The recent overhaul of Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) and its likely stable positioning on the centre-left side of the political spectrum could open the door for them to join the socialist group in the European Parliament.
Five Star higher-ups have recently offered the party’s leadership to former Prime minister Giuseppe Conte, entrusting him with the attempt to revive the struggling image of the movement, now polling at around 15%.
Under this new guidance, the anti-establishment party is expected to strengthen the political partnership with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and leftist Liberi e Uguali (LeU), which were both co-ruling parties in the last Conte cabinet.
There is increasing speculation in Italy and in Brussels that ties with PD could be reinforced by letting M5S join the socialist group (S&D) in the European Parliament, where PD sit, and eventually the European socialist party (PES).
This would finally give M5S a home in the EU hemicycle, after the party’s initial attempt to form its own group failed.
Since no other European party has agreed to team up with them, M5S lawmakers have slipped back into the black-hole of non-attached members in Strasbourg, despite being the cornerstone of the three latest ruling coalitions in Italy.
“The possibility of M5S joining the S&D group is an important political point to be approached with due caution,” said Massimo Smeriglio, a socialist MEP close to PD leader Nicola Zingaretti.
Striking an even more serious tone, he warned that the socialist group should not be seen as a taxi that a party can jump in with an eye on mid-term appointments at the European Parliament.
“Still, if M5S has developed a deep conviction of joining [the S&D], we will have to take this willingness seriously in the formal forums,” he added.
Italian MEP Carlo Calenda, who already left PD and formed a new party but remained among socialists, warned on Twitter that he will ultimately leave the group if this new political marriage happens.
Contacted by EURACTIV.com, the Belgian socialist MEP Marc Tarabella confirmed that S&D members have good relationships with some M5S lawmakers, with whom they have shared some battles at the EU level from time to time.
According to the political research foundation Cattaneo Institute, Five Star Movement MEPs shared the same political line of European socialists on 71% of votes during the past legislative mandate, the second-highest score after the Greens with 74%.
“About Five Star Movement joining S&D, as you know, nothing is impossible in politics,” Tarabella said.
In December, four Italian lawmakers left the M5S delegation at the European Parliament to join the Green group and the defection has definitely closed the door to a formal alliance with the Greens and the Five Star Movement.
The head of Five Star delegation in Brussels, Tiziana Beghin, has hinted that talks are still ongoing with socialists (S&D) in many interviews since October.
Contacted by EURACTIV, Five Star MEP Mario Furore said that fostering the link with PD, built on the positive experience during Conte’s government, is needed to tackle the rise of a far-right front in Italy, represented by Lega and Brothers of Italy parties.
“We will decide together with the PD MEPs how and when to strengthen the dialogue in the European Parliament by identifying new political objectives,” he added.
For Furore, potential landing points of the renewed collaboration could be the protection of the environment and the wise use of the Recovery Fund.
“But our next political goal as a party will be the reform of the Stability and Growth pact,” he concluded, referring to the rules designed to ensure that EU countries pursue sound public finances and coordinate their fiscal policies.
The EU executive is expected to extend the suspension of the pact, which consists of binding rules that limit budget deficit and debts.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]