quarta-feira, 27 de junho de 2018
Uma profunda e determinante crise na UE 4 / Dossier 4
A Comissão e o Conselho Europeus não se entendem, ou melhor, parece que Tusk nào está disposto a aceitar as manobras manipuladoras de Juncker para “salvar” Merkel das suas pressões internas na Alemanha.(Merkel saiu da minicimeira sem acordo e ainda mais fragilizada.)
Seja como for tudo indica que a Cimeira a 28 vai ser um fiasco total enquanto que António Tajani o Presidente do Parlamento Europeu avisou: “Tajani warned that unless Europe acted now 20 million African people would come to Europe over the next few years.”( Guardian)
Agora, a estratégia diplomática de Merkel passará por soluções bilaterais com os restantes Estados-membros, principalmente com os que apoiam uma estratégia global para a migração.
Tudo indica que a notícia de hoje “Governo abre portas a refugiados do navio Lifeline” está nesta linha, isto, ao mesmo tempo que a Lei da Nacionalidade foi “adaptada” a preparar os Portugueses psicológicamente para a legalização dos 30.000 imigrantes ilegais que já se encontram em Portugal, enquanto que António Costa anunciou a surpreendente intenção de “trazer” 75.000 imigrantes ( migrantes ou “refugiados” !? ) para Portugal.
Council largely rejects Commission’s proposals on migration — again
New draft conclusions essentially take just one Commission suggestion.
By JACOPO BARIGAZZI 6/25/18, 10:23 PM CET Updated 6/26/18, 4:00 AM CET
The Council has again swatted back a move by the European Commission to lead the discussion on migration in an ongoing power struggle between the two EU institutions.
The latest Council draft conclusions on migration circulated on Monday and obtained by POLITICO, which EU leaders will discuss at a summit this week, largely leaves out amendments proposed by the Commission.
Following a “mini summit” on migration of 16 countries on Sunday, the Commission pushed the Council to revise its migration plans, putting forward its own amendments to the Council’s draft conclusions. But the Council’s new draft essentially takes just one point from the Commission’s suggestions.
The draft now has a line saying that “the European Council welcomes the agreement reached on the financing of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and the EU Trust Fund for Africa,” which diplomats say comes straight from the Commission’s amendments.
Another point that was in the Commission’s amendments but not in the prior Council draft states that proposed regional “disembarkation” platforms for processing migrants in the Mediterranean must operate “in full respect of international law.” However, diplomats say this line did not originally come from the Commission, since it was already raised by some EU countries during one of their regular meetings at the ambassador level.
“The Council text is simply realistic, as what the Commission put forward [on Sunday] was once again just its wish list and nothing more,” said one diplomat involved in the talks, noting that the discussion around the table at the mini summit was very generic, while the Commission amendments are very specific.
Commission Secretary-General Martin Selmayr, acting on behalf of President Jean-Claude Juncker, stirred controversy last week by proposing a draft leaders’ statement for the mini summit that was clearly intended to supplant the draft conclusions issued to national capitals just a day earlier by Council President Donald Tusk.
The Commission text angered Italian officials, who argued that it only reflects German priorities, as well as Council officials, who see it as an illegitimate incursion into their territory.
In the end, Selmayr’s text was put aside.
Still, some of the amendments put forward by the Commission, such as a call to double the amount of returned migrants, could be reinstated by EU leaders during this week’s summit, or even earlier, another diplomat involved in the talks said.
“It’s good that the Commission tried to facilitate dialogue, but the Commission doesn’t write conclusions,” the diplomat said, while also criticizing how the two institutions have been fighting one another over the issue: “If the two sides could reinforce each other, we would prefer it.”
The new draft also touches upon reforming the so-called Dublin regulation for asylum claims. A line in the new text now states that “the incoming Austrian Presidency is invited to continue work” on the regulation.
But diplomats say they are not certain this line will make it into the final conclusions — not only because the Austrian approach to migration is more focused on external borders than handling asylum seekers inside the EU, but also because the issue has proved intractable over five consecutive Council presidencies so a speedy resolution is unlikely.
Conselho Europeu e Comissão Europeia entraram em choque sobre rascunho de proposta com políticas para a migração
As divisões entre os Estados-membros da União Europeia em torno da migração vieram para ficar, com a chanceler alemã Angela Merkel a anunciar ontem que a cimeira europeia de 28 e 29 de junho não chegará a um compromisso. “Não haverá solução para todo o pacote de asilo, ou seja, para todas as sete diretivas até sexta-feira”, anunciou ontem a chanceler alemã. Normalmente, os líderes europeus chegam a acordo sobre um primeiro rascunho de resolução nos dias que antecedem as cimeiras europeias. Agora, a estratégia diplomática de Merkel passará por soluções bilaterais com os restantes Estados-membros, principalmente com os que apoiam uma estratégia global para a migração.
