Matteo Salvini has urged Western governments to “rethink” the sanctions imposed on Russian energy as Europe enters the fall with record-high wholesale energy prices and limited supply.
The former Italian interior minister and current League party leader offered his remarks at a conference of political leaders on Sunday at Lake Como. He suggested that the EU reconsider its response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
“Do we have to defend Ukraine? Yes,” Salvini said. “But I would not want the sanctions to harm those who impose them more than those who are hit by them.”
His comments echo a similar sentiment offered by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who, along with his Fidesz colleagues, have frequently vowed to protect Hungarian consumers and warned Europe that cutting off its nose to spite its face may be counter-intuitive.
Orbán: Europe has ‘shot itself in the lung’ and is now ‘gasping for air’ due to EU sanctions on Russia
The Hungarian leader offered his remarks during an interview with Hungarian state radio on Friday morning
“Several months have passed, and people are paying two, three, even four times more for their bills,” he later told listeners of RTL radio. “And after seven months, the war continues and Russian Federation coffers are filling with money.”
Salvini’s League party are part of a right-wing alliance expected to win a majority in the forthcoming Italian general election on Sept. 25, although Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI) are expected to be the largest party in the coalition, which would see her become Italy’s first female prime minister.
The League leader stopped short, however, of pledging to defy EU solidarity and withdrawing sanctions if his party gets into power later this month.
“If we get into government, will we change alliances? No. We remain deeply, proudly, and firmly rooted in a free and democratic West that opposes war and aggression,” Salvini said. “But if we adopt an instrument to hurt the aggressor and after seven months of war it has not been hurt, at least considering a change seems legitimate to me.”
He instead suggested that the European Union compensate Italians and “cover the extra bills that households are footing; otherwise, we risk losing a million jobs in September.”
Reuters reported on Sunday that Italy’s net energy import costs are set to more than double this year to €100 billion — in 2021, its net import costs for energy were €43 billion.
While the Italian government has introduced measures to mitigate the effect the hike in energy prices is having on Italian consumers through €52 billion worth of aid packages, Economy Minister Daniele Franco said on Sunday that such intervention cannot continue indefinitely.
“To keep offsetting, at least in part, rising energy prices through public finances is very costly, and we could never do enough.
“What matters is to bring the price of gas and energy back to sustainable levels,” he added.