Italy’s right-wing parties appear to have toned down their Euroscepticism in recent months as they prepare for power following their landslide victory in last weekend’s general election.
Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy, ECR) and The League Party (Lega, ID) are significantly changing their position on the EU, evolving from supporting an EU exit to more moderate criticism of the bloc.
While the incoming right-wing government will take a much more Eurosceptic stance than Mario Draghi’s administration, the positions of its constituent parties have become less ‘nationalistic’, particularly in foreign policy and on the possible opening of the EU treaties.
An early sign came from the leader of the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, who replied to a tweet of congratulations from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying that he “can count on our loyal support for the cause of the freedom of Ukrainian people”. Meloni’s party had previously been more sympathetic to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Dear @ZelenskyyUa, you know that you can count on our loyal support for the cause of freedom of Ukrainian people. Stay strong and keep your faith steadfast! ????
— Giorgia Meloni ?? ن (@GiorgiaMeloni) September 27, 2022
Brothers of Italy MEP Carlo Fidanza told EURACTIV in an interview on 19 May that the party had worked in Brussels to integrate Meloni into the international landscape, remodelling her as the leader of a “national conservative right-wing party with positions that are critical towards the EU but not anti-European”.
Brothers of Italy has been a member of the European Conservatives and Reformist group in the European Parliament since February 2019, while Meloni became the president of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, the affiliated pan-European political party, in September 2020.
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Fidanza also told EURACTIV that his party was in favour of a “Europe in which the nation states keep their important share of sovereignty, and choose to share it on the major strategic issues of security, defence, control of external borders and the single market, but leave detailed regulations to national realities”.
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Right-wing party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) is now leading the right-wing coalition in the polls with 22.2%, according to polling data from EURACTIV’s partner Europe Elects.
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However, it is unclear what their position will be on the proposed reform of the EU treaties and the possibility of reopening them via an EU Convention, a proposal launched by the European Parliament in June with the support of the European Commission.
The President of the far-right Identity and Democracy group, Marco Zanni, a member of Matteo Salvini’s Lega, told EURACTIV that his party would be in favour of the Convention only if the discussion will be “more open and not univocal”, for instance, by not only focusing on increasing EU competences but looking at powers that can be returned to national governments.
“I believe this government, for sure it is a League Party position, is available to give a constructive contribution to change EU rules if there are the right premises,” he added.
Other parties are worried
The Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party are worried about the effects on EU policy-making of the new right-wing coalition, particularly regarding their relations with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and that it could act as a potential block to more EU integration.
“There is a palpable fear that Meloni’s leadership will bring Italy more and more close to Hungary and Poland, as we already see in certain European Parliament votes,” Five Star Movement MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo told journalists on Tuesday (27 September).
His worries are also directed toward the possible renegotiation of the Italian recovery plan and the return of a more “intergovernmental Europe”.
According to the head of the Democratic Party delegation to the European Parliament, Brando Benifei, the reasoning of the Brothers of Italy and the League Party on Europe is “weak’’ and “not credible”.
“Meloni and Salvini, who will be leading the new government, opposed the Next Generation EU plan and the common vaccination strategy of the EU, which have proven to be successful,” the EU lawmaker told EURACTIV.
He believes that they will not support more EU integration and that, for instance, on the rule of laws, “they will defend Orban and Morawiecki”.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox/Alice Taylor]