renzi, proposed Sunday that a broad spectrum of parties unite behind a technocratic government that could “save” the country from taking an “extremist” path and prepare new elections without undue haste.

“I am convinced there is a majority for an institutional government in a position to save Italy,” Renzi said on Facebook and in interviews with the Corriere della Sera daily and Canale 5 television.

“It would be crazy to go vote straight away,” added Renzi, who headed the government from early 2014 to late 2016.

Timeline tracking the political fortunes of Italy’s Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio

He made his appeal to M5S, Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia party, the radical left, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and others as parliamentary groups prepare to decide when a motion to censure the government could be voted.

Experts say the vote would be held sometime around August 20.

“The political chaos in Italy is complete and it’s linked to the failure of this government majority,” said Letta — the former head of the PD — in an impromptu interview at Lamezia Terme airport in southern Italy.

Salvini ended the 14-month-old ruling alliance on Thursday, saying afterwards he had had enough of working with the M5S led by Luigi di Maio and what he said was its refusal to collaborate on key issues.

Letta called Salvini a “big opportunist” whose path was “not only sovereignist and racist,” but whose “anti-migrant, anti-integration” ideas were becoming more widely accepted.

He predicted that new elections were “fairly likely” and that under Italy’s voting system, Salvini — who is currently polling at 36-38 percent — could secure an absolute majority.

“This would be a grave danger for the country,” Letta said, while also suggesting that a second government under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte might be formed, an idea that Renzi backed as well.

By Catherine Marciano with Françoise Kadri in Rome