A primeira iniciativa desta nova estratégia parece ter sido a reunião com o primeiro-ministro espanhol, Pedro Sánchez. “Conversámos sobre trabalhar com países que estão dispostos a discutir todas as dimensões da política de migração e o primeiro-ministro espanhol falou sobre a dimensão externa e eu sobre a dimensão interna. Nesse espírtio, teremos mais conversações nos próximos dias”, explicou Merkel. Se a ameaça de uma Europa a várias velocidades pairava no horizonte, agora parece estar a materializar-se.
Questionado sobre o navio humanitário Lifeline, com 234 migrantes a bordo e também impedido pelo governo italino de atracar nos seus portos, Sánchez limitou-se a defender a necessidade de se encontrar uma solução europeia comum. Ao contrário do que aconteceu com o Aquarius, Sánchez não mostrou disponibilidade em acolher o navio nos portos espanhóis. Entretanto, o navio já atracou em portos malteses, depois de Malta ter voltado atrás com a sua recusa inicial em o acolher.
Choque de instituições
O conflito em torno da imigração não se limita aos governos europeus, com o Conselho Europeu e a Comissão Europeia a entrarem em choque sobre as conclusões da cimeira europeia no final deste mês. Na minicimeira deste domingo, os líderes europeus presentes não emitiram qualquer documento com as conclusões do encontro, encorajando a Comissão Europeia a fazê-lo. A instituição europeia enviou, por email, uma proposta de rascunho com políticas concretas para os líderes europeus, bem como para os responsáveis do Conselho Europeu, entre os quais o seu presidente, Donald Tusk, enfurecendo-os.
Em jeito de retaliação, o Conselho entregou aos 28 governos uma proposta de rascunho das conclusões da cimeira, na qual retira todas as propostas da comissão exceto uma: “O Conselho Europeu congratula-se com o acordo alcançado sobre o financiamento do Mecanismo de Refugiados na Turquia e o Fundo Fiduciário da UE para a África”. “O texto do Conselho é simplesmente realista, enquanto o da Comissão avança mais uma vez com uma lista de desejos e nada mais”, disse um diplomata, que participou na minicimeira, ao Politico. Os responsáveis do conselho, explica o Político, viram a movimentação da comissão como uma tentativa de ultrapassar o próprio conselho, criando atritos entre as duas instituições.
Coligação em risco
Merkel saiu da minicimeira sem acordo e ainda mais fragilizada. Os três partidos que sustentam o governo de Merkel, CDU, SPD e CSU, iniciaram ontem negociações para sanarem as divergências sobre a política migratória, com a CSU da Baviera, partido-gémeo da CDU e liderado pelo ministro do Interior, Horst Seehofer, a assumir-se como o principal obstáculo à manutenção da atual política de portas abertas aos refugiados. Seehofer quer impedir a entrada de mais migrantes e refugiados e acelerar as deportações para os seus países de origem, enquanto Merkel recusa medidas unilaterais. Por sua vez, o SPD rejeita assumir o papel de mediador. “O SPD não pode ser o mediador entre a CDU e a CSU, que têm de resolver as suas diferenças, mas o compromisso a que chegarem tem de ser discutido connosco”, disse Andrea Nahles, líder do SPD.
Immigration Backlash Erodes Merkel’s Power in Conservative Stronghold
A Bavarian uprising within German leader’s coalition could topple the government if EU summit fails to ease refugee crisis
Dorfen, in the German state of Bavaria. LOUISA MARIE SUMMER FOR
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
By Bojan Pancevski
June 26, 2018 12:07 p.m. ET
DORFEN, Germany—When Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders to thousands of asylum seekers in the late summer of 2015, people in the southernmost state of Bavaria rushed to help in such numbers that authorities had to briefly turn back offers of clothing and food.
Today, after the thousands became more than a million and as immigration redraws Europe’s political landscape, Bavaria has become the springboard for an insurgency that is threatening the German chancellor’s job.
Ms. Merkel is under fire from her conservative allies in Bavaria, who are part of her government and control the Interior Ministry in Berlin. They have given the chancellor until this weekend to strike an unlikely European deal that puts a lid on immigration or closes the border to certain immigrants. Failure could bring about a collapse of her fragile coalition.
