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Italian Elections: What Perspectives on the EU?

March 2, 2018

 

The Italian political environment may appear quite messy in the eyes of a foreign observer. And this is particularly true during the elections period – like John Oliver didn’t fail to show us.

This article will try to put some order in this chaotic debate. Specifically, the positions taken by the various parties vis-à-vis the European Union will be analysed.


First of all, it is necessary to introduce the main parties and coalitions running in this election. It is worth mentioning:

 

  • a centre-left coalition formed by the Partito Democratico (PD), +Europa and Insieme;

  • a left wing party Liberi e Uguali (LeU) running independently;

  • Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), which cannot really be framed in the political spectrum neither as left nor as right wing;

  • a centre-right coalition formed by Forza Italia (FI), Fratelli d’Italia (FdI) and Lega (previously Lega Nord).

 

We will now analyse the most salient issues presented in the electoral programmes of the aforementioned parties. It is nonetheless important to remind how the points discussed represent the potential position of the future Italian government rather than a list of policies that will be implemented in the next years. Deliberation with the other EU Members will be necessary for almost all the proposals put forward. 

 

The Reform of the Dublin Regulation

 

By looking at the various electoral programmes, it is possible to appreciate how there is only one point all the political forces agree upon: the revision of the Dublin Regulation – the charter regulating the Union’s asylum policy. Explicitly, it states that the application for obtaining the asylum status should be made in the Member State of first reception. It goes without saying that countries like Greece, Spain or Italy result penalised for strictly geographical reasons.

Moreover, migration policies have grown a major issue – perhaps disproportionately vis-à-vis
reality – in the Italian political debate. As a consequence, a sort of consensus around the overcoming of this provision has arisen.

Specifically, the left wing block and M5S propose the introduction of a system of redistribution of refugees based on compulsory proportional quotas for each Member State – a framework similar to the one currently implemented but with mandatory rather than voluntary participation.

Conversely, the centre-right coalition, and most prominently Lega, envisages the total abrogation of the Dublin charter, as a logic complement of total rejection policies they propose.

 

Beyond Fiscal Compact
 

Similarly to the case of the Dublin Directive, there is broad consensus on the necessity to overcome the constraints put on national budgets by the Fiscal Compact. The crystallisation of the deficit/GDP ratio at 3% is in fact judged to be too rigid by PD, M5S and the entire centre-right coalition. Support in the electoral base for this position stems, once again, from an often misleading media campaign, portraying the EU as an excessively rigid and bureaucratic machinery, imposing on its Members detrimental budget limitations.

 

The Reform of EU Institutions

 

Amongst the proposed reforms of the EU institutional setting, the introduction of the direct election by universal suffrage of the President of the Commission stands out. It is in fact supported by the entire centre-left coalition and FdI. This provision is aimed at fostering the democratic accountability of the EU institution holding the power of initiate the legislative process.

Moreover, +Europa goes even further: it proposes to transform the Council of the European Union into a real European Senate, directly elected by universal suffrage.

Differently, PD puts forward the merger of the presidencies of the Council and of the Commission into a unique figure. Furthermore, it supports the introduction of transnational electoral lists for the election of the European Parliament. Finally, it prospects the creation of a common European Ministry of Finance.

In contrast, Lega wants to revoke the Commission its power to initiate the legislative process in order to transfer it to the European Parliament. In addition, this latter body should be elected on a regional basis rather than the current national one.

 

Common Foreign and Security Policy

 

On top of the aforementioned modifications to the Dublin Regulation, there is a set of proposals set out by Italian parties in the field of security and foreign policies.

On the one hand, +Europa proposes the creation of a unique police body in charge of patrolling the Union’s external borders. This task is now devolved to national border polices. Furthermore, Bonino’s party supports the idea that the Union should be provided with a unique and proper army. This would replace national military bodies in action of external defence.

On the other hand, the centre-right coalition is willing to withdraw the Italian participation in the Operation Triton, i.e. the operation set out by Frontex in order to patrol the coasts of Libya and Tunisia. Actually, this would result in the failure of the project, which is currently coordinated by the Italian government.

 

Toward a Fiscal Union

 

The picture appears more polarised when it comes to fiscal union. In fact, only the left wing parties seem to be willing to foster further integration in this area.

On the spending side, PD and +Europa propose the creation of a unique unemployment insurance system for the Union.

On the revenue side, LeU puts forward the implementation of a Tobin Tax (i.e. on financial transactions) at the EU level. Differently, +Europa proposes the introduction of a common VAT tax (fixed at 20%) on all the goods imported from outside the EU. The amount provided by this measure should be used to finance the EU budget with own resources, decreasing the Union’s dependence on contributions by Member States. Furthermore, +Europa suggests the harmonisation of corporate taxes in the Common Market: such a provision would be important in order to ensure that companies benefit from economic rather than fiscal convenience.

Finally, both M5S and PD envisage the creation of a common European Public Debt. The aforementioned European Ministry of Finance should be in fact provided with the possibility of issuing Eurobonds.

 

Retreatism

 

Finally, it is important to highlight how Euroscepticism is still an issue in Italy. This results in consistent support for parties adopting positions hostile to the Union.

For instance, M5S – despite it could not be described as a purely Eurosceptic or protectionist party – wants to call a referendum – though only consultative due to a provision of the Italian Constitution – on whether Italy should still be part of the Eurozone or not. In addition, the Movimento states that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada should be annulled.

Differently, Lega – by far the most Eurosceptic party in Italy – puts forward the intention of bringing back under national sovereignty a list of EU competences, among which monetary policy (i.e. Italy should leave the Eurozone) and commercial policy. Furthermore, according to its programme, Italy should quit the Schengen Agreement, the four freedoms (movement of goods, capital, persons and workers) should be revoked and the Unions should no longer have legal personality (i.e. possibility of signing international treaties, conferred by the Treaty of Lisbon). Practically, any further initiative toward more integration would be opposed.

Finally, both Lega and M5S explicitly oppose the implementation of the Bolkenstein Directive on the creation of a common market for services.

 

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