By Maïa de La Baume – POLITICO
Italian League leader hopes to form biggest group in the European Parliament
MILAN — Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini declared Monday he aims to form the biggest group in the European Parliament as he joined forces with Euroskeptics from outside his current political family to launch his election campaign.
Salvini, Italy’s interior minister and leader of the League party, said the group would “change the rules of Europe” when he presented his plans at a luxury hotel in Milan alongside MEPs from the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Danish People’s Party and Finland’s True Finns.
He said he wants the new group to play a decisive role in choosing the members of the next European Commission later this year following May’s European election.
“Our goal is to finally be a governing force and a force of change,” Salvini said.
He said those assembled in Milan would work together with the League’s traditional allies such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, although the French party was notably absent from Monday’s event. The parties share common themes, he added, including border control and “the fight against terrorism and against extremism.”
“We must put work, family, safety, the defense of environment back at the center” — Matteo Salvini
The event, held under the title “Toward a Europe of Common Sense,” represented a dramatic ramping-up of populist ambitions for the next European Parliament.
Yet Euroskeptic parties have often struggled to work together in the legislature, or even to stay united within their blocs — meaning that Salvini will have his work cut out to form a stable and cohesive alliance this time.
“The ambitious goal of all those around this table is to give birth to the first group in the next European Parliament,” Salvini told reporters. The group, he said, would be “the largest, the most significant, most determined and future-oriented in the next European Parliament.”
Salvini acknowledged that the parties “had differences.” But he said he would seek to woo those beyond the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group, which includes the League, to change the “nightmare” of current EU policy priorities.
“We must put work, family, safety, the defense of environment back at the center,” he declared.
The ENF currently has 37 MEPs, including from the National Rally, Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and the Dutch Freedom Party, among others.
It is on course to become the fifth-biggest group in the next Parliament with 59 seats, according to POLITICO’s projections, so Salvini’s aim of forming the largest bloc looks like a very tall order. But if he can keep his current allies and attract new partners such as Germany’s AfD, a stronger Euroskeptic bloc in the next Parliament appears to be a distinct possibility.
AfD co-leader Jörg Meuthen was among those attending Monday’s event. He said a new group called the European Alliance of People and Nations is already in the works.
The AfD currently sits in another European Parliament bloc, the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, and has been wary of joining up with some other far-right parties, particularly Le Pen’s National Rally.
Salvini played down the absence of National Rally MEPs from Monday’s gathering, saying it would have been impractical for all 15 of them to attend.
Meuthen said the new alliance would launch a platform to unite Euroskeptic parties. “If they want to come together under the same roof, they are welcome,” he said.
The AfD would bring a projected 13 seats to any new Euroskeptic group in the next Parliament. But to make inroads into the center ground, the new alliance would need a larger injection of fresh blood. Salvini has explored alliances with the ruling parties of Poland and Hungary but neither has made the leap so far.
Salvini’s gathering also attracted members of a third European Parliament group in the form of the Danish People’s Party and the True Finns. They belong to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which is home to Britain’s Tories and Poland’s governing Law and Justice party.
The addition of the two Nordic parties would boost Salvini’s new alliance, though not by much.
The Danish party is the third political force in Denmark, but it holds only three seats in the European Parliament and is expected to lose one in May’s election. The True Finns are projected to hold onto their two seats.
“What unites us is far greater that the things that divide us” — Anders Vistisen
Anders Vistisen, an MEP from the Danish People’s Party, described the new alliance as “an open invitation” to all like-minded parties “to have a chat with us.”
“It remains to be seen who will join the new alliance,” he said, adding “what unites us is far greater that the things that divide us.”
Vistisen said he would not quit the ECR immediately, as the new alliance with Salvini would only manifest itself after the election. “It’s up for negotiations what organizational form it will take,” he added.
One possibility, he said, is to have several political factions coming together “under one big umbrella.”
“We have different geopolitical interests,” said Olli Kotro, an MEP candidate of the True Finns. But he added that the parties would unite on “border protection, culture and the fight against Euro-federalism.”
Julius Caesar Mussolini: The Italian Far Right Has a New Darling
By Callum Paton – Newsweek
With populists already in power in Italy, one far-right party is hoping a new face with an old name—the great-grandson of the country’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini—could help it make gains in next month’s elections.
Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini (aka Julius Caesar Mussolini) will run for office as a candidate of the Brothers of Italy. The party previously campaigned alongside the far-right League party, the junior party in government with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
The 50-year-old former navy submariner told The Times of London that he would make his political debut campaigning on a hard-line anti-European Union platform, partially defending his great-grandfather’s deeply controversial legacy.
“I share their ideas about retaking sovereignty, protecting our country and the family,” Caio Mussolini said, talking of the Brothers of Italy Party. “Why spend €100 on a migrant, then peanuts on pensioners?”
Referring to Benito Mussolini’s record, Caio Mussolini shared a view held by many in Italty regarding the dictator, who inspired Hitler and dragged the country into World War II: “There were a lot of good things and some mistakes,” he said.
He went on to compare the wartime leader, who introduced a series of Nazi-inspired anti-Semitic laws to Italy, to a former British Prime Minister. “Tony Blair’s backing for the war in Iraq was a crime, but the British don’t attack him every day for this,” he claimed.
Caio Mussolini has said voters should not judge him on his name. Formerly a representative for Italy’s largest defense contractor, he has said, “My experience gives me a background in international relations.”
Benito Mussolini’s enduring reputation inside Italy remains complicated, though he is still praised in some quarters as a modernizer. As an indication of his continuing appeal, other descendants have had political success in Italy.
The dictator’s granddaughter, Rachele Mussolini, is a city councillor in Rome. Her stepsister, Alessandra Mussolini, is an MEP for the Forza Italy party, which is fronted by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. She was recently thrust into the international spotlight following a Twitter spat with Hollywood actor Jim Carrey.
Alessandra Mussolini tweeted that the Truman Show star was a “bastard” after he tweeted a drawing of the hanging corpse of Benito Mussolini, who, along with his lover Claretta Petacci, was lynched at the end of World War II in Milan by Italian partisans. Carrey, who has taken to drawing a series of political cartoons, captioned the image: “This is where facism leads.”