Italy is considering opening a permanent mission in Jerusalem in light of the European Union’s refusal to allow its member-states to relocate their embassies in Israel to the city.

According to Italian officials, the mission would focus on cultural issues in an effort to bolster bilateral ties.

Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Guglielmo Picchi, who also serves as one of the heads of the right-wing Northern League party, concluded his official visit to Israel on Wednesday with a visit to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, at the invitation of its president, Dore Gold, and researcher and former Italian parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein.

Picchi’s visit in Israel was aimed at laying the groundwork for a visit by Italian Interior Minister and Northern League head Matteo Salvini.

In an interview with Israel Hayom, Picchi said Europe’s understanding of Israel and its positions had undergone significant change as of late. He said the coming elections for the European Parliament, set for May 2019, could also impact the European Commission’s approach towards Israel should the new right-wing parties gain in strength.

“The European Union is a very complex body with various sensitivities on the part of its member-states. Italy’s job is to ensure there is no bias in the union against Israel, ensure open dialogue and candor with Israel and try and prevent the adoption of negative resolutions on Israel,” he said.

“My boss, Matteo Salvini, said this a few times publicly. … He wants to be Israel’s guard dog and prevent Europe’s stance on Israel from having negative consequences.

Q: Is it easier today to defend Israel’s position in the European Union than it has been in the past?

A: “The atmosphere has changed dramatically. There is a different approach to Israel. Israel is a free country in the Middle East. We must protect this freedom by all the means at our disposal. We cannot allow ‘liberal’ groups and entities to harm Israeli democracy. Today there is a much more positive approach to Israel.”

Q: Will the E.U. be willing to invest the aid funds it currently invests in UNRWA towards resolving the status of Palestinians in refugee camps and making them citizens of their countries of residence?

A: “Italy will push very hard to enable these things.”

Q: Does that include the issue of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?

A: “It is not the concern of other countries to decide what Israel’s capital will be. The Italian government is not yet in a position to adopt such a stance.”