A proposal by a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling coalition to expel EU nationals living off state handouts has drawn a stinging rebuke from Catholic bishops in Italy.
A group of Italian clergymen criticised Interior Minister Roberto Marconi’s comments for stoking the fires of nationalist sentiment.
Giancarlo Perego of the Italian Episcopal Conference, an assembly of Catholic bishops, said the free movement of people is “one of the fundamental principles of tomorrow’s Europe.”
“To restrict the movement of people would put to that Europe of tomorrow in jeopardy and create an immigration policy that would reignite nationalist feelings,” Perego told Italian television.
In an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Maroni said he would like to expel all EU citizens who do not meet the minimum requirements to live in another member state and who weigh heavily on the welfare system.
“For example, many gypsies are EU citizens but do not respect any of these requirements,” he said, adding that “expulsions should be allowed for all EU nationals, not only gypsies.”
Maroni said the European Commission denied a previous request but he insisted that would push for change at a meeting of EU interior ministers next month.