Salvini, who is also the leader of Italy's right-wing League party, was joined by prominent nationalist leaders from across Europe including Marine Le Pen of France's National Rally party; Jörg Meuthen, head of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD); and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands' Freedom Party, among others. The rally for unity shows that Euroskeptic parties have joined forces ahead of the European vote and want to shake up the EU.
Sputnik: Mr. Salvini, Italian agriculture is particularly affected by the European sanctions against Russia and the Russian counter-sanctions. Do you plan to cancel them?
Matteo Salvini: Yes, I have repeatedly said that they need to be removed.
Sputnik: Yes, but as time goes by, farmers continue to suffer losses. In the elections to the European Parliament, if you get a large percentage of votes, at least 30%, you could personally make changes in Europe, with the help of other states whose representatives are here today. Some of these countries are suffering from sanctions not less than Italy and would see them lifted.
Matteo Salvini: Yes, but first we need to hold the elections, and we will continue to build on their results.
Sputnik: Had you already managed to discuss the situation with other leaders before the rally?
Matteo Salvini: For me, Friday nights and Saturday mornings are sacred, because I spend them with the children.
Sputnik: Should Europe close its borders?
Matteo Salvini: Of course, we need to register all visitors, and not only those coming in by sea, because the flow of people from the Balkans is very concerning.
Sputnik: Could you comment on your statement: "We should return to the European Community"…
Matteo Salvini: I prefer the word "community" because it implies that it consists of different actors who share a common goal. And then, it is a matter of semantic content. The community spirit has been lost, there's a feeling that only money makes sense, and [human] values come second. Consider me old-fashioned, but a union that does not have its own values, roots and common goals will not last long.