Europe fails in painting a united front against Trump’s travel ban

Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries may have been executed chaotically and with little warning, but some centre-right politicians in Europe have chosen not to criticise the US administration, challenging the view that the European Union is united against the ban.

The Italian foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, said the EU, having put up its own barriers and dealt poorly with the refugee crisis, was in no position to judge Trump’s immigration decrees.

Europe “is not in a good position to give opinions about the choices of others. Or is it that we want to forget that we too erect walls in Europe,” Alfano said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“No one should be surprised by Trump’s actions since he had spoken about such things in the election campaign and, on the basis of what he said, he won. He is not doing anything other than implementing his promises.”

Alfano, who was interior minister until last year, has been fighting a long battle to stem the flow of refugees to Italy via Libya.

Other officials in the centre-left Italian government expressed disagreement with Trump’s approach, with interior minister Marco Minniti, who is currently in charge of migration and domestic policy, saying it was wrong – and dangerous – to equate immigration and terrorism.

However Trump’s executive order won praise from the leader of Italy’s rightwing Northern League, with Matteo Salvini tweeting he would like to see a similar response to the migration crisis in Italy.

“An invasion is under way, it needs to be blocked,” said Salvini, who met with Trump on the US presidential campaign trail last year. Salvini has said he sees himself as part of a coalition between Trump, the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and and leader of France’s Front National, Marine Le Pen.

Maurizio Gasparri, a member of the Forza Italia party led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, also supported Trump’s action and said the new US president was just being true to his campaign promise. Only “feminists, lawyers, dwarfs and ballerinas are against it”, said Gasparri.

The debate over the ban came as Italy welcomed another 40 refugees from Syria, including families from Homs, as part of a humanitarian corridor between Rome and Beirut. More than 500 refugees have entered Italy through the programme so far.

Trump’s decisiveness on the issue was praised in Germany. Horst Seehofer, the chair of the Christian Social Union and prime minister of Bavaria, said: “He is consistently implementing his election promises point by point. In Germany, we would first set up a working group, then a test group and then a further implementation group.”

The deputy leader of Germany’s rightwing populist party Alternative für Deutschland also on Monday described America’s travel ban as a model policy. “Trump is doing it right, he is showing how it’s done,” Alexander Gauland said in a statement.

“An absolute but temporary entry ban for citizens of six Islam-dominated countries with a terrorism problem follows a reasonable logic,” he said.

However, polling in Germany published over the weekend showed Trump was wildly unpopular, while the German government has admitted it does not understand the practical implications of the ban on Germans with dual Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan Somali, Sudanese, Syrian or Yemeni nationalities.

In France, François Fillon, the right’s candidate in this year’s presidential election, did not directly address the travel ban but used a rally at La Villette to call for strict administrative controls on the Muslim faith and those who represent it “until its anchoring in the republic is completed”. He also urged “the dissolution of all movements linked to Salafism or the Muslim Brotherhood”.

More predictable support for Trump has come from Hungary’s rightwing nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who has already aped the US president’s slogan by calling for Europe to be made great again. Trump has invited Orbán to the White House.

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