Berlusconi ally attacks euro, says preparing exit

Protesters hold placards during a rally against the visit of the leader of Italian Lega Nord (North League) party, Matteo Salvini, in Florence, Italy, 7 February 2018. [Maurizio Deglinnocenti/EPA/EFE]

The leader of Italy’s right-wing Northern League said yesterday (7 February) his party was preparing the ground to leave the euro zone and called the euro a “German currency” which had damaged Italy’s economy.

“It’s clear to everyone that the euro is a mistake for our economy,” Matteo Salvini told reporters on the sidelines of a rally in Florence ahead of the 4 March parliamentary election.

Hung parliament feared as Italy goes to vote on 4 March

Italy will vote on March 4 in an election expected to produce a hung parliament, instability and possible market turbulence in the eurozone’s third largest economy.

The eurosceptic League is a key member of the centre-right coalition which polls suggest will win most seats at the election, but probably fall short of a working majority.

Salvini, who last month presented two prominent anti-euro economists among the League’s candidates, said it was only a matter of time before the euro collapsed and that he was “preparing an emergency exit for the Italians.”

“We don’t have a euro in our pockets. We have a German mark which they called the euro,” he said.

The League is polling at around 14%, according to two surveys released this week, around two points behind its main coalition ally Forza Italia (Go Italy!) led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The two leaders have agreed that if the centre-right bloc wins the election, whichever party gets more votes will choose the prime minister and set the policy agenda.

Berlusconi, who wants Italy to remain in the euro zone, is barred from office because of a 2013 tax fraud conviction and has not yet proposed a candidate for prime minister, while Salvini says that if the League comes first he will be premier.

Berlusconi says Italy can't leave euro, coalition ally disagrees

Silvio Berlusconi said yesterday (9 January) that Italy must not leave the euro but his main coalition partner immediately disagreed, underlining policy differences in the centre-right bloc which is expected to take most seats in an election in March.

The two parties also disagree on fiscal policy.

The League on Tuesday released its election programme saying Italy should leave the European Union unless the fiscal rules set out in the Maastricht treaty which prepared the ground for the single currency were scrapped.

“We want to remain in the EU only if we can renegotiate all the treaties which limit our full and legitimate sovereignty, in practical terms returning to the European Economic Union which preceded the Maastricht Treaty,” the programme says.

Berlusconi says Italy should respect the EU’s budget deficit ceiling of 3% of gross domestic product.

Each party in the centre-right bloc, which includes the small, far-right Brothers of Italy party, has issued its own election programme, and the coalition has also published a vaguer, joint programme containing points they all agree on.

Lega Nord’s main man

The party was at its lowest when Salvini took over in 2013 with 4.1% of votes. He imposed his reckless attitude, in an Italy hit by the economic and immigration crises he found the winning angle: security and immigration.

“Using Marine Le Pen as a model, he did everything to change his party into a national league”, Ilvio Diamanti, a political scientist, told Ouest France. Salvini turned his back on his middle-class upbringing, and sixteen years spent trying to attain a historical science degree he ultimately missed out on.

Salvini has also now dropped the secessionist baggage and has decided to focus his efforts directly on the immigration crisis.


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