Italian Voters Cast Doubts on the Survival of the European Union
ItalExit is inevitable.
Since the European Union’s (EU) founding treaty was signed in Rome more than 60 years ago, Italy has been a booster of increased unity and common purpose.
That looks now to have come to an end.
Sunday, Euroskeptics and populists rode a wave of hostility toward all things EU and surged to the front in Italian elections, turning the founding EU nation into an obstructionist just when the bloc was emerging from a decade of economic gloom and seemed poised to rekindle its grand single currency socialists ambitions.
Beyond moving away from the EU policies in Brussels, the Italian results were the latest indication that the Europe is moving to the right.
Sunday’s stunning outcome came at the end of a seesaw day for the EU that started out well enough when the German Socialists finally threw their weight behind a staunchly pro-Europe grand coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Now the Merkel-Emmanuel Macron socialist partnership was on and the German-French engine was primed to push a core group of EU nations toward more unity.
Then, Italy’s results started to come in and the message from Italian voters was clear: “Do not necessarily count on us.”
Instead of a smooth ride under fair weather economic conditions, the Eurobloc should brace for more of the chaos and havoc that anti-EU populists have spread in many member nations over the past few years.
“The European Union is having a bad evening,” France’s far-right Marine Le Pen tweeted elatedly as it became clear that more than half the Italian electorate had backed two stridently anti-EU parties.
Ms. Le Pen may have been a washout in last year’s French Presidential elections against Mr. Macron, and Germany’s established parties may have closed ranks against the right-wing nationalist AfD in Parliament, but populism, sometimes combined with the far right, is thriving and in power from Poland’s shipyards to the coffee houses of Vienna.
In Hungary, Viktor Orban has been in power with his style dubbed “illilberal” democracy in Hungary since Y 2010.
Sunday’s results from Rome came as a shock to the EU.
It was not a week ago that EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had confidently predicted that “whatever the outcome, I am confident that we will have a government that makes sure that Italy remains a central player in Europe and in shaping its future.”
Then 1 of the 1st things Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s victorious anti-migrant, euroskeptic League party, said Monday was that the single currency (EUR) currency was “wrong.”
The EU is still feeling the pain from the UK’s Y 2016 decision to leave the Eurobloc, so another ally turning a cold shoulder is the last thing the floundering socialist experiment needs.
“The outcome of the elections could not be farther away from what the European Commission, as well as most other EU governments, were hoping for,” said the Europe think tank VoteWatch, calling it an “unprecedented political shock.”
So instead of the likes of Mr. Juncker and EU President Donald Tusk singing the praises of Italy, it was left to their ideological opposites to laud the rise of the anti-establishment vote.
“This is a huge surge for euroskeptic and anti- establishment parties in Italy,” said Nigel Farage, who was a driving force behind Britain’s exit from the EU. His Italian allies in the European Parliament, the 5-Star Movement, were the biggest winners in Sunday’s polls.
The brainchild of comedian Beppe Grillo, the 5-Star Movement was long considered a deep thorn in the EU’s side , an antidote to the sometimes deadening debate at the European Parliament.
So was Mr. Farage, until Brexit wiped the smile off socialists legislators faces.
Pending the outcome of government coalition talks, the 5-Star Movement could set Italy’s EU policy for years to come.
And together with other populist and far-right movements, Sunday’s vote shows they could well move from the fringes of the European legislature to dominate debate after the EU-wide elections of May 2019.