The coming to power of the extreme right in one of the founding countries of the European Union, Italy, is going to shake Brussels hard. For the time being, the community authorities seem to be betting on caution and waiting to see the “actions” of the future cabinet, presumably led by Giorgia Meloni, before making a statement, as some of its senior officials have been repeating these days. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t discreetly sharpening knives. Or instruments. Because Italy is not the first member state with an extremist government that Brussels has to deal with in the face of attacks on its fundamental values. And her reaction to countries like Hungary or Poland has made it clear that she is willing to take out her teeth and, if necessary, bite, as the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, recalled this week.
However, the watchword for the moment is to try not to stir even more waters that were already agitated, after the force achieved in Sweden this month by the ultras of the Democrats of Sweden (DS). The far-right formation was the second most voted party in the elections just two weeks ago and will therefore be key to the formation of a right-wing government in a Sweden that will assume the rotating presidency of the EU in January. The successes of the extreme right in Italy and Sweden also occur at a delicate moment for a Europe dealing with the war in Ukraine and its consequences in terms of energy and economic crisis (although Meloni is a recent convert to Atlanticism, to his allies Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi find it difficult to hide their affinities with the Kremlin, as the former prime minister demonstrated at the end of the campaign by justifying the Russian invasion).
Added to this is the radical position of the leader of the Brothers of Italy (and of the Swedish extreme right) against immigration or the rights of the LGTBI community. With Meloni’s victory, the issue of European funds and the reforms and projects linked to them and structural issues such as the reform of the euro zone are also left in suspense. The ultra advance in Italy and Sweden comes after the momentum achieved, just before the summer, by the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen who, although she failed in her new attempt to win the presidency, managed in the legislative elections in June to go from eight to 89 deputies and become one of the main weights of the Gallic hemicycle. The results in Italy, the third largest economy in the eurozone, thus confirm that the ultra wave is already in the heart of Europe.
Faced with this situation, in the first hours after learning of the great advantage of the coalition led by Meloni, silence was predominant among the main officials of the EU, those “Brussels bureaucrats” against whom the leader of the Brothers of Italy charged during a incendiary rally in favor of the then Vox candidate in Andalusia, Macarena Olona, in June. From the leaders of the main European institutions — Commission, Council, European Parliament — not a single statement, comment or tweet came out on Sunday night.
The discretion of the European institutions responds to the mantra that Brussels has been insistently repeating in recent days: “We are going to react to the actions, to specific acts, to the decisions that are made,” said the Justice Commissioner on the eve of the Italian elections, Didier Reynders, to journalists in Brussels. Which does not mean, he added, that the Commission is waiting idly. “It is not the first time that we run the risk of facing elections to form a government with the participation of extremist movements, whether they are extreme right or extreme left, it is not a new phenomenon in the EU,” he recalled. Brussels “has the capacity to react, but depending on the actions and acts carried out by the member states,” he insisted. “We are willing to work with any democratic government, willing to work with us,” said Von der Leyen, who also recalled, however, that Europe has “tools” to correct States with drifts incompatible with European principles.
A capacity for reaction that he showed just a week ago, when the Community Executive proposed the suspension of 7,500 million euros of EU cohesion funds for Hungary for promoting “systematic corruption” in the management of money from the community budget.
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Faced with institutional silence, some MEPs and parliamentary groups in Brussels did not hide their joy or dismay at the Italian election results. While the Vox deputies in Europe celebrated them by retweeting a congratulatory message to Meloni from the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, one of the first to greet his victory; French MEP from France Insoumise and co-chair of the Left Group in the European Parliament, Manon Aubry, lamented the “terrible” news: “Neo-fascism is installed at our doors,” she added. And she warned that this “confirms throughout Europe the impulse of reactionary, xenophobic and authoritarian poison.”
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