PPE cancels matches in Naples after Berlusconi’s criticism of Zelensky | European Union

The European People’s Party (PPE), which in the European Parliament comprises deputies from the centre, centre-right and right, has decided to cancel the days it had scheduled for July 6-9 in Naples after the founder of Força Italia, one of the three parties of the Italian governing coalition, accused the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, of having provoked the Russian invasion.

“Following Silvio Berlusconi’s remarks on Ukraine we have decided to cancel our study day in Naples,” EPP leader Manfred Weber wrote on Twitter. “Support for Ukraine is not optional”, he justified.

Weber assured that Força Italia (FI) and Antonio Tajani, president of the Italian party, continue to have the support of the PPE and that the “cooperation with the Italian Government” remains unchanged, despite the decision taken now, in a demonstration that the disagreement is with the former Italian Prime Minister and not with his party.

Berlusconi, currently a senator, reacted by saying he was being criticized for wanting to open a path of dialogue for peace in Ukraine. “With the world on the verge of a nuclear war between Russia and the NATO countries, I am criticized because I am asking that, together and with the support of Ukraine, which I have always shared and voted for Forza Italia, an immediate dialogue table to achieve peace”, wrote the current senator.

“This is a duty for a party like the PPE”, underlined Berlusconi. And without seeming bothered by Weber’s decision to cancel the Naples days, he insisted on the theme: “I think this is a matter that can no longer be postponed and I ask that it be placed immediately on the agenda of EPP meetings.”

Tajani, former President of the European Parliament and current Italian Foreign Minister, disagreed with the EPP’s decision to cancel the Naples meeting because “Berlusconi and FI always voted as the EPP in relation to Ukraine, as the EPP minutes testify”, said on social media.

The Italian Foreign Minister also assured that “Forza Italia has always been in favor of Ukraine’s independence, alongside Europe, NATO and the West. In all host cities, we will continue to vote with our government allies, respecting our program.”

Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni made no comment, but Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, Meloni’s brother-in-law and speaking on his behalf, told journalists that “from the point of view of concrete action”, Prime Minister minister is in line with what FI and Berlusconi signed in the government program. “If someone ended up changing their mind, they should put it on the table or in the parliamentary minutes. If that doesn’t happen, it means we’re heading in the right direction.”

In his statements last Sunday, the former Italian Prime Minister said that “we are witnessing the devastation of [da Ucrânia] and the massacre of soldiers and civilians”, something that could have been avoided. “It was enough” that Zelensky had “stopped attacking the two autonomous republics of the Donbasss and this would never have happened”.

The two republics, where pro-Russian separatist militias have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014 (the year Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula), have become a target for Russia in this war. Moscow forces do not yet control all of the territory, but they have formally annexed it.

“That’s why I consider this gentleman’s behavior to be very, very negative,” Berlusconi added in relation to the Ukrainian president.

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