European Parliament chief Roberta Metsola’s comment that a pro-EU coalition will be needed after the June 2024 elections irritated Italy’s far-right leader Matteo Salvini, who accused her of attempting to “cheat again” by partnering left parties against his ambitions for a “centre-right” coalition.
Salvini’s far-right League party is affiliated with the Identity and Democracy Group in the European Parliament (ID). Other far-right parties, such as France’s Marine Le Pen, Germany’s AfD and Austria’s FPÖ, belong to the same group.
Europe’s far-right parties have seen their popularity constantly increasing in polls ahead of the EU elections, but they will need other partners on the right side of the political spectrum to form a majority.
Salvini, also deputy prime minister, wants the Italian governance model to be applied at the EU level.
Italy’s coalition government is led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia (European Conservatives and Reformists – ECR), Salvini’s League (ID) and centre-right Forza Italia (European People’s Party).
Despite his far-right anti-migration and anti-EU rhetoric and the fact that his party is officially affiliated with the EU far-right group, he insists on the term “centre-right” coalition in his public speeches.
However, his colleagues from the EPP firmly reject such a partnership.
On Tuesday, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, who belongs to the EPP, arrived in Italy to participate in a series of events in the country’s south.
She was accompanied by European Affairs Minister Raffaele Fitto (FDI/ECR) and is expected to meet Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (Fratelli d’Italia/ECR).
“The European Parliament is a very pro-European institution. We have a majority with whom we work together, and when we go to the elections in June, we have to propose to the citizens a pro-European choice going forward for the next five years. I am optimistic”, Metsola said.
Salvini, who was in Brussels to attend the Transport Council, was quick to comment on Metsola’s words, branding them a proposal to repeat “cheating” with the Left, which, according to him, has led to the bloc’s current problems.
“The League with its allies wants a different Europe: less taxes and obligations and more security, protection of borders, of the health of the work of European citizens”, Salvini said.
“We think of a prosperous future based on work, security and freedom, led by the centre-right united also in Europe”, he added.
Metsola’s statements are in line with the EPP Secretary General Thanasis Bakolas, who recently told Euractiv that “the EPP, the Socialists, ALDE [liberals], and the Greens are political elements within the EU that have guaranteed our Union is moving forward in the right direction”.
Based on Euractiv’s partner Europe Elects forecast, a coalition of EPP, Socialists, Liberals, and Greens could bring a safe majority of 457 MEPs isolating far-right forces.
Meanwhile, the meeting of far-right parties organised on Sunday in Florence by Matteo Salvini’s Lega (ID) has created tensions in the Italian government, which, according to analysts in Rome, will likely escalate ahead of the EU elections.
In the wake of statements made by Forza Italia Secretary and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, Forza Italia party members reiterate that an alliance with ID in Brussels remains impossible due to certain parties such as Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National or Germany’s AfD.
“Forza Italia is an integral part of the European People’s Party: we are pro-European, and therefore, non-European parties cannot be in the majority with us”, Paolo Barelli, Forza Italia’s group leader in the Chamber, said.
An uncomfortable discussion for Meloni
In addition, the discussion over the post-EU election alliances puts Meloni in an uncomfortable position.
Since she took over Italy’s helm, conservative Meloni has toned down her anti-EU rhetoric, moving closer to the centre. In late January, EU Council chief Charles Michel thanked her for showing “responsibility”.
But her party member Nicola Procaccini, the co-president of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, said earlier this week that “it will be possible to dialogue with Le Pen and Salvini, but not with [Germany’s] pro-Russian AfD”.
“Alliances are made after elections, and majorities in Europe are variable. But the balance will shift to the right”, he said.
The Greens – expected to join the next pro-EU majority in the EU House – called on European forces to avoid the far-right trap in their public rhetoric.
“Democrats have to keep in mind if we run an election campaign trying to run after the narratives of the far-right […] we are always going to lose because also the centre-right groups, even if they are trying to mimic the far-right, at the end of the day, the people vote for the original,” co-president of the Greens Terry Reintke told Euractiv over the weekend.
Greens warn EPP, liberals mimicking far-right will ‘backfire’
Amidst major far-right gains across the EU, liberal and conservative parties must stop “running after far-right narratives” to win voters as it will backfire because “at the end, people vote for the original,” co-president of the Greens Terry Reintke told …
(Sarantis Michalopoulos | Euractiv.com – Federica Pascale | Euractiv.it)
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