It is a remarkable setback for Ms. Merkel, a politician once viewed by many in Europe as the continent’s anchor of stability and a leader of the liberal West. At an informal meeting last Sunday, Ms. Merkel failed to persuade her EU counterparts to take back immigrants who had made their way to Germany after already applying for asylum elsewhere. Now she is left with one last chance to extract an agreement at an EU summit on June 28 and 29.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union parliamentary group Volker Kauder attend a meeting Tuesday in Berlin.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union parliamentary group Volker Kauder attend a meeting Tuesday in Berlin. PHOTO: OMER MESSINGER/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK
The domestic rebellion, launched two weeks ago by Horst Seehofer, interior minister and chairman of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Ms. Merkel’s larger Christian Democratic Union, came as a shock in Berlin, but it had been brewing for months in Germany’s affluent and traditionalist southern state.
Fueled by discontent over Ms. Merkel’s liberal policies, the antiestablishment Alternative for Germany, or AfD has been making inroads into CSU heartlands, raising the political temperature and forcing the conservatives to tilt to the right. The arrival of over 1.4 million asylum seekers in Germany since 2015 has stoked fears of a swift demographic change, coupled with anxiety over reports of rising migrant crime and revolt over the huge costs of managing the crisis which has been estimated to over €20 billion a year.
Three years on, many of the migrants still live in temporary housing scattered across the country, affecting communities even in remote rural areas. Larger cities have seen the demographic mix in some neighborhoods change almost beyond recognition.
Most of the newcomers have been unable to enter the highly regulated job market, mainly for lack of language and other skills required in one of the world’s most advanced economies.
These tensions were on full display last week in this picture-perfect Bavarian town of 15,000, where African and Middle Eastern migrants can be seen loitering around the railway station and in parks, out of work and often struggling to get a place in German courses.
The AfD had hired the Dorfen Inn, a beer hall facing onto the medieval marketplace, for an evening of discussions about ending Ms. Merkel’s liberal refugee policy. With both critics and supporters of the chancellor in attendance, the communal tables dotted with beer jugs and schnitzel plates soon turned into a microcosm of the debates that are tearing at the country’s political fabric.
“I think we need to change the current immigration policy and quick,” said Reinhold Mayer, a retired aircraft engineer and longstanding CSU supporter who said he was considering switching to the AfD. Ms. Merkel’s policies, he said, had been the biggest factor in the rise of far-right populism from Eastern Europe to Austria and Italy.
Jakob Niemeyer, a 31-year-old carpenter from a neighboring village, disagreed loudly. “The AfD is a fascist party,” he thundered, “and we will not tolerate fascism here.”
Such scenes have been playing across Bavaria for months. And as an October election in the state approaches, they have been causing alarm in Munich, the ornate capital of a state the CSU has been ruling almost uninterruptedly since the end of World War II.
Opinion polls show the AfD is set to rob the CSU of its absolute majority at the poll and become its first viable right-wing challenger in postwar history.
Horst Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union, in Munich on June 18.
Horst Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union, in Munich on June 18. PHOTO: ALEXANDER POHL/NURPHOTO/ZUMA PRESS
With the CSU growing restless and defensive, it just needed a spark for the simmering dispute among German conservatives over immigration to catch fire. That spark came two weeks ago, when Ms. Merkel abruptly vetoed a 63-point plan by Mr. Seehofer designed to broadcast a tightening of immigration law to his home base in the south.
After days of backstage negotiations failed to achieve a compromise, Mr. Seehofer said he would give the chancellor a fortnight to clinch a European deal to end the flow of newcomers into the continent. Should she fail, he would implement his plan, which Ms. Merkel said she would treat as insubordination.
Since ousting the CSU would end the government’s parliamentary majority, a clash would almost certainly mean the collapse of Ms. Merkel’s fourth government just 100 days after it started.
Back in Dorfen, Martin Sichert is the walking embodiment of Mr. Seehofer’s worst fears. A longstanding CSU supporter, he has now become the AfD’s leader in Bavaria.
Mr. Sichert reaped thunderous applause from the beer-hall audience when he told them his party rejected multiculturalism because the success of a country depended on the mentality of its people, something he wanted to preserve from migrant influence.
“People here stand at a red light even when there are no cars around,” Mr. Sichert told supporters. “It is this mentality that provides for top quality in manufacturing and governance.”
