by Federica Pascale
Two different faces of Europe are clashing ahead of the crucial Italian elections on 25 September, with far-right candidate Giorgia Meloni telling Brussels that if she wins, the “fun is over”. Her rival centre-left Enrico Letta replied that such a scenario would mean “Italy is over”.
Speaking at Milan’s Piazza Duomo, the leader of the Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni, stated, “if I win, for Europe, the fun is over,” and defended the principle of subsidiarity.
The leader of the Democratic Party (S&D), Enrico Letta’s response was immediate: “It’s a disturbing phrase […] Should the centre-right govern, I fear it would be over for Italy.”
Meloni (Brothers of Italy, ECR) is leading a right-wing coalition with Matteo Salvini’s Lega (ID group in EU Parliament) and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (European People’s Party).
Her coalition is leading all polls against Enrico Letta’s left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party.
The two main candidates clashed on Monday at a debate organised by Corriere della Sera, in which both made their political lines clear regarding Europe.
Meloni said the EU should be a political giant and not a bureaucratic one, dealing with the “big matters” and leaving to member states “the issues closest to the lives of citizens”.
She cited as an example the gas crisis, saying solidarity in Europe is relative.
“Germany doesn’t want to put a cap on the price of gas because it has contracts with Russia’s Gazprom, and it doesn’t suit it”, Meloni noted, adding that no one is complaining about it because German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is a socialist.
“Don’t let Brussels do what Rome can best take care of, and don’t let Rome alone take care of what it cannot solve on its own”, Meloni said.
For his part, Letta lashed out against conservative Poland and Hungary, the latter defined as bearers of Putin’s interests in Europe.
The two countries, according to Letta, are the real culprits in the lack of a common strategy to deal with the energy emergency.
“The reason why Europe is not working is exactly that conservative political parties do not want Europe to decide by majority. They want there to be veto power, to decide by unanimity,”
According to Letta, decisions on precisely those “big issues” raised by Meloni are prevented, and the right of veto is a weapon of blackmail.
“We need to take away the right of veto that all conservatives […] such as Viktor Orban, who is using it whenever he can against Italy’s interests. Hungary and Poland did everything they could not pass the Next Generation EU, which then led to the National Recovery Fund. For us, this kind of Europe cannot work,” Letta noted.
Clash over Russia
Another thorny issue related to Europe is the relations with Russia, considering Forza Italia Silvio Berlusconi’s friendship with Putin is historic, and his political understanding with Lega’s Matteo Salvini is well known.
Meloni is a firm Atlanticist, but her allies look at the Russian bear with too much favour, according to Letta.
“Italy’s sovereignty would be very much at risk with the centre-right in government. Berlusconi and Salvini seem to be defending Russia’s sovereignty more than Europe’s,” Letta said.
“In Europe, we want an Italy that counts, not one that protests and vetoes together with Poland and Hungary,” Letta added.
In an interview with EURACTIV Italy earlier this month, Iratxe Garcia, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D), warned that a possible conservatives’ victory “would weaken the unity and solidarity we now so much need in the face of Putin’s aggression, due to their nationalist agenda”.
*first published in: Euractiv.com