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What could the new government of Italy mean for the European Union?

Joaquín Roy, Jean Monnet Professor and director of the University of Miami European Union Center of Excellence, analyzes the recent election of Giorgia Meloni as Italian prime minister.
FILE - Brothers of Italy's Giorgia Meloni attends the center-right coalition closing rally in Rome, Sept. 22, 2022. Italy’s European Union partners are signaling discomfort and vigilance after one of the bloc’s founding members swung far to the political right, raising troubling questions about whether Rome will maintain its commitments to EU principles, laws and ambitions. The French prime minister on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 said that France, along with EU officials, would be watching closely to ensure that basic human rights rights along with access to abortion, are guaranteed in Italy after Giorgia Meloni’s neo-fascist Brother’s of Italy Party topped the vote count in Sunday’s parliamentary election. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, file)
Brothers of Italy's Giorgia Meloni attends the center-right coalition closing rally in Rome on Sept. 22, 2022. Photo: The Associated Press

Any negative event impacting an important member of the European Union, most notably as a result of elections, generates a doomsday prediction about the demise of the Brussels entity.

Political observers and individual citizens customarily resort to blaming the EU for any deficiency in their economic, social, or political standing.

Problems with salaries, deterioration of public services, dangerous transportation patterns, terrorism, threatening immigration, or an affordable housing crisis are easy subjects to discover the traditional culprit of the “government” into the EU.          

The effect of the recent Italian election that has brought Giorgia Meloni to power has developed a new version of the old excuses. This time the sudden change in government may generate a similar explanation: the EU is the culprit.

The scenario today has produced a set of predictions similar to what was claimed to be the consequences of the concrete difficulties of the United Kingdom. As an answer to the prevailing claims of some of its political and economic leadership, the UK would finally make real its leaving of the EU. A new word would appear: Brexit.

However, as it happens now, then some responsible voices would claim that the seriousness of the move would convince the British leadership and the voters not to commit such suicide. But it happened. Now, a similar scenario is on the horizon after the victory of the trio led by Meloni, the new prime minister, with the cooperation of the media magnate and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and the radical and former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini.

The current panorama recalls the most famous assessments of the national fabric of Italy constructed by Massimo d’Azeglio, a Piedmontese-Italian prime minister. He skillfully claimed: “We have made Italy, now we have to make Italians.”  

Dozens of governments badly led Italy after World War II. The country is now ready to leave the EU.

But the installation of the UK in the EU was not the same as the origin and evolution of the membership of Italy in the EU—a key founding member, led by moderate conservatives Christian Democrats, backed by the Americans. The UK was never well-installed in Brussels. From Winston Churchill to Margaret Thatcher, London just wanted the rebate in resources—priming trade, never accepting the “federal” obligations.

The apparent catastrophe of the Italian elections would not develop in a war against the EU. The needs for the reconstruction of the economy are such that only the EU resources can cover the expense. The allies of Meloni could not expect Russia, Hungary, or Poland to pay for the cost.

It would take just a few weeks until the northern-inclined Berlusconi would continue supporting Meloni, a genuine product of Rome, the sources of waste. The same can be said about mafia-behaving Salvini, one who is eternally obsessed with opposing immigration as the cause of the problems.

Few days will pass until the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, would obtain the cooperation of the leaving Prime Minister Mario Draghi to support the new leader, in the preparation of the paperwork to receive the needed support of the EU. There is already talk about Antonio Tajani, the former president of the European Parliament and a moderate centrist conservative, joining the new government as minister of Foreign Affairs.

In sum, Brussels and the United States will contribute all the necessary resources to cover the expenses. Vladimir Putin and the Italian sectors who have shown nostalgia for the Mussolini “March on Rome” of a century ago (1922) will be utterly surprised.

Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center of Excellence at the University of Miami.