European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned Italy of the consequences if it strays from democratic principles, issuing a thinly veiled threat ahead of Sunday’s election, which a right-wing bloc is likely to win by Giorgia Meloni, reports Reuters.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European CommissionPhoto: snapshot/Future Image/D Anoraganingrum / Shutterstock Editorial / Profimedia
These statements by the head of the European Commission underscore the concern in some European capitals about the upcoming elections on the Peninsula and suggest that relations between Brussels and Rome could become turbulent if Meloni and his partners are victorious.
“My approach is that whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we work together,” von der Leyen said at Princeton University in the United States on Thursday, responding to a question about concerns about Italy’s upcoming election. .
“If things go in a difficult direction, we discussed Hungary and Poland, we have tools,” she added.
Matteo Salvini, head of the League and part of Meloni’s conservative alliance, criticized the claims, saying they were of “shameful arrogance”.
“What is this, a threat? Respect the free, democratic and sovereign vote of the Italian people!” he tweeted.
Von der Leyen was apparently referring to the European Commission’s recommendation last Sunday to suspend around 7.5 billion euros in funding to Hungary over corruption, the first such case in the EU under new measures designed to protect more good rule of law.
The EU introduced the financial sanctions two years ago in response to what it sees as the undermining of democracy in Poland and Hungary.
Eric Mamer, a spokesman for the European Commission, told reporters in Brussels that von der Leyen did not seek to intervene in Italian politics: “She was emphasizing the Commission’s role as guardian of the (European) treaties in terms of the rule of law.”