Italians Hushed Italy over the Future of EuropeFuture Europe 13 March 2018
Parliament uncertainty over the next government and its priorities are the main results of the Italian elections. The rather shallow debate that preceded the elections in Italy has put Europe and the Future of Europe, or if anything the future of the Italian relations with the European Union, at its centre. From this perspective, the result is clear: almost the 50% of Italians voted for Eurosceptic parties: Movimento 5 Stelle and Lega Nord.
Nevertheless, some elements make the situation quite readable. Firstly, due to the Rosatellum bis, the new electoral law, the parties were not encouraged to discuss nor illustrate in detail their programs. All of them, indeed, knew that none of them would have reached the 51% of votes needed to govern, and that they would have to form a coalition. Therefore, they knew that they could have never been considered completely responsible for the implementation of their platforms. Secondly, due to the rampant populist rhetoric, all the parties focused their campaign on the repetition of thunderous proposals rather than clearly explaining their vision on each matter. Finally, the Italian elections gave birth to a curious right–wing coalition, where two of the three major players, Lega Nord and Forza Italia, have very different points of view over the future and the very nature of the European Union: Lega Nord – the major party of the coalition – is strongly Eurosceptic and finds its place in the ENFG Group of the European Parliament, whereas Forza Italia is an EPP member.
Therefore, it isn’t clear how would the Lega and the M5S (the majority party emerged from the elections) relate to the EU, in case they happen to lead the next government. In fact, many commentators believe that, in order to respect the people’s vote and due to the two programs’ common denominators, the best coalition that could be formed is the M5S–Lega. But do the two programs have a real common denominator when it comes to the future of Europe? The answer is neh.
Both parties agree on the fact that the EU institutions have to be reformed as to give more relevance to the national citizens’ will. Both never mentioned the words “European citizenship”. The right–wing champion party, Lega, proposes to go backwards to the pre–Maastricht situation, so that the Member States will receive back their sovereignty and in order to adopt again a predominantly inter–governmental decision–making process in the EU. The M5S stands instead in favour of increasing the ability of the national Parliaments to affect final decisions at the EU level, empowering direct democracy in the EU, and demanding an increased role for the European Parliament itself, over the Council and the Commission. Moreover, they want the EU budget to be significantly decreased. Its EU budget reduction program almost focuses on eliminating the costs of the triple EU headquarters and the benefits of the European officials (especially the MEPs).
The Matteo Salvini’s Lega also demands, although it doesn’t explain exactly how, to take back sovereignty on the monetary policy, by abandoning the euro. The M5S is known for having a swinging position on the monetary policy, and in fact the common currency is not mentioned in the program.
Overall, they agree on considering the EU more a bureaucratic or obscure forces creature than an advantage for citizens, but they disagree on what the priorities are and the actions to be taken to make the future EU better than the actual one.
So what could we expect now for the Future of Europe process? A loud silence from Rome. For as long as this will be the Parliament configuration, we can expect Italy not to be considered a major voice nor a determinant one in the institutional reform process. In the history of the European integration, Italy was often the pro–integration and federalist voice, balancing France or Germany in the idea of the importance of having common institutions and of the importance of flexibility and reforms over austerity and fiscal rules. Now the result tells us that this federalist voice is becoming less and less shared in Italy, and that the next Italian government won’t be able to rely on enough stability to make its voice relevant in the Council – whatever the priorities would be. Especially over the Future of Europe.
Italians decided to indirectly wane their influence over the European Union exactly by expressing their discontent towards it. We could consider it quite curious, hilarious if we are cynical enough. Yet it’s clear that Italians wanted nothing but to be better heard in their malaise. Therefore, shouldn’t we consider the inability of citizens to understand the European dynamics dramatically challenging for the European democracy as a whole?