Home » Italian parties look to EU elections as VDL wins EPP candidacy

Italian parties look to EU elections as VDL wins EPP candidacy

Forza Italia (EPP) has backed the current Commission President for another, unprecedented mandate amid signals of a deeper entente with PM Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (ECR), possibly leading up to an alliance. The League (ID) remains sceptical of the prospect and envisions a right-wing-only majority. And over to the opposition, thing look set to remain the same

VDL cruises to EPP candidacy. The European People’s Party has officially backed the incumbent European Union Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, for a second five-year mandate after the EU elections in June. Though widely expected and supported (she was the only candidate on the ballot), the backing was not unanimous, with almost a fifth of voters opposing her candidacy.

  • Ms von der Leyen cited Russia’s war against Ukraine, the Middle Eastern crises and the rise of China as the key challenges facing the bloc.
  • She vowed to bolster its economies by strengthening competitiveness and businesses, as well as focus on defence, curb irregular migration and support farmers as costs of living rise.
    • That cements the center-rightwards turn she had been signalling for the past months, after years advancing the EU’s ambitious Green Deal.
  • She also promised to contain the far-right and far-left “populist,” “nationalists” and “demagogues” challenging the bloc’s unity and stability.

Rome’s in it too – and should be duly represented. The biggest Italian force in the EPP, Antonio Tajani’s Forza Italia, fully backed Ms von der Leyen’s candidacy. On Wednesday, speaking to the press on the sidelines of the EPP Congress in Bucharest, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (who’s also the EPP’s Deputy President) added that the Commission’s Vice Presidency should be assigned to Italy.

  • He pointed to industry, agriculture, defence and the environment as possible fields in which to place an Italian commissioner.

Intra-Italy manoeuvering. When asked if Italy’s current European Affairs Minister, Raffaele Fitto, would be a good option, Minister Tajani remarked that – given his availability – he would certainly be a fine choice. This speaks to the ongoing entente between his party and Minister Fitto’s, i.e. Brothers of Italy (FdI), the majority’s biggest force. It’s led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who in turn also heads the European Conservatives and Reformist group.

  • Minister Tajani’s comments also seem to indicate a degree of rapprochement between the EPP and the ECR, which was evidenced multiple times in the past months.
  • From 2019 to 2022, Mr Fitto also served as ECR’s Co-President.
  • Chances are the latter group could end up backing Ms von der Leyen’s bid for the Commission Presidency after the EU elections in June.

The League’s not impressed, though. The third major party in the governing coalition, who has been advocating for a right-wing majority in the EU Parliament to build the next Commission, was irked by her comment on far-right populists. “The names may be different but the goal is the same: they want to trample on our values and they want to destroy our Europe,” she said, citing France’s National Front (RN) and Alternative for Germany (AfD) as examples of destructive forces.

  • Both belong to the same European Parliament group, Identity and Democracy (ID), headed by Matteo Salvini – leader of the League, deputy PM and Transport Minister.

A harsh reaction. The League shot back through an official note stating that the EU’s destruction is being caused by “the insane policies of this wretched and leftist Commission, which has done nothing to fight illegal immigration and Islamic extremism, which has worked to ruin Italian and European farmers by dint of taxes, idiotic rules, insect meal and synthetic food, to lay off thousands of auto workers to do China a favour and fill us with electric cars, to put all homeowners in trouble with new obligations and levies. Never again with socialists to ruin millions of citizens!”

  • That’s the League’s own opinion, replied FM Tajani, noting that its position on Ms von der Leyen was well known.

Redefining the political map? An FI MEP, Salvatore De Meo, told Euractiv that his party is open to accepting PM Meloni’s FdI into the EPP. The same goes for the League, as FI has been advocating for quite some time, he remarked. That, however, is unlikely to happen, as it wouldn’t be convenient for any of the parties.

  • FI would lose its prime spot as main representative of Italy in the EPP, as polls project that FdI will gain many more MEPs in June.
  • FdI also stands to lose its position as ECR leader, where it can arguably stand out more and become more incisive in European politics instead of diluting its prowess in the EPP.
  • Finally, the League’s quandary is well-known. Projected to come out of the EU elections with a third of its current MEPs, it also has to choose between watering down its relative weight or be a stronger force in a group that risks remaining on the EU’s political sidelines.
    • At the national level, however, the League benefits from not being at the helm with more political freedom – expressed in instances like Mr Salvini full-throated support for Donald Trump.

Elsewhere in Italian politics… The Democratic Party (PD), Italy’s main opposition force, looks set to retain its important share role in the Party of European Socialists. The group recently crowned its candidate for the Commission top job, Luxembourg’s Nicolas Schmit. PD supported him as well, with party leader Elly Schlein calling for the creation of a “credible alternative to the right” along the likes of the Five Star Movement (M5S) – which looks set to remain politically homeless in Europe.

  • The M5S recently allied with the PD at the local level, with the coalition winning Sardinia’s regional elections last week.
  • However, the convergence is harder at the EU (and even national) level, chiefly because of deep divisions over foreign policy.

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