Brussels – In case of a Matteo Salvini’s North League victory in the next general elections, Italy could turn into a new issue for the rule of law in Europe, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group (ALDE) warned today. The Italian party Lega Nord is currently sitting in the European Parliament in coalition with far-right parties such as Geert Wilders’ Pvv and Marine Le Pen’s Front National. ALDE chief Guy Verhofstadt hosted a seminar on the the rule of law in the EU, and he recalled all the “narratives against migrants” told in Europe in the recent years. “Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, call them ‘Muslim invaders’”, but the matter is even bigger than this. In ruling the countries, “models followed by such a leaders are not those of Winston Chuchill or Konrad Adenauer, but those of Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayipp Erdogan”, namely the presidents of the Russian Federation and Turkey and never considered amongst the main defenders of the fundamental rights. “My fear is that if we don’t do anything, these phenomena could appear in other countries” of the European Union, Verhofstadt told the audience. “Look at Austria, for instance”. There a far-right government is in charge for the first time, and “look perhaps at Italy, where if Matteo Salvini could come to power with Lega Nord it could happen the same” that Europe already experienced in Hungary.
It is not only about migration. Fundamental rights and freedoms are at stake elsewhere. There is a precise repeating mode, pointed out the ALDE group president. “Pattern is always the same: first you undermine the independence of the juduciary; secondly, critical voices are put under pressure, and then you restrict the area of media. Third element of the pattern is the electoral law is changed”. That is much more than an isolated phenomenon. “Let’s be realistic: we have a problem inside the EU. We see across Member States there are violations of the rule of law and fundamental rights”. Verhofstadt denounced cases of “misuse of power” and “restrictions of freedom of expression”, and according to him “the key question here is: can these violations removed in Europe?” The answer he gave appeared to be a negative one, since he underlined the that “there are not many tools provided by the Treaties today” to deal with breaches and violation of the rule of law. There is just the so-called article 7, allowing to trigger the process for the suspension of the voting right againt the EU country responsible of illegal actions. European Liberals then asked for “new mechanisms” able to tackle this deterioration of the checks and balance system. This is key for the future of Europe, with Italy to be an eventual possible test bench in a few months.