European People’s Party leader Manfred Weber has backed away from hosting a meeting of all his MEPs in Italy this summer, after former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s controversial comments on Ukraine.
Berlusconi caused outrage last weekend for blaming Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine on Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Berlusconi heads Forza Italia, a member of the centre-right EPP family, and a junior partner in Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing coalition government.
Reaction of EPP MEPs
EPP MEPs from nine countries reacted furiously at a closed-door meeting in Strasbourg on Tuesday, with some threatening to boycott the meeting in Naples if Berlusconi attended, prompting the EPP to publicly distance themselves from Berlusconi’s remarks. The controversy has created a political headache for EPP leader Weber, who has tried to align himself with Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party ahead of next year’s European elections.
On Friday, Weber called a meeting of the groups’ main lawmakers, then tweeted: “Following Silvio Berlusconi’s comments on Ukraine, we have decided to cancel our study days in Naples. Support for Ukraine is not optional.
Berlusconi was also reprimanded after his remarks by former president of the European Parliament and now Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani, who said their Forza Italia party “has always been on the side of Ukrainian independence” .
A spokesman for Weber said the plan for the Naples meeting was for the 176 EPP lawmakers and staff to discuss the conservative group’s strategy ahead of the 2024 European elections and discuss policies that still need to be prioritized by here there. Another destination for the meeting, scheduled for June 7-9, has not yet been chosen.
This article is originally published on nouvelles-du-monde.com