What does the election in Italy mean for Europe?

Surprised? Predictable? Avoidable win for a right-wing party in the most recent Italian elections to their Parliament? Did we have time to think about the result of the elections? Have you registered the fact that it really is, in many ways, a historical moment for Italy and quite possibly for Europe. However, as there is so much going on at home, on our British soil, I don’t think that we are paying too much attention to a potential “tsunami of political changes and repercussions” across the sea.

I have a lot of sentiment for Italy. I remember that, as a young member of the Focolare Movement, Christian based organisation founded in Italy, I had a number of opportunities to visit Italy and travel in particular to Castel Gandolfo, a small town just outside of Rome. Magnificent buildings, incredible architecture and heritage; it all left a huge impression on me. I think that I appreciated Italy even more when I had an opportunity to live there, in Tuscany, between November 2004 and June 2005. I still travel to Italy quite a bit; I speak the language and I have a lot of Italian friends here in the UK as well as back in Italy.

So, what happened? It is very likely that Italy has just elected their first ever female Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni.

Giorgia Meloni is still young, however she is already a very experienced politician. She served as a minister under the former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, when she was in her early 30’s. She often describes herself as a person with hard right views and not right-wing views. Her social policies include an opposition to abortion, euthanasia, partnerships or marriages of same-sex couples. She is very keen to strengthen the national interests of Italy. She said that she will “govern for all Italians”. Her policies also include opposition to mass immigration and secure borders. More recently, she strongly opposed the Russian invasion on Ukraine and she is keen for Italy to remain a key ally of NATO.

Giorgia’s Meloni Party, Brothers of Italy, which she co-founded in 2012, achieved 26% of votes. It is very likely that she will form the most right-wing government in the history of Italy since the Second World War. It is an incredible result given that only four years ago, her party won only 4% of the vote. Her victory, some political analysts claim, was helped by the fact that the opponents on the left and centre were unable to put a unified candidate in a number of constituencies. Moreover, her allies on the right performed poorly. Her coalition partners will include Forza Italia as well as the League, whose leader, Matteo Salvini shares similar views on multiculturalism, Islamophobia and a greater political integration across Europe.

Some would argue that Meloni’s election victory is a nightmare scenario for Brussels and many European leaders. Italy is still the third largest economy in Europe. The political and economical situation across the globe and in Europe is hugely volatile. The cost of living crisis, inflation, war in Ukraine, all of this adds up to, in my opinion, enhance political populism. What does the victory of the Brothers of Italy mean for our continent? Could her election result have been predicted? In France, although Marine Le Pen didn’t win the elections and lost by almost 18% margin, she came a lot closer than in the previous elections. In Sweden, Poland or Hungary, there are many similar anti-EU voices, which are “galvanised” and enhanced by the current crisis. Have we already lost the battle to rebuild very divided and fragmented Europe?

Where are we heading? Have we lost the sense of direction? Have we not learnt anything from the Brexit vote in 2016? Does this most recent election result, in a still powerful and influential European country, tell us to stop and reflect on what is next for Europe? Although we are still the biggest trading block on the planet, I wonder whether we need to re-discover our identity, purpose in a constantly changing environment. We don’t have time to pretend that things will sort themselves out. They won’t and there is a huge need to act now. A Polish centrist politician said in the last couple of days that Europe is facing a similar crisis to the one, which our continent inherited as a result of the Second World War. He might be right. I am worried that an idea, which brought together so many different nations and which helped us to live in peace and prosperity for 80 years, is now rapidly diminishing. Can it be saved? Time only will tell.

* Michal Siewniak is a Lib Dem activist and councillor for Handside ward, Welwyn Hatfield.

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  • Over the last few decades, Italy has seen the rise of one after another new or insurgent parties – facilitated electorally btw by PR electoral systems.

    Fratelli d’Italia is the new flavour. My bet would be that FdI will go the way of previous upstarts and rapidly lose popularity once tainted by government decision-making. (Plus, if they do try to roll back abortion rights, they will lose a stack of support.)

    Meloni has moderated her positions over the years and is best described as a reactionary Catholic conservative. Fratelli have no pretensions to thorough going economic reform – they are not fascists. However, there are some members who are fascists. And both members and, occasionally, leadership have a taste for making extreme and populist remarks.

    Nonetheless, I wish British politicians were as forthright in their criticisms of Saudi Arabia as Meloni.

    Thanks for the article, Michal. I am an Italian speaker like you and have many connections with Italy.

  • My only comment, in my advanced years is, do we human beings ever take notice of history, recent history at that, and learn important lessons, obviously not.

  • Chris Platts 29th Sep '22 - 1:37pm

    I would agree with the view that we need re discover the reason the EU was set up in the first place. However at the moment most people across Europe are trying to cope with economic crisis and are seriously thinking about the future of the EU.

  • Italy is still the third largest economy in Europe.

    Italy is the fourth largest economy in Europe…

    ‘Gross domestic product at current market prices of selected European countries in 2021’:

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