ROME – Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Friday he would like to see Russia as part of the European Union rather than Turkey, which has been trying to become a member of the bloc for years.
“To be honest, instead of offering [entry into the European Union] to Turkey, I prefer to see Russia as part of the European ranks,” Salvini said.
For the Italian nationalist leader, Russia would be much closer to Europe in terms of culture.
“I think Russia is much closer to our history, our culture, our economy, our traditions than Turkey,” he said.
In addition, Salvini added, answering questions, that he sees the economic sanctions applied to Russia as counterproductive in resolving Europe’s regional problems.
“My position has always been clear – the sanctions against Russia are futile but detrimental to the Italian economy and to the solution of problems that exist on the European continent,” said Salvini, who added that although several media outlets try to find evidence that he was paid by the Russian state to express these attitudes, his views on the issue are his own.
Salvini has long been a critic of Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union. Earlier this month, the Italian deputy prime minister even said that Turkey’s admission process should be canceled and definitely suspended. He has also been a prominent critic of the sanctions between Russia and Europe since 2014. For Salvini, they are a form of “insanity” involving billions of euros in Italian business.
Earlier this month, Salvini met with France’s right-wing chief Marine Le Pen to discuss the upcoming European elections. Salvini also indicated a right-wing mobilization as Europe has never seen before.
The two right-wing politicians gathered in Paris last Friday, when Salvini went to France to meet with other G-7 Interior ministers.
Le Pen and Salvini – who are long-time allies in the European Union (EU) – had a “cordial meeting,” according to local media.