The de facto leader of the French Rassemblement National (RN) party and the head of the Italian Lega party have underlined their close political proximity ahead of the European Parliament elections in June 2024.
Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini, both of the Identity and Democracy Group in the Parliament, made a show of unity in opposing the huge rise in the inflow of migrants “submerging” Italy, indicating migration will be a major theme in the 2024 European vote, if not the primary issue.
Speaking at an annual party meeting of the Lega in the north of Italy, Le Pen was warmly welcomed by the audience, who chanted her name. Given her popularity and recognition, Jordan Bardella, who will lead the European election list of RN in France and is of Italian descent, remained in the background.
Nous, nous défendons un art de vivre, nos traditions, nos mœurs, nos codes, nos gastronomies.
Tout ce qui fait le bonheur de vivre et de partager, tout ce qui fait qui nous sommes ! pic.twitter.com/7g6DXCRFJg
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) September 17, 2023
“We are defending our peoples against the wave of migration being organised today,” Le Pen said, touting the “brilliant” job Salvini did when he was Italy’s minister of internal affairs.
“Salvini has dramatically reduced the number of migrants,” Le Pen said. “And I think the parallel with what we are going to see in Europe is not an exaggeration.
“At that time, all of Europe looked up to Italy and we as allies were proud of Salvini and the Lega. Let’s wait for that moment to return.”
Salvinini, who is now Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister, said of Le Pen: “She is an ally, but above all a friend in times of victory and difficulty, and we have never changed our minds.
“On immigration, there is little to add. I have done, I do, I will do and together we will do everything democratically allowed to stop immigration that threatens to become disastrous.”
By highlighting their strong bonds, which have lasted for more than a decade, they also sent a signal to Italian Prime Minister Girogia Meloni, as her Brothers of Italy party has become the leading conservative, migration-critical power in Italy.
Salvini assured the audience that, “The League guarantees that this government will last all five years, not a minute less, today here, and Giorgia on Lampedusa [the Italian island recently flooded by thousands of migrant arrivals] are the synthesis of the same goal and the same common destiny.
“They will not be able to divide us, we have different cultures and a sense of militancy, but united centre-right wins.”
The party event also paid homage to the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who died in June.
Salvini’s Lega party keeps polling at a rather low nine per cent while Meloni’s Brothers of Italy is stable at around 30 per cent. Salvini is apparently using the standing of RN, the second-biggest party in France and consistently scoring highly in Europe, to show that the League still has friends in high places. He is hoping Le Pen’s popularity will reflect positively on him.
There have been persistent rumours of Salvini seeking new alliances and better relationships with the European People’s Party (EPP) and European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), mirroring the Italian Government coalition where Forza Italia is part of the EPP and the Brothers of Italy are part of the ECR.
But all those parties recoil at the prospect of working with the likes of the German AfD party, also part of the Identity and Democracy group.
Meloni, for her part, is said to be working on future co-operation with the Reconquête! party of Éric Zemmour and Merion Maréchal, the niece of Le Pen.
Chi lotta VINCE, in Italia e in Europa.
— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) September 17, 2023