13 Feb, 2019

Verhofstadt clashes with Italian PM Conte in EP plenary

Ethan Arsht

Read a speech by ALDE Group President Guy Verhofstadt at the Strasbourg Plenary session below:

Dear Colleagues,
Dear President of the Council,

For me – apart from my own country – I am in love with Italy and Italians. For me, Italy is more than a country. Italy is where our European civilisation was born. For centuries, artists, writers, intellectuals from all over Europe have visited Italy, at least once in their lives. Discovering Europe meant visiting Italy. Florence, Rome, Naples and then die. "Journal de voyage en Italie" de Montaigne. "Italienische Reise" by Goethe.

And that's why it pains me today to see the political degeneration of Italy. A degeneration started at least twenty years ago. This beautiful country has gone from a staunch defender of Europe, a founder of our European family, to a bottom of the platoon.

Let's be honest. It all started with bad governance under Silvio Berlusconi. A ‘malgoverno’ that has worsened under your government. Under Salvini and Di Maio. The real leaders of your government. A government with anti-European behavior.

A government openly hateful against the other member states, member of our European family. It is the Italian government that has prevented the European Union from being united against Maduro, and recognising Guaido as interim President. Under pressure from the Kremlin, under pressure from Putin. And you know all too well!

It is the ultimate proof that we must get rid of the unanimity rule in the Council. It is the Italian government, Mr Conte, that has prevented a majority in the Council, to reform our asylum and migration policy. Blocking the creation of a true European border and coastguard. An absurd behaviour since Italy and Italian citizens are the first to pay the price for this lack of European policy.

Since a year, your government is also responsible for the economic stagnation in Italy and tomorrow, I am afraid, for the recession. Because your government does not have a growth strategy. Your government has only one tactic: to get you re-elect with gifts and debts (even though you never have been elected).

The ultimate idiocy of your government, of Di Maio’s government, was using, abusing his office to support the Gilets Jaunes, a popular movement that now has become a group of wreckers: they set fire to the cars, break into the shops, destroy the bus stops. Di Maio even met with Christophe Chalençon. Do you know Christophe Chalençon? It was he who called (not once but twice) for a military coup against the directly elected president of the French Republic. Congratulations!

This is the behaviour of an irresponsible person. And not the behaviour of a Vice-President of the Council of an important European country, like Italy.

Do you remember, just a year ago, on November 23, 2017, Di Maio wrote an open letter to Emmanuel Macron, expressing his admiration, and suggested that the ‘5 Star Movement’ was in fact the Italian version ‘En Marche’. Ridiculous!

So, my question to you, Prime Minister, Mr Conte, is how long will you continue to be the puppet on the string pulled around by Salvini and Di Maio?

I invite you to take inspiration from more illustrious compatriots: Ciampi, Napolitano, Mario Draghi and Romano Prodi, not to forget my good friend Emma Bonino. These are the men and women who are the greatness of Italy, and who represent the great role of Italy in Europe. Thank you for your attention!

Watch the original speech in Italian on Facebook


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