The young European Union’s leaders Matteo Salvini and Emmanuel Macron became the political rivals, BBC reported. While the French leader is positioning himself as anti-populist, the Italian interior ministers is a populist and Eurosceptic. The battle over EU’s political future is continuing.
With an eye on European parliamentary elections in May, Mr Salvini started to identify Mr Macron as his arch enemy in the autumn and the Frenchman has picked up the gauntlet.
“We’ve accepted this political divide and are organising around it,” said a French official soon after Mr Salvini started challenging Mr Macron. “We are in a logic of combat.”
Salvini’s popularity with Italian voters has surged as he faced down Brussels with a rule-breaking budget before both sides agreed to a pre-Christmas truce. His rhetorical blasts against EU institutions and officials and virulent attacks against immigration have made him the darling of Eurosceptics across the bloc and the possible linchpin of a new nationalist coalition.
Mr Macron has presented himself as a bulwark against 1930s-era nationalism sweeping across the continent. But now he is highly unpopular at home and his reform agenda has run into strong resistance, the yellow vests crisis is still deepening, and it is the biggest ever challenge for the new French leader.
For those wishing to build a far-right alliance, Mr Salvini is the biggest catch. His League MEPs would probably be the most powerful contingent in any nationalist group. But he is keeping his options open until after polling day while Mr macron avoids singling out his Italian antagonist. He has also put more emphasis on the need for a more powerful and “sovereign” Europe, hence his call for a European army and criticism of the EU for being “too ultra-liberal”.
It is pretty logically, that Matteo Salvini reckons he is heading for a knockout in next year’s fight. “Macron is not a problem for me,” he told Politico this month and add laconically: “Macron is a problem for the French people.”