Saturday

21st Apr 2018

EU parliament: Italian far-right rant broke rules

  • European Parliament press room in Strasbourg. Party supporters may come and listen but they are 'not allowed to speak, demonstrate or applaud speakers' (Photo: European Parliament)

The far-right politician and possible next prime minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini, should not have been applauded by supporters or asked journalists to leave a press conference, the European Parliament's communication department has said.

"Members and staff are also permitted to attend press conferences, which are a key part of parliamentary work, but they are not allowed to speak, demonstrate, or applaud speakers, and certainly not to threaten or intimidate journalists carrying out their legitimate work," Jaume Duch, the head of the parliament's directorate-general for communication, said in an email to Italian journalists following the incident.

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  • Salvini at the press conference (Photo: European Parliament)

He wrote one day after Italian journalists had complained to the parliament's president, Antonio Tajani, also from Italy, amid overtures by Salvini's League party (formerly the Northern League) to form a government with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement following recent elections.

The complaint, by six Italian EU correspondents, related to Salvini's press conference in the EU parliament press room in Strasbourg on Tuesday (13 March).

Salvini, an MEP, at one point, accused journalists of "pumping out the propaganda of the European Union" and his supporters in the room applauded his words.

Duch told the Italian journalists to express his "sincerest regrets" for what took place and said that the Europe of National and Freedom (ENF) group, to which Salvini's party belongs, had broken the EU assembly's code.

"The behaviour of those non-journalists present in the press room as well as the conduct of the press conference by the ENF group was in breach of our rules governing use of the press room and a flagrant disrespect for the work and integrity of the journalists present," Duch said.

He said his office had complained in writing to the ENF group.

"We were assured, in their reply, that steps would be taken to avoid such a situation being repeated and that members of the ENF group would be reminded of the rules in force in parliament's press room," Duch said.

"We will closely monitor ENF press conferences in the future for compliance with the rules and respect for the role of the press and examine any additional measures as may be necessary," he added.

Anti-EU coalition 'is possible'

Meanwhile, it is uncertain how often Salvini will return to the EU parliament's press room.

After the Italian elections earlier this month, in which his party won 17.7 percent of the votes, the MEP is eyeing a position in a new Italian government, possibly even prime minister.

He said on Wednesday that his party would team up with anybody, except with the outgoing ruling Democratic Party (PD), opening the door for a eurosceptic coalition with the Five Star Movement, which won 32.2 percent of the votes.

"Barring the PD, everything is possible," said Salvini.

"Before we talk about who, let's talk about what, let's pursue a programme centred on the people outside the corridors of power," he said, according to the Reuters news agency.

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Sunday's election outcome, under a new system, remains uncertain and is likely to result in uneasy coalitions between parties with conflicting views on how to deal with migrants and play a senior role in Europe.

EU: 'Keep Calm', as Italy struggles to form government

Both the leaders of the populist Five Star Movement and far-right League party claim the position of Italian prime minister, amid renewed eurosceptics remarks while Europe is waiting for a stable government.

Italy votes to become more eurosceptic

A hung parliament is expected, as preliminary results show a good outcome for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the anti-immigrant Northern League.

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