The Brief: Italian politics could be penne in the neck for Brussels

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

France, Germany and the Netherlands. The elections we were told to fear. But what about Italy?

The Dutch are done. It’s just over two weeks until the moment of truth in France. We’ll have to wait until September to see what happens in Germany.

Italian elections are scheduled for early 2018 but an early vote this year cannot be ruled out, as Italian prime ministers often don’t last long.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s ruling Democratic Party was beaten to a top committee post in a Senate vote by its own coalition partner, the Popular Alliance, this week.

The current PM’s firm hand on the tiller of the eurozone’s third biggest economy now looks a bit shakier.

Matteo Renzi, who lost a referendum last year and then resigned, wants early elections and a crack at getting his old job back. But he first has to get a party leadership contest on 30 April out of the way.

Gentiloni’s defeat, like Renzi’s, concerned constitutional reforms. Five members of his coalition defected in the secret vote.

The former PM is expected to try and capitalise on the committee loss. Renzi said yesterday he doesn’t want to talk about a “government crisis” but still called it a “serious and unpleasant” episode.

Gentiloni also has the 5 Star Movement and, to a lesser extent, the Northern League to worry about.

Beppe Grillo’s party has pledged to only govern alone. But it is hard to imagine it passing up the opportunity to take power even if it means getting into bed with the far-right party.

Northern League leader Matteo Salvini has said his party is “ready to listen” if the chance arrives.

An unlikely Marine Le Pen victory in France is supposed to be “game over” for the EU. A 5 Star government, in whatever shape or form, might spell the same – at least for Italy’s membership of the euro.

Grillo has his own problems, admittedly. His party is inexperienced and there are doubts about its readiness to govern. Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, the highest-profile elected 5 Star figure, is facing a corruption scandal.

Gentiloni’s Italian job is to find a way to regain face and heal the divisions in his coalition.

If he fails and falls, the best case scenario for the EU would be Renzi 2.0. His flirtations with Brussels-bashing would be forgiven if it avoided another political earthquake in the bearded form of a Grillo victory.

THE ROUNDUP

EU leaders were quick to voice their approval of US missile strikes on Syria, which targeted an airbase from which a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched.

The EPP warned that Hungary could face the “nuclear option” of legal sanctions if its “illiberal drift” continues. Sarantis Michalopoulos has the exclusive.

Systematic checks of everyone crossing the EU external borders began today. The new measures are meant to tackle foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq.

A truck has driven into a crowd of people in Stockholm leaving at least two dead. Local police are treating the incident as terror-related.

The governor of the Bank of England wants the EU and UK to recognise each other’s banking rules in order to avoid post-Brexit chaos.

Guinness crosses the Irish border twice during its journey from brewery to bar, so a hard border would play havoc with its supply chain. Oh, the humanity!

A recent vote on setting up a European vehicle agency would have passed if the UK’s MEPs had not been present. A sign of things to come after Brexit?

Under-pressure Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem today insisted none of his finance minister colleagues called for his resignation. Romanian Commissioner Corina Cretu told the Greek government she and her colleagues are not “Soviet Commissioners”.

Austria’s ruling socialists are thinking of ending a self-imposed ban on coalitions with the far-right, so that the party can hold onto power.

A new law in Poland that means private landowners can cut down as many trees as they want without permission has led to an arboreal “massacre”, according to activists.

Bosnia is still divided along many lines but EU membership is a uniting force. Croatia has taken emergency steps to bail out one of its biggest companies.

Last month, it was small children interrupting an interview. This month, Riga’s mayor was upstaged by his thirsty cat.

LOOK OUT FOR

G7 foreign ministers will meet in Italy starting Monday. Syria will feature heavily.

Views are the author’s.

Subscribe to The Brief here.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe
Contribute