The European Union’s top economic official said Thursday that Europe is being taken over by “small Mussolinis,” in reference to Italy’s late leader of the National Fascist Party Benito Mussolini.
“Fortunately there is no sound of jackboots, there is no Hitler, (but maybe there are) small Mussolinis. That remains to be seen,” Pierre Moscovici, the European Union’s economic affairs commissioner, told reporters, according to Reuters. He compared the current political climate to the 1930s, when Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler and Mussolini were in power.
The Frenchman’s comments angered Italian government members who have been critical of the European Union’s policies.
“The attitude from some European commissioners is unacceptable, really intolerable. They dare to say that in Italy there are many little Mussolinis, and that should not be permitted. This shows how these people are totally divorced from reality,” said Luigi Di Maio, the head of the Five Star Movement, according to The Telegraph. “Our government has the strongest popular support of any in Europe yet this is how we are treated by European commissioners, who within six to eight months will probably no longer have jobs.”
Matteo Salvini, Italy’s minister of the interior, said that Moscovici should “wash his mouth out before insulting Italy.”
“EU commissioner Moscovici, instead of censuring his France that rejects immigrants … has bombed Libya and has broken European (budget) parameters, attacks Italy and talks about ‘many little Mussolini’ around Europe,” Salvini said.
Salvini took aim at the EU’s budget restrictions last month following the collapse of a bridge in northern Italy that killed 43 people. The Euroskeptic politician told reporters that “there can be no tradeoff between fiscal rules and the safety of Italians,” pointing out that the disaster shows how important it is to increase investment spending.
The economic affairs commissioner’s comments come as Italy prepares its budget for 2019. The government has made promises of pension reforms, a guaranteed minimum income and tax cuts, but experts said that the government may not be able to afford such initiatives.
“The Italian budget needs to be credible, credible at a nominal level but also credible in terms of the structural reforms that are required,” Moscovici said on Wednesday. “It’s in Italy’s interest to reduce its very high public debt.”
Salvini has also criticized the European Union’s migration policy. Previously, he stopped ships full of migrants from docking at his country’s ports until the EU could find a way to fairly distribute them. The politician said in a recent interview that he was an advocate for closing the “external” borders of Europe and added that nearly all of Europe’s leaders agreed with his view.