How dangerous is Giorgia Meloni for the EU? She can continue to use Brussels as a scapegoat to secure her power in Rome. But she’s probably too clever for the big scandal. She probably doesn’t long for a role as a right-wing pioneer in Europe at first either.
After her successful campaign of simple messages, Giorgia Meloni will have to face a simple truth: It’s never wise to bite the hand that feeds you. Italy is one of the biggest beneficiaries of funding from the Brussels Corona Recovery Fund, which has come with reform requirements for the country. The Polish and Hungarian governments have already learned that the European Union Commission is quite prepared to withhold such funds if doubts arise as to their appropriate use in accordance with EU principles.
Shortly before the elections in Italy, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hinted that Brussels has the tools to do this. Meloni’s ally Matteo Salvini then angrily accused the Germans of interfering in the elections, demanding an apology or their resignation; There were protests in front of the EU representation in Rome, in which he took part.
It is unlikely that the cool strategist Meloni will be similarly hot-blooded in Brussels herself. However, your ally Salvini could pose a problem for the EU if the former interior minister regains control of Italy’s immigration policy and stirs up even more anti-EU sentiment in his country for leaving Italy alone to deal with the refugee problem.
“Europe is to blame for everything” is an explanation that both Salvini and Meloni are quick to come up with. The third in the Roman right-wing coalition, Silvio Berlusconi, but above all his crown prince, the former EU Commissioner Antonio Tajani, must now moderate their anti-Brussels course – at least that is the hope of the European People’s Party (EPP), Berlusconi’s Forza Italia belongs.
According to this expectation, the weakest in the right-wing Roman alliance of three should keep its leader in check after her election triumph, as well as the loud second weakest Salvini, whom the CDU MEP Michael Gahler, according to the Deutschlandfunk interview in the European Parliament, experienced as a “vulgar hater of Europe, nationalists and Putin admirers”. .
Unlike Salvini and Berlusconi, Meloni is not a suspicious Putin fan. That’s why the congratulations for her, especially from Warsaw, were particularly warm. The ruling party there, PiS, together with Melonis Fratelli d’Italia, the Italian brothers, is the strongest political force in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.
Meloni is ECR President and shares the opinion of the relevant PiS people that the EU needs to stay more out of the affairs of the sovereign states to which it belongs. They assume too much and act too aloof, far from the interests of the public. Incidentally, Meloni also agrees with the Polish PiS on their distrust of Germany.
The FCR’s vision of a Europe whose states cooperate but are much more loosely linked than in today’s European Union corresponds to the concept of a “Europe of fatherlands” that right-wing nationalists have been successfully peddling since they learned that the radical Demand for an exit from the EU does not catch fire everywhere like it did in Great Britain. In doing so, they hijacked a phrase used by former French President Charles de Gaulle.
The AfD also likes to talk about this “Europe of fatherlands”. Their congratulations for Meloni, the EU skeptics’ new beacon of hope, sounded rather dull from the European Parliament. The head of the AfD deputies there, Nicolaus Fest, only managed three sentences: “On behalf of the German delegation, I would like to congratulate you on the possible change of government in Rome. France, Sweden and now Italy are showing that conservatism is the future! We look forward to further good cooperation in Strasbourg and Brussels.”
The congratulations of the two AfD federal leaders Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel, who spoke of a “further victory of reason” after the recent good performance of the Sweden Democrats in the Reichstag election in Stockholm, got a little longer. But France, Sweden and Italy by no means form a conservative-nationalist axis. For one thing, the President of the French Republic is still Emmanuel Macron, not Marine Le Pen, even if she has made governing more difficult for him since the recent general election. The Frenchwoman is also by no means a bosom friend of Meloni’s, as she has too often rubbed shoulders with Putin in the past.
Like Salvini’s Lega, Le Pen’s Rassemblement National has not found its political home in the ECR Group. The MEPs of both parties sit in the EU Parliament together with the AfD people in the Identity and Democracy (ID) faction. The Sweden Democrats, on the other hand, who made a power factor in a “Sweden first” election campaign in Stockholm, have opted for the EKR.
However, the Sweden Democrats, the Rassemblement and the Fratelli have one thing in common: their political roots in dubious breeding ground and the tactic of covering them up. Le Pen’s party was formerly called the Front National and was founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. When his all-too-obvious right-wing extremist views became an obstacle to opening up new groups of voters, his daughter threw him out without further ado. The Sweden Democrats emerged, among other things, from racist and neo-Nazi groups, which their leadership today brushes aside just as Meloni brushes aside the origins of the Fratelli in post-fascism.
All attempts to form a broad front of all right-wing populists in Europe have so far failed. There is a tendency towards jealousy in these circles, the management staff is exceptionally self-confident, which, like nationalistic convictions, leaves little room for reliable cooperation. Instead of fighting as a supposed integration figure for all of Europe’s bossy right-wing populists, Meloni should initially concentrate on consolidating her power base in Rome.
In return, it will remain helpful for them to repeatedly use the EU as a scapegoat in domestic politics. But just like the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom she admires, Meloni must also be careful not to alienate her European partners too much. Ursula von der Leyen is right – the EU has instruments against overly brazen attempts at plundering. However, it must be prepared not only to show these instruments, but also to use them.