Berlusconi lashes out against EU at Northern League protest
Italy’s billionaire former leader Silvio Berlusconi lashed out at the European Union on Sunday as he appealed to the populist right and called for “less Europe” at a Northern League demonstration.
The 79-year-old controversial politician — whose Forza Italia party ranks fourth in polls — addressed thousands of protesters during a demonstration in the northern city of Bologna.
Berlusconi proposed a program with “fewer taxes, less state involvement and less Europe” as well as “more help to those who need it, more guarantees and more security.”
The ex-prime minister and media tycoon tossed out a series of questions to the crowd, asking them if they wanted a Europe that imposed taxes, sanctions and austerity.
“Are you still willing to support a Europe that imposes taxes and austerity?,” he asked, with the demonstrators giving a resounding “no” in response.
The attack against Europe comes as a dramatic turnaround for Berlusconi who only three weeks ago participated in the European People’s Party congress in Madrid, where he met with German leader Angela Merkel in what he presented as return to the international scene.
The Northern League, led by Berlusconi’s rival the 42-year-old Matteo Salvini, is often compared to the French far-right National Front party. Both are known for their euroskeptic and anti-immigrant stance.
The migrant influx has provided a boost in support for populist right-wing parties across European countries, contributing to a conservative political wave.
The demonstration on Sunday was marked by clashes between security forces and far-left youths denouncing the Northern League protest in a city often linked with the Italian left.
Local elections in Italy are scheduled for spring-summer 2016, and the legislative polls for 2018.