In an interview, Mr. Sichert said that he had always voted conservative, until Ms. Merkel made it impossible for him to support her policies. “More and more people feel the same. The AfD was born out of the CSU, because CSU ceased to be the party of the people,” Mr. Sichert said.
Many in the top echelons of the CSU—and in some quarters of Ms. Merkel’s CDU—share his analysis.
One of those mainstream conservatives who fear too generous an immigration policy is feeding extremist ideas is Edmund Stoiber, a former state premier of Bavaria and one-time CDU-CSU candidate for chancellor.
The conflict over immigration in Europe, he said, “is the biggest challenge to liberal democracies and radical forces are swelling because voters have lost faith in traditional politicians.”
Mr. Stoiber cited the rise of populist movements in countries affected by mass migration, including Italy, where a populist coalition has taken power, and Sweden, where a far-right party rooted in neo-Nazism, the Sweden Democrats, could win a majority at the September elections.
“We are at a crossroads,” he said. “Merkel’s 2015 decision has caused a deep division in Europe and a realignment of the political landscape in many European countries…Seehofer wants to improve the control of migration to restore faith in politics and trust in the legal system. For us at the CSU it is shocking that the chancellor has turned this into such a confrontation.”
Police statistics for 2017 showed crime had fallen in Germany since the peak of the refugee crisis, but that refugees, asylum seekers and illegal migrants, who represent about 2% of the population, accounted for 14.2% of perpetrators. Reports about isolated offenses by migrants ranging from rape to murder to aborted and successful terror plots have become a daily staple of the tabloid press, contributing to a hardening of opinions about migrants.
By the end of 2017, a full three years after the peak of the refugee crisis, some 84% of the 700,000 Syrians currently in Germany were living on benefits, according to recent statistics by the Federal Labor Agency. More than a quarter of the six million recipients of the basic form of income support—which comprises free rent, heating, legal representation and a monthly cash allowance for food and other essentials—were non-EU migrants.
A Kantar Public poll published June 23 showed that 61% of Germans supported CSU’s proposal to tighten the border regime and 57% wanted to slow down immigration because they were worried about integration.
The CSU and CDU have been political Siamese twins for most of the postwar years, contesting national elections as one party and sharing a parliamentary group. But the bitter row over Ms. Merkel’s migration policy is sapping their ability to run the country at a time of global turbulence, and stretching their union to a breaking point.
Founded in the aftermath of World War II, the CSU had among its guiding principles the fact that it would never let a rival party emerge on its right. In a state that long ago turned from agricultural backwater to industrial powerhouse, home to such global conglomerates as BMW AG and Siemens AG , it sees itself both as robustly conservative and a guarantor of freedom and the rule of law.
While the chancellor has gradually tightened the rules governing immigration over the past three years, she has clung to the principle that no one seeking protection in Germany should be denied a fair hearing.
In Deggendorf, near Munich, where the AfD got a fifth of the votes at last September’s federal election—more than six points above its national score—this principle shapes day-to-day life.
An asylum center there hosts hundreds of recent arrivals, many from Africa, often with no identification papers. Few stand a chance of gaining asylum in Germany because they are typically judged to be economic migrants rather than war refugees or political dissidents. Also, many of them already applied in Italy or elsewhere before arriving here, disqualifying them for protection in Germany under European law.
On paper, rejected asylum seekers should be swiftly deported. But most linger on, shielded by bureaucratic inertia, lack of resources or sympathetic judges.
A 20-year-old man from Sierra Leone who calls himself Mahmud said he had sailed from Libya on a rubber dinghy along with dozens of other migrants last summer; they were rescued and brought to a port in Sicily, where he registered as an asylum seeker.
Dressed in a branded polo shirt and baseball cap, a thick gold chain resting on his chest, Mahmud said he applied for asylum in Italy, claiming his life was in danger at home. But he said he didn’t wait for a decision and instead moved on to Germany because Italy provided no opportunity for people like him. He is now stuck in limbo, living on benefits at the shelter but unable to work.
“They are not treating us right here,” he said. “I think it is the politicians’ fault.”
It is people like Mahmud that Mr. Seehofer and Markus Söder, Bavaria’s state premier, now want to turn back directly at the border, even though that would mean erecting new checkpoints to slow down EU crossings that are now unimpeded, and, say critics, an element of racial profiling to screen out noncitizens.
Ms. Merkel’s refusal to comply has fueled frustration beyond the CSU and even beyond Germany.
