The Brief, powered by PLATFORMA – Look at Italy, think of Europe

Beppe Grillo speaks during the closing of the electoral campaign of the Italian 5-Star Movement (M5S) in Rome, Italy, 2 March 2018. [EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI]

Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star movement and the far-right Northern League got enough votes to form a majority in yesterday’s election. Just imagine that repeated in next year’s European elections…

That would mean that more than half of MEPs would be from the far-right, separatist and anti-system forces. This isn’t just a nightmare scenario, this is probably the shape of things to come.

Since the last European Parliament elections, there have been over 31 parliamentary elections, 13 direct presidential elections and seven national referendums, including Brexit, across the EU.

As a result of those polls, the political landscape of the continent has been dramatically altered. Europe’s voters have sounded alarm bells that have been ignored.

Election results reveal extraordinary levels of voter discontent. Broadly speaking, the centre-left has massively lost support, while the far-right and different strains of nationalism went from strength to strength.

It is becoming more and more acceptable for centre-right governments to get in bed with the far- right. Just look at Bulgaria and Austria, the current and next holders of the EU rotating presidency. Nationalist ministers already chair EU ministerial meetings.

All of this has largely developed against the migrant crisis backdrop. In Italy, voters turned away from the mainstream parties as they felt abandoned by the rest of the EU, as its coastal areas bore the brunt of the influx of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Brexit is also happening because of migration-based fears, even if they were grossly amplified by a Eurosceptic tabloid press.

The election result in Italy is so bad that even a team-up between the centre-right of Berlusconi and the far-right Lega Nord and Brothers of Italy doesn’t seem like the worse option for Europe, given that the far-right and anti-establishment could also enter into coalition and get the nod to govern.

At least this weekend wasn’t all bad news. Habemus GroKo in Germany, where there promises to be a stable government. France is also looking pretty stable under Macron.

Top of the list for the French-German engine should be to craft some European remedies that can work across the EU27, ahead of the May 2019 European elections, including reassuring voters about immigration, security and social issues.

Otherwise these next European elections could very well be the last.

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The Roundup

It took the Germans long enough so don’t expect a final deal on a new government any time soon in Italy. Matteo Renzi is speaking at 5pm, potentially to resign as PD leader.

A mega pipeline between Russia and Northern Europe continues to court controversy. A Commission plan to change the rules for the Nord Stream 2 project has been criticised by the Council and industry leaders.

Want to help save the planet? Greenpeace thinks cutting back on meat would help, as it would bust emissions and help Europe stick to the Paris Agreement goals.

Super rich non-Europeans sometimes get a foothold in the EU by purchasing a ‘Golden Visa’ but the practice is open to corruption. Slovakia’s president has urged the government to wake up following the brutal shooting of journalist Jan Kuciak.

Martin Selmayr’s appointment continues to raise serious questions. It has emerged that the other candidate for his new job quit the race before the end. At least the Commission is now proactively publishing travel expenses.

Vaccinations emerged as one of the more bizarre aspects of the Italian election campaign. Australia is showing the merits of jabs after it emerged that the land down under is likely to be the first to eliminate cervical cancer.

Look out for…

More details from Italy, as the various parties start manoeuvring into position.

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