Interior minister Matteo Salvini said on Tuesday it was "no problem" if MEPs from his anti-migrant League party's coalition partner the Five-Star Movement backed sanctions against the authoritarian government of far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban in an upcoming European Parliament vote.
"No problem - everyone is free to choose," Salvini told Adnkronos when asked to comment on the grassroots Five-Star Movement's decision to support sanctions in Wednesday's rule of law vote on Hungary at the European Parliament.
"You can't put peoples and their freely elected governments on trial - especially if they want to rein in uncontrolled immigration," Salvini said.
Salvini said earlier on Tuesday that he and his supporters would defend Orban in the European Parliament vote on Wednesday.
MEPs will decide on Wednesday whether to trigger a little-tested EU rule of law procedure against Orban over the weakening of press freedom and an erosion of judicial independence in Hungary as well as alleged misspending of EU funds by Orban's friends and family during his premiership.
If the European Parliament votes to launch Article 7 sanction procedures against Orban's government, it could lead to a suspension of Hungary's voting rights in EU affairs.