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Meloni is no longer a bogeyman in Brussels


Right-wing populist Meloni has been in power in Italy for 100 days. Contrary to the fears in the EU, it is cooperative and cautious – probably also out of economic interest.

By Holger Beckmann, ARD Studio Brussels

A good 100 days ago in Brussels it still seemed completely clear what was in store for Europe with Giorgia Meloni and the new Italian government. Nothing good in any case – everyone agreed on the whole. What can one expect from a party whose roots can be found in fascism and whose boss has never really distanced herself from it, they said.

And: Now there is another and much larger member state of the EU that would prefer to see the European institutions abolished. The Green MEP Alexandra Geese, who herself has lived in Italy for a long time, put it this way: “Your role model is Orban, who transformed Hungary from a democracy into an autocracy – and from this you can already see that we in Italy have nothing Good things are to come.”

That was a clear assessment. Behind it was the fear that new attempts would now come from Rome to weaken the European constitutional state and drive the community of 27 states apart. There was also concern that Italy, with its massive national debt of over 130 percent of economic output, could put the entire domestic market in a dangerous imbalance because the Meloni government would ignore all budgetary rules, which would ultimately have to be ironed out by the financially sound euro states.

Clear signals are therefore needed, said CSU MEP Markus Ferber, warning of Rome:

A clear European signal, a clear signal that Mario Draghi’s policy of stability should be continued. Without these signals, Italy will slide into a downward spiral.

Draghi was considered reliable

In Brussels, the reliability of the former Italian head of government and ex-ECB President Draghi was appreciated. With him, Italy was back among those who not only wanted Europe, but wanted to advance it, also as a globally influential power bloc. With Meloni it would all be over.

But it was Italy’s new head of government herself who rushed to counter that impression in Brussels from the start. After her inaugural visit to Brussels, she said she had raised some issues that needed to be addressed.

We are not aliens, we are human. We were able to explain our positions. And it seems to me there were people on the other side who were listening to us.

Government cooperative to reserved

And even after that, no anti-European cross-shots worth mentioning came from Rome. Meloni’s government is cautious to cooperative. On the one hand, this is because Italy is the largest recipient of billions from the EU’s Corona Fund and, on the other hand, because Rome wants European support for the unresolved migration issue. Italy is still the country that is the first destination for many thousands of refugees who want to go to Europe.

And it is of all people, the party and parliamentary group leader of the European People’s Party – i.e. the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament – Manfred Weber from the CSU, who has so far been considered cautious and cautious, who has been openly looking for cooperation with the Italian government here in the past few weeks and: that Conversation with Meloni:

Italy deserves that the others support Italy. That’s what I ask. And that is part of European politics. We shouldn’t stop European cooperation, we should strengthen it.

Weber and Meloni are said to have a warm relationship – at least not a word more about the dangerous post-fascists in the government there. On the contrary: Weber, it is said, is already building an alliance with Melonis Fratelli d’Italia in the European Parliament. After all, it is important for the EPP to somehow maintain its strong position there after the elections in the spring of next year.

In case of doubt, apparently also with a political partner, from whom one would have preferred to keep one’s hands until recently. But times are changing – and despite everything, Italy seems to be on a pro-European course, somehow – also with Meloni. And – as Jeromin Zettelmayer, economist at the Brussels Bruegel think tank says – in the end out of sheer self-interest: “In a situation in which the economic situation is already very precarious, it’s hard to imagine taking any more risks.”

Meloni needs Brussels

That’s exactly how Meloni does it. It needs Brussels and also the billions from there and does not take any risks. Whether Weber is also not taking any risks by striving for political cooperation between the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament and Meloni’s party is a completely different question in Brussels.

No longer a real bogeyman for Brussels – 100 days of Meloni in Rome

Holger Beckmann, ARD Brussels, 29.1.2023 1:55 p.m