Five Star voters hold sword of Damocles over Italian government

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ROME

Today is D-Day for the Italian government, as Five Star Movement activists will decide the fate of the prospective new coalition. They will be asked to give the green light in an online ballot through the party’s e-voting platform, Rousseau. 100,000 subscribers are eligible to vote and will be able to do so from 9am until 6pm. The questions is quite simple: ‘Do you agree that the Five Star Movement should form a government together with the Democratic party, chaired by Giuseppe Conte?’. An outcome is expected this evening.

“We have a great chance to change the country,” Conte said in a lively appeal to Five Star members in a last minute attempt to push voters in the right direction. But Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio has been less forthright in his appeal to members: “There is no right or wrong vote.”

If a majority of Rousseau voters turn against the proposed government programme, which they will be able to access once the ballot is open, then Conte will have to inform Italian President Sergio Mattarella that the attempt to build a coalition has failed. That is likely to trigger early elections and would be a boon to the leader of the far-right Lega party, Matteo Salvini, who saw his political standing enter a death spiral over the last few weeks.

It is not the first time that Five Star has turned to direct web-based democracy to make important decisions. Indeed, it is one of the founding principles of the party. Online votes have been used in the past to decide the Movement’s previous coalition with Lega, the election of Di Maio as leader and numerous policy decisions. However, it has also been plagued by privacy issues and was fined by Italy’s regulator in April. (Gerardo Fortuna, Sam Morgan EURACTIV.com)

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LONDON

General election looms. The government is set to call for a general election to be held on 14 October, should MPs take a stand against a no-deal Brexit in a crucial vote today.

On Monday, PM Boris Johnson appealed for the full support of his party, amid fears that some Conservatives who are opposed to leaving the EU without a deal would side with the opposition in Tuesday’s vote, which seeks to force the government to request an extension to the Brexit deadline until January 2020. 

“To show our friends in Brussels that we are united in our purpose, MPs should vote with the government against Corbyn’s pointless delay,” Johnson said on Monday.

“I want everybody to know – there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay. We are leaving on 31 October, no ifs or buts. We will not accept any attempt to go back on our promises or scrub that referendum.” (Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com)

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BERLIN

AfD’s new self-confidence. Jörg Meuthen, party chairman and member of the European Parliament, called his party a “radiant election winner” at a press conference in Berlin on Monday. He said the results show that the party has ceased to be a protest party and was able to convince voters with a “credible and authentic” programme. He labeled his party a “party of citizens”. This was promptly countered by CSU board member and former MEP Bernd Posselt: the AfD is neither conservative nor mainstream or bürgerlich. “The AfD leaders are either laboriously camouflaged right-wing radicals or everlasting has-been nationalists”. (Claire Stam, EURACTIV.de)

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PARIS 

Monsieur Le Maire goes to Washington. France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire heads to the US for talks with treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, according to AFP. The two countries reached a preliminary deal last week on the sidelines of the G7 summit. France plans to tax companies whose turnover exceeds €25 millions in France, and with a global turnover of at least €750 million. After talks between the two countries, France would be ready to give back the tax to the companies when a global tax is agreed at OECD level. But the exact terms of still have to be discussed. France has signed an agreement with OECD last week to cooperate on a task-force on the subject. Although taxing companies in the countries where they make their profit is one facet, the plan is also to have a minimum tax for companies at international level. (EURACTIV.fr) 

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MADRID

Sánchez offers a “third way”. Spain’s acting PM and socialist party leader Pedro Sánchez on Monday explained to his fellow party members in Madrid details of offer he plans to submit today to leftist party Unidas Podemos, in order to deblock the current political crisis and avoid new elections, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported

As the 22 September deadline looms to form a new government and avoid new elections, Sánchez seeks to attract Unidas Podemos and gain its support for the investiture, in a last minute effort. 

Sánchez has rejected opening the door for a coalition government with the leftist outfit and offers now what he calls a “third way”: the negotiation of a “common progressive programme”, with 300 specific measures.

