Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, is aiming for his country to became “the main partner” of the US in Europe as he heads to Washington DC this week to meet with officials from the Trump administration.
Mr Salvini, who regularly locks horns with European heavyweights Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, told NBC News that, "I hope [that we can be America's biggest ally in Europe], it would be a great thing since we share common values and we have a good economic relations."
The Italian Deputy PM, who made a concerted effort to foster ties with Trump during his 2016 presidential election bid, also said that he wanted Italy to become the, "most important partner in continental Europe for the biggest Western democracy."
— Italy in US (@ItalyinUS) 16 June 2019
"And not only for economic and commercial interests," Mr Salvini told reporters upon his arrival in Washington, saying that “my party appreciates the Trump administration, not only for their stance on immigration but also for the economic boost the creation of jobs, the protection of U.S. businesses, the economic growth, the tax cuts.”
“So being one of the favourite partners of the U.S. in the European Union will be very important. Also on a geopolitical level since Italy's approach on some situations is different from some that of the European Union or some big countries like France and Germany. We have seen this in the past. We are seeing it in Iran and other situations,” Mr Salvini told reporters.
While the Italian leader has said that he is not scheduled to meet with president Trump, he has already sat down with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is due to meet with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House, to reportedly discuss, among other things, the ongoing turmoil between the West and Iran in the Persian Gulf.
— Department of State (@StateDept) 17 June 2019
Upon being asked by a reporter after arriving in Washington what, specifically, his League Party has in common with the Trump administration, Mr Salvini responded that, “it would be too easy to say controlled immigration and the fight against Islamic terrorism. Therefore I would say the themes of fiscal reform, taxes, defence and the protection of the national economy. The economic results [in the US] are proving Trump right."
— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) 17 June 2019
Salvini’s jaunt to the US comes amidst his party’s simmering relations with the European Union, and particularly its two powerhouses, France and Germany, with who he has disagreements on a range of issues, from immigration to Italy’s public debt.
Last week, Salvini’s coalition government signed a decree that would see non-government charities fined up to 50,000 euros for helping to bring rescued migrants to Italian shores - a move that raised eyebrows in Brussels, but one that likely earned cheers of approval from immigration hardliners within the Trump administration, and perhaps even from the president himself.
Salvini, like the US president, has maintained a position of scepticism toward European enlargement and the European Union project more generally, with some questioning whether in the long-run he plans on launching a campaign for an Italian exit from Brussels along the lines of Britain’s Brexit movement.
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) 17 June 2019