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EU populars reject alliance with nationalists in 2024

Italy’s Tajani (European People’s Party) discussed future European power balances alongside group leader Weber, rejecting the prospect of an alliance with Identity and Democracy – just as Salvini’s League faces doubts and dilemmas about belonging to it

EPP-ID alliance “not possible,” according to Antonio Tajani. On Thursday, the political leader of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (itself a major force within the European People’s Party in the European Parliament) flatly rejected the prospect of a structural alliance with Identity and Democracy in the next EU legislature.

  • Mr Tajani echoed Mr Berlusconi’s recipe of a possible alliance between ECR (European Conservatives and Reformists, headed by PM Giorgia Meloni), Renew Europe (the liberals, led by French President Emmanuel Macron) and the Populars (EPP).
  • “It is not possible to make an alliance with [Identity and Democracy],” he then stated, though remarking that his alliance in the Italian government with Matteo Salvini’s League (the main force in ID) will continue and works well at all levels.

It’s about Europeanism. Mr Tajani was speaking at a conference alongside Manfred Weber, head of the EPP, who fleshed out the reasons why his group and ID are essentially incompatible. “As EPP, we are fighting for a stronger Europe: whoever will be our ally in the future must be convinced that they want to participate in a common project to strengthen Europe. It is only European unity that can cope with issues such as migration, the challenge with China and the war in Ukraine.”

Winking to the liberals. Renew, whose members sense the likely surge in centre-right parties at the 2024 European elections, has already ruled out any alliance with “those dealing with the extremes.” Mr Tajani himself was elected President of the European Parliament in 2017 with a centre-right-plus-liberals formula that overcame the “Greens, Leftists and Communists,” as Euractiv recalls.

  • “We will do everything so that there can be a change” in the European Parliament, he said, nodding at the possibility of an ECR-EPP-Renew coalition.

ID’s reaction… The President of the ID group, Marco Zanni, and the head of the League’s MEPs, Marco Campomenosi, fired back at Messrs Tajani and Weber: “The Populars? Those who have misgoverned the EU for decades, arm in arm with socialists and the left? No, thank you. The League is working to change this EU that does not work.”

… and a reality check. ID’s reaction does not take into account the fact that there have been belly-aches within the League (especially its more moderate members) about sharing a European Parliament group with the likes of Marine Le Pen’s National Front and Alternative for Germany, which tend to push Eurosceptic positions and have indulged in pro-Russian sentiments.

  • Nevertheless, especially since it entered government in Rome, the League is now taking more institutional positions on both the Italian and European levels, including supporting Ukraine, in stark contrast with its ID associates.
    • That includes the recent Act in Support of Ammunition Production, aimed at boosting the bloc’s defence industries and ensuring it may continue supporting Ukraine. That was also the first time EU countries pooled resources to buy ammo – and, more generally, a step towards common European defence.
    • ID’s other members either abstained or voted against ASAP, whereas the League supported it.

Cloud the League leave ID? That’s certainly what some of its prominent members are pushing for in hopes of getting closer to the EPP and distancing themselves from ID’s “toxic” traits. However, Mr Salvini denied his party would leave ID to join the EPP – and recently told Il T that he intends to “continue working for an agreement between all centre-right parties in Brussels, with the aim of making certain battles even more incisive.”

  • Similarly, it’s unlikely League MEPs would join the ECR group as they seek to mark their differences with PM Meloni’s Brothers of Italy.

The numbers don’t lie. Still, the League currently polls at roughly 9% within the country. And EU-wide electoral results and polling do foreshadow more support for centre-right parties (including both the National Front and AfD), but the Italian declination of that trend is currently favouring PM Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, which won the 2022 political elections with 26% of votes and currently polls even higher.

  • Barring a political do-over and a change in fortunes, the League will probably capture a minor quota of seats in the European Parliament next year…
  • …meaning the party is torn between diluting its identity by joining another EU group, or even the groupless, and resigning itself to limited relevance in shaping the bloc’s policies.

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