“The disorderly immigration of 2015 was a fundamental mistake,” Mr. Söder wrote in an op-ed in the Die Welt daily last week. “Citizens want a safe Europe, which protects their cultural identity.”
CDU legislators led by Jens Spahn, Ms. Merkel’s health care minister and one of her harshest in-house critics, have privately and publicly sided with the CSU.
And in Europe, conservative and far-right politicians from Austria, Italy and Hungary have joined the chorus of Merkel critics. In something of a diplomatic affront, Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Chancellor, went as far as supporting Mr. Seehofer at a joint press conference in Berlin. During the event, he described the anti-Merkel alliance in Southeastern Europe as an “axis of the willing.”
As the CSU closes ranks behind Messrs. Seehofer and Söder, it is not clear that the party’s challenge to Ms. Merkel is endearing it to voters. A survey by the Forsa polling group for broadcaster RTL on Monday showed only 37 and 38% of Bavarian voters were satisfied with the work of Mr. Seehofer and of the Bavarian premier respectively. Some 43% said they were positive about the performance of the chancellor.
Likewise, the Kantar Public poll that showed German voters as a whole supported the CSU’s line on immigration also showed 58% of respondents wanted Ms. Merkel to remain in power.
Whatever the outcome of the standoff, however, Mr. Sichert says the main winner is already clear: The AfD and its message.
“Our time has come—the time of upright patriots who fight for their country. Our ambition is not to get into government, but to put so much pressure on the conservatives they adopt our migration policy,” Mr. Sichert said. “And it’s working.”
'We Cannot Be Stopped'
Merkel's Toughest Adversary in Europe
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini: " They can attack us. They can insult us and threaten us. We cannot be stopped."
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is a populist and a firebrand, but also a fearless tactician. His hardline approach to migration threatens not only Angela Merkel's tenure as chancellor, but also the entire EU.
By Walter Mayr
June 27, 2018 10:38 AM
No stage is too small for him -- the man who has become the focus of European attention. The main thing is that he's in the spotlight.
With his top shirt buttons undone, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini faces the crowd in the small town of Ivrea, where he is -- officially, at least -- stumping for a mayoral candidate from his party. In fact, though, he speaks almost exclusively about himself and his role in global politics.
He is "as tired as a mule" but ready for a fight, Salvini calls out to his supporters gathered on the piazza. "The time has come to an end when Italy allows itself to be enslaved." It pays, he says, to be confident, adding that heads of state and government from other countries constantly tell him: "You just have to say: 'Stop, we are Italy. We are tired of being treated like garbage.' And people will be forced to listen to you; things will change."
It sounds cynical, but it's true. Without Italy, the euro would have no future, nor, likely, would the European Union. Without Italy, there can be no solution to the migrant problem and no agreement on the question that has become decisive for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's survival: Whether EU member states on the Mediterranean are prepared to take back asylum applicants who have traveled onward to Germany.
Much of the pressure on Merkel is coming from her own interior minister, Horst Seehofer, who has given Merkel until the end of June to find her favored "European solution" to the refugee issue before he carries out his threat of beginning to turn migrants away at Germany's border. The German chancellor is concerned that such a move could further fragment the EU and ultimately lead to the reestablishment of borders within the bloc.
But if anything, Sunday's refugee summit called by Merkel to search for a broader solution demonstrated that the process of fragmentation is quite far along. And Salvini has become emblematic of that process. He has said that Italy will not take in "one more" refugee and clearly demonstrated in recent days that he is in no mood to compromise.
And in his recent campaign appearance in Ivrea, he didn't waste a single word on the problems Merkel is currently facing as a result of his stubbornness. In the future, Salvini only wants to accept proven war refugees and seeks to quickly deport the half-million illegal migrants currently living in Italy. "Italy cannot become a tent and barracks settlement," he said in Ivrea. "We cannot dump half of Africa on Italian soil."
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini: " They can attack us. They can insult us and threaten us. We cannot be stopped."
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini: " They can attack us. They can insult us and threaten us. We cannot be stopped."
Italy's new interior minister is a gifted demagogue. He constantly keeps the pressure on his adversaries and, no matter where he is, he speaks as if he were on the campaign trail and not as a statesman -- as the deputy prime minister of a country of 60 million in the heart of Europe. Since the parliamentary elections on March 4, Salvini has propelled his party, the right-wing nationalist Lega, to first place in the polls, having gained 12 percentage points in the interim. He has done so by spewing vitriol against immigrants, Roma and politicians like former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who "crawled around on their knees before Merkel and Macron."
