The following conversation took place at World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos in January of 2019, more than seven months before Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called for a vote of confidence and new elections.
The participants are German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The Italian government is a coalition of equals between the Lega (under the leadership of Matteo Salvini) and the 5-Star Movement (under the leadership of Luigi di Maio), so neither party leader could serve as prime minister. However, as the video below makes clear, Mr. Conte is no friend of Mr. Salvini.
It seems that even back in January the M5S could see electoral trouble ahead, and Mr. Conte was appealing to Mrs. Merkel for advice and help. Notice the service he was offering to perform for the chancellor in an apparent quid pro quo.
It’s not clear why it took so long for this video to go viral on the Internet. Perhaps Mr. Salvini’s people held onto it until their boss judged the time to be ripe for new elections.
The conversation took place in English, but the audio quality is extremely low. I can only make out a word here and there, but someone must have used sophisticated audio-enhancement tools to make a transcript. There are versions out there on the web subtitled in both German and Italian; this one was translated from the latter.
|00:00||The 5-Star Movement is hurting because… —Di Maio?|
|00:05||…because in the polls that we have done, they are dropping.|
|00:08||We have done some polls. They are very worried, because|
|00:12||Salvini is at about 35-36%,|
|00:15||and they are down to 26%-27%.|
|00:19||Therefore, they say,|
|00:22||“What are… what are — I mean —|
|00:25||the themes that can help us in the electoral campaign?”|
|00:29||Because on immigration,|
|00:32||obviously, Salvini is completely [on top].|
|00:35||He [unintelligible] he shuts down everything.|
|00:39||There is no space. For me it is different, you know. [Unintelligible]|
|00:43||You remember Malta? When I said, “Women and children, I will take them by plane,”|
|00:51||because Juncker had told me,|
|00:54||“Salvini says that all the ports are closed.”|
|00:58||I said, “OK, that means we will take them by plane.”|
|01:01||you know [unintelligible].|
|01:09||Therefore, I understood the question. —But is it true that [unintelligible]|
|01:15||But we will take them, of course. Of course.|
|01:18||But Angela, don’t worry. I am very determined.|
|01:23||My strength is that when I say, “Now we stop!”|
|01:27||they don’t fight [unintelligible]|
|01:30||and my… I have this position… —What is the focus of 5-Stars?|
|01:36||In the electoral campaign now, there are|
|01:40||many in the party who say, “Our friend is Germany,|
|01:46||and therefore we have to make the campaign against France.”|
|01:53||It is an over-simplified approach.|
|01:59||I think it will be… we are at the beginning.|
|02:03||Therefore, Salvini is against France and Germany? And Di Maio is against France?|
|02:07||Salvini is against everybody.