Italy’s hardline Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has told CNN that European Union rules are creating “full-on unemployment” and he wants to go back to pre-Maastricht Treaty rules.
“Those who want to save Europe are those that are sold as the anti-Europeans. I feel more pro-European than the pro-Europeans,” Salvini said in Milan on Friday.
“I would return to the pre Maastricht with more normal fiscal economic rules where we spoke of well-being and full employment…. The rules imposed by Brussels are creating full-on unemployment,” Salvini said.
The Maastricht Treaty – officially known as The Treaty on European Union – was signed by the 12 member countries of the European Community in the Netherlands in 1992. It created the structure for a single currency, later named the euro, that was be born in 1999.
Unemployment rates across the EU are at an all-time low, according to its statistical analysis body Eurostat, though rates in Italy are higher than in most other major European countries.
Salvini held a major rally on Saturday of European nationalists, including France’s Marine Le Pen, and Holland’s Geert Wilders. Around 100,000 people were expected to join the event, in driving rain in Milan’s Duomo Square.
“The political elites in Brussels cannot be trusted. They want to impose their orders on us. They want to take away our identity and our security,” Wilders claimed at the rally.
Calling for “no more immigration,” he praised his friend Salvini as an “example for all of us” and said “Europe needs more Salvinis.”
The far-right Italian deputy prime minister was elected into government last summer on a wave of popular anger in Italy towards Brussels and the Italian political establishment. Now, he has Europe in his sights.
Asked by CNN’s Erin McLaughlin why he has slipped in the polls recently and if he thinks he’s gone “too far to the right,” Salvini replied, “I never believe in polls” and said he is proud his Northern League party that is “is a reference point for change not just in Italy but in Europe.”
Salvini claimed he has a network of alliances “that we never had before in the past” and listed parties in France, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Czech Republic, the UK and Poland among his allies.
“We have an idea of Europe founded on work, rights, life, safety, the exact opposite of the Europe founded on finance, unemployment, mass immigration, that we have suffered over these years,” Salvini said.
CNN’s Sarah Dean and Rob Picheta contributed to this report.