BRUSSELS (AFP) – The potential emergence of a far-right government in Italy has put the European Union (EU) on alert for disruptions, with fears that unity over the war in Ukraine could be jeopardised.
Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni and the League’s Matteo Salvini are slated to be the big winners in today’s general election on a firmly “Italians First” agenda, in which officials in Brussels largely play the role of the bogeyman.
The biggest worries concern the economy.
Italy’s massive debt is seen as a threat to European stability if Rome turns its back on the sound financing championed by outgoing prime minister, Mario Draghi.
A victory by Meloni and Salvini would follow fast on an election in Sweden where the virulently anti-migration and eurosceptic Sweden Democrats entered a ruling coalition.
But officials in Brussels said they would not jump to conclusions about Italy, cautiously hanging on to reassurances made by key right-wing players ahead of the vote.
“This is not the first time that we risk confronting governments formed with far-right or far-left parties,” said European Commissioner Didier Reynders, a veteran of EU politics. “Let voters choose their elected representatives. We will react to the actions of the new government and we have instruments at our disposal.”
That was echoed by Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, who warned that Brussels had “tools” to deal with errant member states. “My approach is that whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we’re working together,” she said.
Italy has huge amounts of EU money on the line.
It is awaiting nearly EUR200 billion in EU cash and loans as part of the country’s massive share of the bloc’s coronavirus recovery stimulus package.
To secure each instalment, the government must deliver on a long list of commitments to reform and cut back spending made by previous administrations.
“We will give them the benefit of the doubt,” said an EU official, who works closely with Italy on economic issues.