EPP boss Manfred Weber does not rule out an alliance with Giorgia Melonis party – that’s why Weber is now under increasing pressure. Criticism also comes from within their own ranks.

Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party is the successor party to Italy’s ex-dictator Mussolini – but despite this, the leader of Europe’s Christian Democrats, Manfred Weber, is not ruling out an alliance. Because of his close contacts with Italy’s Prime Minister Meloni, Weber is now coming under increasing pressure.

The criticism does not only come from the FDP, SPD and Greens – members from their own ranks are also called upon to revolt against the EPP leader. “The firewall to the right must always be in place – from Palermo to Wattenscheid, from Brussels to Rome,” said Dennis Radtke, MEP of the CDU, to the dpa.

CSU politician Manfred Weber is both President of the EPP Christian Democratic party family and head of the EPP Group in the EU Parliament. The 50-year-old had not previously been suspected of belonging to the far right but he recently positioned his EPP with a striking statement on Meloni’s party.

Weber told the Funke media group that, as party and faction leader, he naturally had the ambition that the EPP would remain the strongest force after the 2024 European elections. Even if Weber shares the concern about the history of Meloni’s post-fascist party, he names three principles that Meloni fulfills: “Meloni is constructive in Europe, stands by Ukraine, and there are no problems with the rule of law in Italy”. Weber Meloni does not reject an alliance. So could this now result in Meloni’s ruling party becoming an EPP member?

Even if Meloni has been less radical than assumed since her election in September, the party still has a flame in its coat of arms, reminiscent of the former dictator. However, Meloni’s reluctance is not enough to become an EPP member, Dennis Radtke and other EPP politicians told the dpa: “We must not reduce our understanding of politics to pure power tactics”.

For Luxembourg MP Christoph Hansen, an alliance with the Fratelli would cross a red line. According to him, Meloni’s party does not belong in the EPP. At the same time, he emphasizes that one has to work together with the Italian government, since it is elected and has so far spoken pro-European.

But even outside of the EPP, Weber’s statement about Meloni caused a lack of understanding. The Vice President of the EU Parliament Katarina Barley (SPD) speaks of an “absolute no-go”. “What has been missing from Meloni so far is the clear demarcation from fascism and nationalism.” Nicola Beer from the FDP, also Vice-President, accuses Weber of “apparently having given up his political compass” in order to fish on the far right. For Daniel Freund (Greens), Weber strengthens “a right-wing party with extreme positions” with his course. This strategy is extremely dangerous for the EU.

So far, Weber had taken a different course: He categorically ruled out an alliance with AfD or the Polish PiS party. With Meloni, on the other hand, he emphasizes their constructive behavior.

This is precisely why he is considered exotic by many in the CSU. As a CSU vice, Weber is part of the party leadership, but he is not particularly close to party leader Markus Söder, the relationship between the two is considered tense. This also became clear when Söder felt the need to make a fundamental clarification on Friday.

He had exchanged views with Weber on the subject for a “long time” and both agreed that Meloni’s party was “out of the question” about being a member of the EPP. So Söder said, “That’s not compatible, that can’t be, or even a formal coalition can’t be wanted under any circumstances”. He further explained: “The fact that states have to talk to each other or that one is in conversation is something else. But formal ties don’t make sense from my point of view and from our common point of view.”

Weber, in turn, did not fundamentally reject an alliance with the Fratelli d’Italia, even in a reaction to the Söder statements.