However on Monday, Noelia Vera, Unidas Podemos’s spokesperson in the Spanish parliament, stressed the party wants to enter into a full coalition government. (EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

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ATHENS 

Energy-driven visit to Brussels. A three day visit to Brussels begins today for Greece’s deputy energy minister Gerasimos Thomas to discuss with Commission departments the problems of the Public Power Corporation and speeding up energy market deregulation – along with the future of coal-fired plants. PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis selected Thomas not only for his expertise in energy matters but for his contacts in Brussels, since until early July he was a high-level official at DG Energy. Discussions with the Commission delegation will be hard, since Athens wants to change the energy mix of the agreed roadmap after the bail-out programme to save PPC from a very difficult financial crisis. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

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NICOSIA

Another try for negotiations. United Nations special envoy Jane Holl Lute visits Cyprus this week in an attempt to revive the negotiation process between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Both sides seem optimistic and it looks like there is room ahead for paving a roadmap. But the Cypriot government is keen to highlight Turkey’s provocations as well: “we cannot ignore difficulties that may emerge if Turkey continues its illegal interventions and what is going on regarding the issue of Famagusta continues”, a government spokesperson said on Monday. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

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WARSAW

Pence in Warsaw. American VP Mike Pence has met with Polish president Andrzej Duda. He said that Poland is getting closer to the visa-free regime for citizens travelling to the US. Obtaining it, according to Pence, may be a matter of weeks. The topics discussed also included defence and energy cooperation and the rule of law in Poland. When asked about the latter issue, Pence said he was “grateful for his commitment to strengthening the foundations of the rule of law in Poland”.

Poland and the US also signed a document on 5G technology cooperation, which pushes for stricter checks on foreign investors in the development of the 5G network. (Łukasz Gadzała), EURACTIV.pl)

>>>Read more here: US and Poland 5G agreement an ‘example for Europe’, Pence says

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BRATISLAVA

Power struggle. Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini is not leaving the ruling Smer-SD party (PES) after all. Instead he will try to strengthen his influence within the party, he said on Monday, after weeks of ambiguous statements on the matter. Apparently, Pellegrini aims to strike a deal with party leader and ex-PM Robert Fico regarding who should and who should not appear on the candidates list of Smer-SD for the March 2020 general elections, daily Dennik N reports. Pellegrini would prefer that some of the most controversial figures not be included. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk

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PRAGUE

Investigation halted. The Czech Republic’s state prosecutor changed his opinion and halted an investigation of PM Andrej Babiš and his family for alleged EU subsidies fraud. A highly expected decision now has to be reviewed by the chief public prosecutor, but it has already triggered heated debates over the credibility of the Czech judiciary. (Aneta Zachová, EURACTIV.cz)

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SOFIA

Bulgaria goes ship shopping. Defence minister Krassimir Karakachanov announced on Monday that the government is expected by the end of the year to conclude a deal for acquiring two military patrol ships, at a rough cost of €500 million. He said that three companies have applied, and that two offers were below the budget, and one was above. He added that the three companies, from Bulgaria, Germany and Italy, had been given one month to improve their offers. The main difficulty of the deal is reportedly that one of the ships has to be built locally. The other difficulty is that the Ministry of Defence expects to repay the shipbuilder over nine years. (Georgi Gotev, EURACTIV.com)

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LJUBLJANA 

Sustainable development main topic in Bled. The Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) was opened by Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar (SMC-RE) who said: “To whom the bell rings? It rings for all of us”. He said that there are so many international agreements but the world needs will to realise them. “We have to implement sustainable development on individual, national and European level,” said Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec (LMŠ-RE). “Stability and security were never so linked with sustainability like today,” he added. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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ZAGREB

Former minister stripped of parliamentary immunity A parliamentary commission stripped MP Lovro Kuščević (HDZ-EPP), former public administration minister and Party Secretary, of parliamentary immunity at the request of the State Prosecutor’s Office (DORH), in order to press criminal charges on suspicion of abuse of office and powers. It is a blow to PM Andrej Plenković who doubled down on defending Kuščević when the scandal started three months ago. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr

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BELGRADE

Vučić: no recognition of Kosovo if Serbia gets nothing. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said that as soon as Kosovo installs a new government, Serbia would be under great pressure to recognise its independence. “There will be great (external) pressure, and they’re going to combine it with internal pressure. There will be pressure to recognise the independence of Kosovo without a compromise, without anything. A compromise is a solution, but recognition without Serbia getting anything, and you get everything — that you won’t be seeing,” Vučić told a session of his Serbian Progressive Party’s steering committee. (beta.rs, EURACTIV.rs

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SARAJEVO

First pride parade under threat. Organisers have made public all details about the very first Pride parade in Sarajevo planned for Sunday. Security measures are very strict because there are a lot of threats to organisers and those who plan to attend. Chairman of the Presidency of BiH Željko Komšić said that parade is an “a first-class political event”. (Željko Trkanjec, Euractiv.hr)

[Edited by Sam Morgan]

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