Salvini has thus far dictated the new government's agenda, even though his party is ostensibly the junior partner. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who does not belong to a party, and election victor Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement (M5S) are simply not able to keep up with the pace and tone of the Lega boss. Survey numbers seem to confirm that Salvini is not mistaken in his approach: Fully 72 percent of Italians support Salvini's stance on the refugee question. He has been adamant in his refusal to allow ships that have saved migrants from the Mediterranean to land at Italian ports and insisted that attention be shifted to the needs of Italians. "Prima gli Italiani," is his motto. Italians first.
On the European stage, Salvini has quickly risen to become Merkel's most powerful adversary. Observed from a distance, he is a populist who uses xenophobic positions and arch-conservative values to attract voters who have become receptive to simplistic political messages following years of economic crisis. From closer up, it becomes clear that Salvini is primarily that which many of his voters want to be themselves: self-confident, pugnacious and fearless.
Which is an accurate description of his bearing last Thursday, sitting behind his desk on the second floor of the Palazzo del Viminale in Rome, which is home to both the Interior Ministry and the prime minister's office. "In the coming months, it will be decided if Europe still has a future in its current form or whether the whole thing has become futile," he says. It sounds more like a threat than like an expression of hopefulness.
Despite having worked 18-hour days for months, Salvini appears surprisingly vigorous from up close. He looks at his interviewer directly in the eyes, doesn't dodge any questions and parses the world in accordance with his ally-enemy worldview. "Questi signori," these gentlemen, he says when talking about his adversaries. Or just "they," without being more specific.
"They can attack us. They can insult us and threaten us. We cannot be stopped."
Salvini knows no taboos. On June 19, he demanded the creation of a register of all Roma and Sinti living in Italy -- after years spent promising to bulldoze illegal Roma settlements. The country is thought to be home to some 140,000 Roma and Sinti, and Salvini wants to get rid of all of them who are not citizens of the EU. "Unfortunately," he said, "we have to keep the ones who are Italian."
The interior minister's hate, though, is also a means of distracting voters from the fact that the central promises made by the Lega-M5S governing coalition cannot be fulfilled: low taxes, minimum income for the needy, and a reversal of the pension reform passed in 2011 to help stave off the country's debt crisis. Italy is currently carrying more than 2.3 trillion euros in sovereign debt, which has led Salvini to focus on policies that cost no money, but which are supported by the populace. He has turned his ire against criminal Tunisians and the NGOs that fish migrants out of the sea off the coast of Libya. Indeed, his consistent critique of the influx of refugees closely mirrors the concerns held by many everyday Italians.
It is difficult to describe Rome's new strongman using conventional paradigms. He insists that viewing politics as a competition between the left and the right is no longer valid. He likewise has little use for proven alliances such as the EU and NATO. The Lega, which Salvini has led since 2013, maintains a partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin's party United Russia, demands an end to EU sanctions against the country and admires U.S. President Donald Trump, whose victory he predicted early on. He is also part of the European Parliament party group to which French right-winger Marine Le Pen also belongs.
But who is this politician who is mounting a challenge to Europe at an extremely critical moment and who could ultimately cost Merkel the Chancellery?
Salvini was born in Milan in 1973 to a middle-class family and went to a high school that focused on ancient languages. He was only 17 when he first became a member of the separatist movement led by Umberto Bossi, then called Lega Nord. When he was 20, he tried to bridge the gap and temporarily became the leader of a list of "Communists from the Po Valley." He wore a Che Guevara pin and the logo of his list included the hammer and sickle. He was, in short, both left and right -- a precursor to his current partnership 20 years later with left-wing populist Beppe Grillo's M5S, an alliance he has sold to Italian voters as the beginning of a "post-ideological" era, the start of the "Third Republic."
As a young politician in Milan, Salvini inspected illegal Roma settlements, collected signatures in opposition to the construction of a mosque, and stood in front of the opera house distributing a book by star reporter Oriana Fallaci, in which she wrote that anyone who believes there is such a thing as "moderate Islam" is naïve. Even then, he didn't beat around the bush: "We wouldn't be too pleased if, 20 years from now, all the children in our schools were named Mustafa."
'Discounting Him Would Be a Mistake'
Shortly after graduating from high school, Salvini was elected to the Milan city council. "An exceptionally intelligent person, which means that he must be aware of the nonsense he spews. Back then, I liked him," says Pierfrancesco Majorino, who is today a left-wing member of the city council and responsible for social issues. He is also a supporter of migration and integration, making him a natural enemy of the interior minister. Majorino has known Salvini for a quarter century. "Simply discounting him as an unhinged lout would be a mistake. He knows exactly what he is doing."
