Italy votes – Brussels fears. The likely winner of today’s election Sunday is Giorgia Meloni. She wants to show off more national selfishness in the EU. But it remains to be seen how much time she would have to cause trouble.
In Brussels, the excitement was already great before the Italian elections had even started. Since all the polls consistently predicted a victory for the ultra-right populist Giorgia Meloni, there was no lack of warnings and admonitions from the Socialists, Liberals and Greens in the European Parliament: If the EU founding member Italy falls under the rule of the people’s tribune with early political roots in post-fascism, the whole thing will happen European project under pressure.
Of course, this did not bother the leader of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber from the CSU: he willingly provided election campaign help for the aged Italian ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – the Berlusconi who, together with the far-right ex-Interior Minister Matteo Salvini the prospective first female Prime Minister of Italy wanted to hold the stirrups to power.
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Both party leaders, Berlusconi as the eternal patriarch of Forza Italia and Salvini as the strongman of the Lega, have repeatedly shown themselves to be unpredictable and fundamentally seek their own advantage. How long their macho egos could stand letting a woman play first fiddle depended heavily on how well Meloni could keep the Signori happy. The new legal bloc in Italy is anything but monolithic. There is very little chance that this bizarre alliance of all things will succeed in the unusual feat in Italy of staying in power for an entire legislative period.
It has always been difficult to judge the sometimes operatic, sometimes operetta-like political events in Rome from the outside. The election campaign had absurd features, the opponents threw around with expensive campaign promises. One thing, however, became quite clear: Meloni not only wants to blow a different wind in Rome, but also in Brussels. There, she said, if she takes office, it will quickly be noticed that “no more fun” is over, Italy is looking more for its own advantage. The boss of the Fratelli d’Italia, the brothers of Italy, has in the past acknowledged that Italian law takes precedence over European law.
Head Nurse Meloni is President of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which has a group of 63 MEPs in the European Parliament, including eight of her Italian brothers. With 27 representatives, the Polish governing party PiS sets the tone. The ECR people describe themselves as “Eurorealists” and deny being anti-European. They want to prevent the EU from developing into a “superstate” and advocate structural reform of the bloc based on the principles of “common sense”. The ECR also includes the Sweden Democrats, who are currently striving for joint government responsibility in Stockholm.
It remains to be seen how much damage Meloni could really cause in the EU. Maybe she wouldn’t have enough time for that. On the other hand, the international financial markets could see a government led by her as a signal that Italy would now become unpredictable after the phase of relative stability and reforms under her predecessor Mario Draghi. That would bring the heavily indebted third largest economy in Europe and with it the euro back into the focus of financial speculators.
Not least because of this, Meloni avoided overly shrill tones during the election campaign. She must also be aware of how urgently Italy is dependent on the support of the European Central Bank (ECB) as well as the billions in corona reconstruction aid from Brussels. A Prime Minister Meloni would probably not pose a direct threat to the European resistance against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thirst for imperial power, even if she is ideologically close to the eternal obstructionist Viktor Orban. She by no means shares the Hungarian head of government’s flexible relationship with the Kremlin, but stands here on the side of the PiS, which resolutely stands up to Putin.
Salvini is of a different caliber and has repeatedly stood out as an understander of Putin and a critic of sanctions; in Italy, rumors about money flows from Russia to the Lega made the rounds, which he always indignantly rejected. Immediately before the election, the almost 86-year-old Berlusconi went so far as to make the idiosyncratic interpretation that Putin had been “pushed” into his military adventure in Ukraine and intended to replace the freely and democratically elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his government with “decent people”. .
If the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, the Russia issue could become a breaking point for Meloni’s far-right coalition – just as it reliably prevents a powerful right-wing bloc from forming in the European Parliament. In addition to Melonis ECR, there is an Identity and Democracy (ID) faction of roughly the same size.
Significant in it are Salvini’s Lega, Marine Le Pen’s French Rassemblement National and the German AfD. Everyone is close to Meloni’s arch-conservative socio-political convictions – but they are on a cozy course with Putin. So far, this has prevented a broad right-wing populist united front in Europe. Solidarity is a difficult business for the extreme right, which relies on national egoism – even among themselves.