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Metsola, Meloni grow closer as Salvini touts right-only alliance

The EP President visited the Italian PM in Rome. Their entente suggests that their European parties, the EPP and the ECR, might form an alliance next June. Meanwhile, Salvini (ID) is pushing to make it centre-right only – but that might not be possible

Roberta Metsola meets Giorgia Meloni. On Wednesday, the European Parliament President was welcomed by the Italian Prime Minister in Rome after touring the country’s South. The duo discussed the main international and European current affairs dossiers, according to an official communiqué, touching upon Ukraine and the Middle East as well as migration, EU enlargement, the review of the EU Multiannual Financial Framework and security and defence.

  • Ms Metsola, a leading member of the European People’s Party, was also aiming to get closer to the Italian citizens ahead of the EU elections in 2024. “We cannot take our constituents for granted. This is the biggest challenge we will have,” she said.

The growing entente. There have been hints of a growing entente between Ms Metsola’s EPP and the European Conservatives and Reformists, the group led by the Italian PM, with a view on electing the next EU Commission. Some within the EPP are wary of the ECR’s more conservative tilt, but others recognise it as a natural, up-and-coming partner.

  • “I cannot speak for [PM Meloni], but I know [her] very well,” Ms Metsola said while live on Rai 1 regarding the possible alliance. “She is a very strong pro-EU woman. And that is why we count on her. And I will count not only on her friendship but on her leadership.”

Reasons to get closer. The EPP has been steadily losing power in European capitals, going from 17 affiliated State leaders in 2014 to just 7 in 2023. Meanwhile, Ms Meloni’s electoral success in September and consistent approval rating indicate that conservative parties in Italy – and elsewhere in Europe – might regain ground in the 2024 elections.

Salvini’s stomach aches. At the moment, this prospect seems incompatible with the approach suggested by Identity and Democracy, a far-right EP group led by Matteo Salvini’s League. At the group’s summit last Sunday, he called for a centre-right alliance – modelled after Italy’s government – and pushed to leave other parties out.

  • On Monday, while in Brussels, he accused Ms Metsola of “flirting with the left, including those who led to the problems in the EU today.”
  • “’I am convinced that only the pro-European centre can provide solutions for the future of the EU,” she replied, adding that she did not take criticism personally.

His allies lean onto the other side. Mr Salvini’s Italian government allies do not look ready to strike such an alliance at the EU level. While the former criticised Ms Metsola, Raffaele Fitto – the Italian Minister for European Affairs and one of PM Meloni’s closest allies – walked alongside her in Lecce, in Southern Italy, touting the ongoing dialogue as “an opportunity to explain what we are doing, but above all, what we must do for the future.”

  • Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani – head of the other leading governing partner Forza Italia and Vice Chairman of the EPP – has repeatedly ruled out working with some ID members, including Geert Wilders (Party for Freedom), Marine Le Pen (National Rally), and Tino Chrupalla (Alternative for Germany).

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