ROME (AP) — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said he is running for the European Parliament in May's election because he wants to fight for a more united European Union faithful to the vision of the bloc's founders.
Berlusconi, 82, spoke at a weekend convention of his center-right Forza Italia party, which in recent years has seen its popularity fall as voters turn to parties on the right with anti-migrant and euroskeptic messages, especially Italy's League party.
The League governs Italy in a coalition with the populist 5-Star Movement. Its leader. Matteo Salvini, who is also the country's hard-line interior minister, has been reaching out to nationalist parties beyond Italy in hopes that they can join forces and make gains in the European Parliament elections that run May 23-26 in all EU nations. Their aim is to halt the process of European integration and return more powers to national capitals.
Berlusconi said Saturday that he, in contrast, wants Europe "to return to the project of the founding fathers, who wanted a much more united Europe, a Europe with only one foreign policy, with only one defense policy."
He said by uniting its militaries, Europe could become a "world military power" that could sit "with the other military powers at the table where the destiny of the world" is decided.
The three-time Italian premier, who has made a career out of rebounding from legal woes, personal scandal, heart trouble and political setbacks, first announced in January that he planned to run in the European elections.
Berlusconi had been barred from running for public office for nearly five years due to a tax fraud conviction. Citing his good conduct, a court last year ruled that he could once again run.
He said that "even in my old age" he wants to work for change in Europe.