The European People’s Party is looking at Italy. Its German leader Manfred Weber will land in Rome on Tuesday to highlight the party’s support of its local affiliates – Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and members of a centrist multiparty list, Noi Moderati. In other words, the centre of the Italian centre-right, as the country gears up to vote on September 25.
What’s up, Silvio? On Wednesday, Mr Weber will meet with Mr Berlusconi and Antonio Tajani, leader and national coordinator of Forza Italia. His presence is “further proof of how Forza Italia, in the European chessboard, is strongly anchored to Atlanticist and pro-European positions,” reads a note from the Italian party’s press office.
- Forza Italia sports “European People’s Party” in its electoral symbol to underscore its EU credentials. “Europe needs a stable centre-right government in Rome. Forza Italia will remain a pro-European force, and the EPP will be at its side,” tweeted Mr Weber after the fall of Mario Draghi’s government.
Energy talks. The German politician will also see Lorenzo Cesa, head of the Union of the Centre. The two will talk about the high energy cost, following Berlin’s openness to reforming the EU’s electricity market. “I will forcefully raise the issue of capping the European gas prices to protect citizens, families and businesses,” announced Mr Cesa on Rai Tre.
Looking right… Mr Weber won’t focus solely on the September 25 election. His staffers do not rule out that his Roman visit could also be an opportunity to test the ground in view of the next European Parliament elections, scheduled for 2024.
- The EPP aims to confirm its primacy in Brussels and Strasbourg, even though it’s out of the governments in all major States (for the time being). Which is why it cannot afford to shut down talks with political forces further to the right.
- This is true in Italy, too; according to the latest polls, the EPP family is projected to garner roughly 10% of the votes, with Forza Italia at 8-9% and Noi Moderati around 2%.
… to Giorgia Meloni. The EPP president enjoys close ties with Raffaele Fitto, who’s co-chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, presided by Giorgia Meloni, the Italian right’s rising star.
- Relations with Matteo Salvini’s League are more lukewarm. A year ago, when asked about its entrance into the EPP, Mr Weber explained that Italy needed “people who know what they are talking about and who are pro-European at heart, who are aware of a global vision.”
Widening horizons. It’s still premature to hypothesise new relations between EPP and ECR. Forza Italia and the moderates would hardly welcome new entries that could set them aside. The other idea, as Repubblica reports, is to bring to Italy the same method that is working in the European Parliament, which led the EPP’s Roberta Metsola to become its president: uniting populars, conservatives and liberals.
- In Italy, this would translate into the inclusion of Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and Carlo Calenda’s Azione/Italia Viva and the exclusion of Mr Salvini’s League, which is not perceived as Atlanticist enough.
Meanwhile, to the Vatican. On Tuesday evening, Mr Weber will meet Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State. The future of Italy tops the agenda, along with the European Christian family, the international situation (especially in Ukraine) and the prospects for reform of the European Union.
- The head of the EPP will also meet with Italian trade unions and Carlo Bonomi, president of the industrial association Confindustria.