*UPDATE: MEPs clarify they will leave the party too
Four Italian lawmakers are about to leave the Five Star Movement (M5S) delegation at the European Parliament and plan to join the Green parliamentary group at a later stage, sources close to the matter have confirmed to EURACTIV.
After the tension of recent weeks, MEPs Ignazio Corrao, Eleonora Evi, Piernicola Pedicini, and Rosa D’Amato have decided to leave the Italian anti-establishment party’s parliamentary delegation for good.
EURACTIV has been informed that the final decision was made on Wednesday (2 December) after a meeting of the ‘splinter’ lawmakers but the formal announcement is due to be communicated on Thursday or Friday.
Contacted by EURACTIV, the ‘leavers’ confirmed that they will leave the Five Star movement too and that they are no longer party members, although they will keep carrying out the programme they were elected for.
The parliamentary approval of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) drove a wedge within the group, as the four MEPs dissented and voted against the EU’s farming subsidies programme in contrast to the indication from the party.
Since then, things have deteriorated, with the head of the M5S delegation, Tiziana Beghin, hinting at possible expulsions of the dissenters who, for their part, did not rule out the possibility of leaving the group.
The root of the trouble is, however, the friction with the party’s leadership in Rome, formerly represented by Italy’s MP Vito Crimi but actually controlled by foreign affairs minister Luigi Di Maio.
Although leaving the party, the four MEPs will continue to back the ruling government in Italy and its efforts to get over the health crisis.
The four are initially planning to form an informal ‘ecologist’ fraction as non-attached members, with a view to joining the Greens at a later stage.
The Green group was one of the most affected by Parliament’s downsizing after Brexit, as they lost seven British MEPs and were then overtaken by far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) as the fourth-largest group in the hemicycle.
The Greens recently welcomed the former socialist MEP Sylwia Spurek in their ranks and adding four new MEPs would help them close the gap with the ID group.
In the past, Greens kept the door shut to a formal alliance with Five Star Movement, but were open to accepting individuals who would leave the party, as former MEP Marco Affronte did during the last mandate.
Some of the splinter lawmakers, like Eleonora Evi, are already close to Greens’ arguments and are quite often cosigning parliamentary questions with them, as well as attending their events.
However, the four splinter MEPs’ candidature for the Greens still needs the go-ahead from the Green European Party, where the Italian Greens do not look kindly on their memberships.
The Five Star delegation will shrink from 14 to 10 MEPs, reducing possibilities to form their own group in the near future. After M5S’s initial attempt to form its own group failed, no other party has agreed to team up with M5S so far.