The League is considering its EU positioning. Matteo Salvini’s right-wing party, a key force in the Italian government, is reportedly considering moving closer to the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), according to multiple reports from Italian media.
- In Europe, the League belongs to the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, which also hosts its traditional far-right Eurosceptic allies, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front (RN) and Alternative for Germany (AfD).
- However, there are growing calls from moderate League members to seek a more centrist positioning – and do away with unseemly partners – to increase the party’s impact on European politics.
The quest for relevance. “We have begun to think about what the role of the League should be,” said Riccardo Molinari, head of the League in the Italian Parliament, to Corriere della Sera. “In Italy, we govern municipalities and regions, and we are in government with crucial ministries,” whereas in Europe, “our current location allows us to affect less. Also because of some fellow travellers who make the group less… potable.”
- Andrea Crippa, the League’s deputy head, spoke more directly to our sister website: the League must “get out of ID, which is now considered a ‘toxic’ group, and be an element of aggregation between the PPE and the ECR.”
For real this time? Speculations about this centrist shift have been repeatedly surfacing over the past years. The context, however, has changed. First off, the League has become more institutionalised – it contributed to Mario Draghi’s technocratic executive and is in Giorgia Meloni’s current centre-right coalition government.
- And secondly, polls for the 2024 European elections indicate that a wave of right-wing voters across the bloc could reinforce the EPP and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), PM Meloni’s European group…
- … which are edging closer to an alliance, as they might be able to form Europe’s next majority – a centre-right one.
Easier said than done. First off, the League is reportedly divided on the issue, with some members opposing a move away from ID. Party MEPs wrote in an official note that their priority is to change the EU, not the European political group.
- Allegedly, Mr Salvini is yet to take a position. He invited party members to debate over the issue and reconvened the party’s Federal Council on May 29.
Also, getting out of Europe’s political periphery is all but simple. It’s not clear if the EPP could and would actually welcome the League in its fold. It already hosts an Italian governing party – Silvio Berlusconi’s more moderate Forza Italia – and its more liberal members would reel at the idea of accepting a harder right-wing force such as the League.
- In 2021 the EPP de facto expelled Viktor Orban’s Fidesz, with whom Mr Salvini has found an affinity in the past.
- Another route would be for the League to join Ms Meloni’s ECR – which is also unlikely, as neither force really wants to blend their identities – or even create a new European political party – which, at least initially, would defeat the purpose of gaining more relevance.