In an exclusive interview with New Europe, Italian MEP Matteo Salvini, secretary of the Northern League, spoke about the political situation in Italy and in Europe. He discussed the recent downfall of Beppe Grillo, the migration crisis and the autonomy referendums in Lombardy and Veneto, as well as the rise of France’s newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron.

New Europe: After the latest round of local elections in Italy, the defeat of Beppe Grillo suggests a return of the “old” bipartisan system. Do you agree? 

Matteo Salvini: These are partial results of a local election’s first round, so I would not give to it a great deal of political relevance. I will be happy if the Northern League and the centre-right coalition lead everywhere in the second round of these local elections.

At the moment, in Italy we have three “poles” and after this first round of election our coalition is leading.

When the PD secretary, Matteo Renzi, says Grillo’s Five Stars Movement has been completely defeated, this is not true. On the contrary, it is Renzi who is the big loser.

In this period, it is under discussion in Italy the jus soli regulation that will make it easier for foreigners to obtain Italian citizenship. What is your opinion on this?

We are fighting against it now in the parliament, but if it will be necessary, we will collect signatures asking for a referendum. We don’t understand this rush, but probably the Democratic party is acting like this in order to “cover up” their problems.

I would like to remind you that Professor Sartori said once that the jus soli regulation, done like this, is a nonsense measure. I agree with him. We already presented thousands of amendments in the parliament because the real emergencies in Italy are the lack of jobs, the taxes and the immigration crisis, and not granting citizenship to immigrants. If the battle in the parliament will not be enough, we will collect many signatures against it.   

There will be a referendum for the autonomy in Veneto and Lombardy regions. What are your expectations?

I’m an autonomist and a federalist. It is good if money stays available for the areas in which they are generated. I hope to extend to other regions this possibility. If millions of people are going to vote that day, I’m confident that they will have to hear us.

What solutions do you propose to solve the illegal immigration issue?

Northern League’s mayors confirmed their “No” to welcoming illegal immigrants in their areas, but to change the trend we should govern the country.

Rescuing and bringing back the migrants is something you can do when you run the country. For the moment, we have limited the damages. I hope we will be able to repatriate the immigrants as we were doing in the past when Roberto Maroni was minister.

In Europe, we tried to do a lot, but just imagine that the resettlement from Italy was almost 6,000 with 250,000 arrivals in two years. I don’t trust a possible EU action on this issue. Therefore, I think Italy should act alone.     

Some NGOs are reportedly playing an unclear game in this crisis, are you worried about this?

A “nice” map was recently published in the New York Times that shows how during the years the rescuers were coming closer to the Libyan coasts, now they come to pick them up on the beach. So, NGOs are accessories, just like some governments.   

What’s your opinion about a possible alliance for the next elections with Silvio Berlusconi?

Yes, where we have clear programmes and no ambiguities, we can have nice results.

The recent polls in France and the Netherlands did not give positive results for your allies in Europe. Why is the Northern League the only one in the EFD group that clearly won at the polls?

Every country has different dynamics. The difference with France and the Netherlands is that in Italy our movement is governing many municipalities, as well as three regions. Because of the electoral system and the “games” of the alliances, both Marine Le Pen [leader of France’s National Front] and Geert Wilders [leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands] are not able to do the same. The fact that we are governing very well Lombardy, Veneto and Liguria will help the citizens to choose.   

Are taxes and labour still key issues in your programme?

Yes. Unfortunately, our proposal to introduce a flat tax at 15% has been blocked in the parliament for two years.

We have to cancel the Fornero Law and bring back the pension age to more decent standards. We also have to reduce taxation, removing the sector’s studies and bureaucracy and finally give the possibility to young people to open a business. We need then a reform of the university system, which is too disconnected from the labour market.    

As MEP, are you worried about having Macron in France, Merkel in Germany and probably May in UK?

If the Italian ministers are working in our interests in France and Germany, we can have anyone. The problem is that Monti, Letta, Renzi and Gentiloni are servants of Brussels and Berlin. An Italian determined government does not fear the others.