Matteo Salvini hits out at Italy's 'capitulation' to Rutte in EU deal
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Mr Salvini, the leader of Italy’s League party, has claimed to have had a change of heart on Europe as he seeks to join the new government headed by a former eurocrat. He held a meeting yesterday with Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, who is trying to put together a national unity government after the previous coalition collapsed. Riccardo Molinari, an MP and close aide to the populist leader, said it was logical that Mr Salvini should get a senior role after he backed Mr Draghi to the hilt this week.
For a man who once campaigned for Italy to quit the euro, Mr Salvini’s endorsement of the former ECB President marks a potential sea change for the League, shunting it out of the far-right, eurosceptic camp and into the moderate, centre right.
Giulio Centemero, another League parliamentarian, explained: “We want to become like the Republican Party in the United States.
“An inclusive party that reconciles all the positions of the Italian centre right, no one excluded.”
Some of the League’s far-right allies in the European Parliament are much less happy at the prospect of a government led by Mr Draghi and the League’s U-turn, though.
After all, only in 2016, Mr Salvini ferociously criticised the bloc and called for it to “die as soon as possible”.
The speech came after Chinese President Xi Jinping met former European Council President Donald Tusk and former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Beijing for talks regarding whether the EU should recognise China as a market economy.
The issue had become a flashpoint in Brussels as a sluggish EU economy, excess Chinese production capacity and a struggling European steel industry was sparking fears of a manufacturing decline and further job losses from the UK to Italy.
Mr Salvini said: “If you serve the interests of China, go to work in China!
“This debate confirms that Europe does not exist.
“I would like to see this debate attended by any of the workers, artisans, fishermen, farmers slaughtered by the crazy policies of this Europe and of a Commission who imposes restrictive laws on our companies and go around the world saying that we should not pollute, but then make agreements with those who do not respect any environmental, trade union, health or wage legislation.”
Mr Salvini added: “If there is some European Commissioner or some MEP who is paid by European citizens to serve the interests of others, go and work somewhere else.
“Go work in China.
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“But first, step in front of a European factory that will close if this agreement goes ahead.
“I hope this Europe will die as soon as possible and another more serious, freer and more modern one comes in the shortest time possible.”
In May 2016, a large majority of MEPs voted against granting China the status of “market economy”, pre-empting the proposal being prepared by the European Commission.
However, in January, the EU and China concluded in principle negotiations on an investment deal, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron playing an “active role” in driving through the accord.
The deal comes amid deep concerns about the Chinese government’s use of its economic clout to enmesh itself in Western countries.
A European Commission statement said the agreement is of “major economic significance” and that China has “committed to an unprecedented level of market access for EU investors”.
Beijing has agreed to “work towards” meeting global standards on forced labour.
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Chinese President Jinping will join an EU-China leaders’ meeting in Brussels this year – another sign of growing links between the EU and China.
Meanwhile, the UK has moved in a different direction since Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved into Downing Street.
Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has been booted out of the bidding to build the country’s 5G network and work is ongoing to set hard limits on Chinese involvement in infrastructure projects.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Australian Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz has fiercely criticised the German and French leaders for pushing for an accord that “gives credibility to a belligerent bully”.
Mr Abetz said: “It is very unfortunate.
“While I can understand trade should continue, I cannot believe they have done so and engaged in a new agreement when China has got one million of their own citizens in concentration camps.
“I think freedom-loving countries of the world should be pushing for reforms before they engage with Beijing as an equal partner, as China’s behavior is completely unacceptable.”
He added: “I have no idea why Macron and Merkel pushed for it.
“They have basically given dictatorship a credibility that is not deserved.
“It was for the whole world to see how China treated Australia in recent times.
“China acts as a belligerent bully on the world scale.
“Why would you give them credibility by signing up to this agreement?
“It defies any logic and any principles.”
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