Pope Francis Proposes ‘Europe First’ Against Populist Nationalism
ROME — Pope Francis said that citizens of European nations should put the good of Europe before that of their own countries in a remarkably frank interview Friday.
“The thinking must be ‘Europe first, then each one of us,’” the pope said in a wide-ranging interview with the Italian daily La Stampa. “‘Each one of us’ is not secondary, it is important, but Europe counts more.”
“Never forget that ‘the whole is greater than the parts.’ Globalization, unity, should not be conceived as a sphere, but as a polyhedron: each people retains its identity in unity with others,” he said.
“In the European Union, we must talk to each other, confront each other and get to know each other. Yet sometimes we see only compromise monologues. No: we also need to listen,” he said.
The pontiff made no attempt to conceal his contempt for the policies of Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, whose motto has been “Italians first.” Francis even went so far as to compare Salvini’s speeches to those of Adolph Hitler.
“Sovereignism” — the movement spearheaded in Italy by Mr. Salvini — reveals “an attitude toward isolation,” the pope said. “I am concerned because we hear speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934. ‘Us first, We…We…’ These are frightening thoughts.”
“Sovereignism means being closed,” the pope continued. “A country should be sovereign but not closed. Sovereignty must be defended, but relations with other countries and with the European community must also be protected and promoted.”
“Sovereignism is an exaggeration that always ends badly: it leads to war,” he said.
When asked about populism, the pope said that it is basically the same thing as sovereignism.