Dhe complaints in Italy about a German “putsch attempt” in view of unfavorable voting behavior may be exaggerated. Nevertheless, the Italian parliamentary elections of September 25 are likely to go down in history as the ones in which the nation, with the notoriously raised index finger, confirmed all the prejudices held against it more forcefully than ever.
For the time being, the last chapter in this ominous history of relationships is the letter from three MEPs dated October 4 to Manfred Weber (CSU), the Strasbourg parliamentary group leader and party leader of the European People’s Party (EPP). The letter was signed by Parliament Vice President Katarina Barley (SPD), Daniel Freund (Greens) and Moritz Körner (FDP). The three representatives of Berlin’s governing coalition in the EU Parliament are calling on Weber to use his influence over Italian EPP member Forza Italia to prevent Giorgia Meloni, leader and leading candidate of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, from being elected prime minister. Because Meloni, it is said, represents “right-wing populist positions that are not compatible with basic European values, that openly call for discrimination against people and that deny the most atrocious crimes in European history”.
“The firewall must not fall”
Aside from the nonsense of the phrasing that “positions” “call for” one thing and “deny” another, the suggestion that Meloni is a Holocaust denier is unfounded. In any case, the letter to Weber continues, it is “not too late to prevent a right-wing extremist head of government Giorgia Meloni in Italy”. If the Christian Democratic Forza Italia, which was founded by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in 1994 and is still led today, “nevertheless agrees to forming a government and co-elects Giorgia Meloni as Prime Minister”, then the party “must have no future in the pro-European party family of the EPP”. Because: “The democratic firewall to the right must not fall. We must not allow Italy to become a precedent for Europe and even more right-wing extremist parties to pact with conservative forces in their quest for power.”
The open interference in the internal affairs and in the democratic decision-making process of a friendly state has provoked indignation across party lines and ideologies in Italy. On September 25, the democratic sovereign gave the electoral alliance of Italy’s Melonis brothers, the right-wing national Lega under Matteo Salvini and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, a clear majority and thus the mandate to take over government. It is now up to President Sergio Mattarella to appoint a person to form a government after the constituent session of Parliament on October 13, whose cabinet list can count on a majority in both chambers of Parliament. But before that can happen, three MEPs from the Berlin coalition want to see the party alliance untied, which more than twelve million Italian voters had expressly confirmed.
The claim by the Strasbourg MPs that the formation of a right-wing coalition including the Italian brothers would set a “precedent for Europe” and would bring down the “democratic firewall to the right” is incorrect. Berlusconi and his Forza Italia formed a coalition with the post-fascist “Alleanza Nazionale” under Gianfranco Fini in 1994, 2001 and 2008, from which the Italian Brothers emerged in 2012. Italy’s voters have never bothered with a ‘firewall to the right’. Italian democracy was not harmed by this voting behavior: right-wing governments were installed by voters and sent home again at the first opportunity.
Even the “double boom” was not well received in Rome
Before the firewall instruction from Berlin – via Strasbourg – the German “double boom” had not been well received in Italy. With rare unanimity, the outgoing non-party Prime Minister Mario Draghi, his designated right-wing conservative successor Giorgia Meloni and the social democratic EU Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni criticized Berlin’s 200 billion euro aid package for German consumers and companies to cushion the exploding energy costs. Draghi warned of a “dangerous and inadmissible distortion of the internal market” through Berlin’s de facto subsidies for German companies to the detriment of Italian competitors and called for “a European response” to the energy crisis. Almost identically, Meloni said: An “immediate answer at European level” must be found for the energy crisis, because not even the financially most stable countries could “find a solution on their own”.
EU Commissioner Gentiloni warned of a “subsidy race” between EU member states that would call into question the “principles of solidarity and unity”. Guido Crosetto, longtime political companion and one of Giorgia Meloni’s closest confidants, described Berlin’s actions as an “incomprehensible act of selfishness”. He said: “Never before, at least not in the past five years, has a government notorious for being sovereign acted as rudely and disturbingly as Berlin does now.”