Even back then, Salvini's politics were defined by his contrarianism. Early on, he was opposed to Italy and the exploitative centralized state that robbed the hard-working northern Italians of the fruits of their labor. Later, his ire was reserved for the EU and its representatives in Brussels who were, he said, seeking to establish a "Fourth Reich." He also railed against international finance, against global Islam and against migrants.
In parallel with the growth of his own importance, Salvini's targets also became larger. He used to focus on lazy southern Italians: "Do you smell the stench? Even the dogs are running away. The Neapolitans are coming." Now, though, he is targeting the rest of the world on behalf of all Italians.
Can he still remember being photographed wearing a pro-Germany T-shirt in 2006 on the day of the World Cup semi-final between Italy and Germany to express his rejection of the Italian state? Yes, Salvini responds, but those times are over. What about the time he refused to shake the hand of Italian President Azeglio Ciampi in Milan with the words "no thanks old man, I don't feel that you are my representative," because as a proud Lombard, he wanted nothing to do with Rome? And that he was sentenced to 30 days behind bars for throwing eggs at then-Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema?
He remembers all of it, but no longer wants to talk about it. "With Salvini, it's a bit like Picasso: He also had his rose period, his blue period and his Cubist period. Matteo has been a federalist, a communist, a separatist and now he is a nationalist," says a long-time companion. But more important than his ideological roots, he says, is Salvini's overarching goal: "He wants soon to become prime minister."
A 'Criminally Controlled Invasion'
The result being that these days, one can find Salvini -- whose trademark used to be the sweatshirt he wore everywhere -- sitting at the front of parliament in a suit and tie. Though if he gets bored, as he did during a recent speech by Prime Minister Conte, he'll get up and leave. He hasn't lost his bluntness, however, which became clear from his recent curt statement as to why he would not allow the refugee ship Aquarius to dock in an Italian port. He doesn't want to provide any support to the "criminally controlled invasion" of his country, he said.
An Italian navy vessel carries migrants rescued on by the ship Acquarius after Italy refused to let them come ashore in the country.
An Italian navy vessel carries migrants rescued on by the ship Acquarius after Italy refused to let them come ashore in the country.
Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister who is now merely a senator, sits in the fifth row from the back, drumming his fingers nervously on the desk in front of him. It's almost as though he simply can't believe that Italy, which he had tried to return to Europe's center stage, is now being governed by such people. Renzi failed because he could hardly control his own party. Salvini doesn't have that problem. He has the full support of his party and can even count on the backing of the Nigerian-Italian Senator Toni Iwobi -- a black member of the xenophobic Lega.
One shouldn't harbor any illusions about Salvini. On one of his websites, he includes an apt quote from Clint Eastwood in the 1986 film "Heartbreak Ridge": "I'm mean, nasty and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round in a flea's ass at 200 meters."
Back in 2015, Salvini told DER SPIEGEL that he had no intention of showing much consideration for German sensitivities. "The euro is a weapon of war," he said. "Wars can be fought with bombs or with currencies. This war was started by the Germans, because the euro benefits you and nobody else."
It seems unlikely that Salvini, now that he is deputy prime minister, will show much consideration for Angela Merkel's needs. He puts it like this: "To be honest, our political views -- and not just on the refugee question -- are quite far apart." Italian Interior Minister Salvini
'Within a Year, We'll See if a United Europe Still Exists'
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wants to prevent any more migrants from coming to Italy and is skeptical of Chancellor Angela Merkel's efforts to come up with a joint European solution. DER SPIEGEL spoke with him in Rome.
Interview Conducted By Walter Mayr
June 27, 2018 11:03 AM
DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Minister, Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to return asylum-seekers who were registered in Italy, but who traveled onward to Germany, back to Italy. Is that okay with you?
Salvini: Ms. Merkel said that Italy should not be left alone. Now, the consequences must be drawn. We are in second place behind Germany when it comes to the number of refugees we have accepted. We have accumulated more than 140,000 asylum cases, we cannot take on a single additional case. On the contrary, we'd like to hand over a few.
DER SPIEGEL: With that position, you may be contributing to the end of Merkel's tenure as chancellor.
