Verhofstadt challenges Italy's Salvini to debate ahead of EU elections

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini on May 18, 2019.
Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini on May 18, 2019. Copyright REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo
By Alice Tidey
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"Hereby I challenge you to a one-on-one debate, as people have the full right to know what devil's plan you have in mind," the Belgian MEP and EU Commission President spitzenkandidat said in a video on Twitter.

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Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, currently running for the EU's top job for the liberal ALDE group, challenged Italian interior Minister Matteo Salvini to a debate on Monday accusing him of "being paid by Putin to destroy Europe."

"Just like you, your extreme right-wing friends, (France's Marine) Le Pen, (Austria's Heinz-Christian) Strache, (the UK's Nigel) Farage and (Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor) Orban are constantly plotting and paid by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to destroy Europe," Verhofstadt said in a video posted on Twitter.

"Hereby I challenge you to a one-on-one debate, as people have the full right to know what devil's plan you have in mind.

"Tell me where you want to do it, in Brussels or in Italy. I will be there," he added.

Salvini and the representatives of nationalist parties from 11 EU countries, including Marine Le Pen who heads France's far-right Rassemblement National party, gathered for a rally in Milan on Saturday in a show of force ahead of the EU parliamentary elections held on May 23- 26.

Far-right and populist parties are expected to do well at the EU-wide ballot, potentially weakening the EU Parliament's main groups, including Verhofsdtad's centrist ALDE.

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