VIENNA – Italy’s interior minister and Luxembourg’s foreign minister engaged in a heated exchange of words as their opposing views on migration became apparent at a European ministerial meeting in Vienna on Friday.
Matteo Salvini, a member of a far-right party and one of Italy’s most outspoken anti-immigration politicians, criticized Jean Asselborn for previously suggesting Europe needed more migrants due to a slowing birth-rate on the continent.
“I heard some colleagues say earlier that we need immigration because the European population is aging. Well I have a completely different perspective,” said the interior minister.
“These are two completely different worldviews: perhaps in Luxembourg, there is this need. However, in Italy, we feel the need to help our children have children of their own, not having new slaves to supplant the children we’re no longer having,” he added.
Asselborn, who was sitting one chair along from Salvini in the roundtable discussion, became visibly frustrated, removed his translation earpiece and addressed the Italian minister directly.
“In Luxembourg, we have tens of thousands of Italians looking for work because you, in Italy, don’t have enough money to pay for your children, damn it!” he said.
The spat was caught on a cellphone camera and share on social media.
Salvini had gained notoriety in the European Union for his staunch anti-immigration views and aversion to migrant-quotas stipulated by Brussels.
As interior minister, he has refused entry to several NGO boats carrying hundreds of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.