Salvini: We need reliable partners in Germany. Personally, I don't want to witness a crisis there or see the government fall. Even if our political views -- and not just on the refugee question -- are quite far apart. The same is true on economic policy, banking reform and the German foreign trade surplus.
DER SPIEGEL: Do you have a direct line of communication with the chancellor?
Salvini: No, I haven't yet had that honor. I speak with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
DER SPIEGEL: You have spoken of your agreement with Seehofer and with your counterpart from Austria. Yet both would like to send refugees back to Italy.
Salvini: That's true. Both speak of protecting the borders and of rejecting those who have no right to asylum. But our common goal isn't just that of imposing a distribution of refugees on Brussels, but especially that of protecting the EU's external borders. A system like the one with Turkey in the southeast should be put in place in southern Europe too.
DER SPIEGEL: Your agreement with the German interior minister, in other words, is limited to the protection of the external borders. What about his desire to send back refugees to Italy?
Salvini: We don't need anyone coming to us. We need people to leave our country.
DER SPIEGEL: Have you spoken about that with Mr. Seehofer?
Salvini: No, but Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has the mandate to declare that Italy's problem is more that we have an overabundance -- we have no need for returns. On that issue, our position will be completely clear.
DER SPIEGEL: Who in the Italian government will decide the country's position at the EU summit in Brussels at the end of June?
Salvini: Prime Minister Conte.
DER SPIEGEL: Are you serious?
Salvini: Yes. Luigi Di Maio and I are in complete agreement with him. He has the mandate to say "yes" or "no" in Brussels, to participate or to stand up and leave.
DER SPIEGEL: Yet everybody says that you are the most important member of the government.
Salvini: You are overestimating me. We shouldn't exaggerate.
DER SPIEGEL: What will the Italian government's position be on the refugee issue?
Salvini: We, the Interior Ministry and Foreign Ministry in addition to the prime minister, have drafted a dossier for the preparatory meeting on Sunday which Giuseppe Conte has in his possession (Please note: This interview took place prior to last Sunday's mini-summit on refugees, called by Angela Merkel). But he is not flying to Brussels with a mission that he must fulfill. He has free rein -- free rein to say "no" if he sees fit.
DER SPIEGEL: That means the decision remains open?
Salvini: Yes, but contrary to the past, Italy's ultimate agreement isn't guaranteed from the outset.
DER SPIEGEL: Is there still room for negotiating?
Salvini: We are prepared to negotiate, item by item.
DER SPIEGEL: How does your position on the refugee issue fit with the French-German drafts, parts of which have already been made public?
The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 26/2018 (June 23rd, 2018) of DER SPIEGEL.
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Salvini: Drafts that are written in advance by other countries and then emailed around do not conform to our way of working. Either such a thing is done together or not at all. Furthermore, I don't like the order in which things are addressed. The focus in the draft document is primarily on the immediate deportation to Italy of those who originally landed on our coasts. And only then is the future protection of our external borders addressed. For us, though, the priorities are exactly the other way around.
DER SPIEGEL: What is the core of the conflict?
Salvini: When someone in the EU says the Italians should first take care of everything and then we'll help, then I say: First you help and then we can talk about the rest, about distribution of refugees but also about the banking union, sovereign debt, etc.
DER SPIEGEL: You say that the ships operated by NGOs, including several from Germany, should disappear from off the coast of Libya?
Salvini: Definitely, yes. They support the migrant traffickers and boost the incentive to risk a crossing.
DER SPIEGEL: And who should then do the work being done by the NGOs?
Salvini: The Libyan, Tunisian or Egyptian coast guards.
DER SPIEGEL: Does Italy consider itself to be part of the "Axis of the Willing?" Would you also be in favor of installing the first control points in non-EU countries in the Balkans?
Salvini: You mean establishing hotspots not just in North Africa but also in the Balkans? Yes.
DER SPIEGEL: You recently called French President Emmanuel Macron "arrogant." Why are you upset with him?
Salvini: The French lectured us on morals, and yet according to the statistics, they should long since have accepted 9,000 asylum seekers from Italy. Still today, armed border guards are marching to the border with Italy, in Ventimiglia. It is their right to do so - if they would just stop lecturing us.
DER SPIEGEL: It currently looks as though the EU will be more divided than ever at the upcoming Brussels summit. Does that worry you?
Salvini: In the coming months, it will be decided if Europe still has a future in its current form or whether the whole thing has become futile. It's not just about the budget for the next seven years. Next year will see new European Parliament elections. Within one year, we will see if united Europe still exists or if it doesn't.