sovereignty without constraints, with EU money –

Ahead of Italy’s snap election on 25 September, EURACTIV Italy takes a closer look at how the party programme of Matteo Salvini’s League party relates to the EU.

Read the original article in Italian here.

The programme presented by the League party presents a nationalistic and anti-EU position that is in line with the party being part of the far-right Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament, and it ignores the pro-EU and pro-Western stance it presented to get into the government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Still, the programme reaffirms Italy’s participation in the EU and NATO, but only dedicates three of 202 pages to the EU.

In its programme, League portrays the EU as an “increasingly bureaucratic and distant reality for the people” and takes particular aim at EU climate policies – like the Green Deal and Fit for 55 – which the party says targets the “Made in Italy” brand and is “a danger to the competitiveness of businesses and the lifestyle of Italian citizens.”

The programme does not mention Next Generation EU but only parts of the national recovery plan, even though Italy is the largest beneficiary of these funds.

Still, the party makes the bold statement that no Italian government was able to influence EU institutions in the past 20 years despite League being part of the government during many of those years and many Italians, like former European Commission President Romano Prodi and the EU’s former top diplomat, Frederic Mogherini, obtaining top spots at EU level.

On the economy, the programme also lacks references to the single currency or the Economic and Monetary Union despite negotiations on reforming the Stability and Growth Pact and European economic governance being set to start in autumn. This comes as a surprise sinceLeague’s head of economics, Alberto Bagnai, and Claudio Borghi before him, both oppose the Euro. This omission could be explained by League’s fear of losing votes if it were openly against the euro, or that such an announcement could impact the markets and thus increase public debt – which was the case when Italy was under the helm of the eurosceptic and euro-critical first Conte government.

On Russia’s war in Ukraine, League calls for a peace conference without saying if it is favour of maintaining sanctions against Russia or providing Ukraine with military assistance along with the rest of the EU and NATO.

On extending the EU’s competences and putting an end to unanimity voting procedures, as proposed by the Conference on the Future of Europe, League says it is in favour of preserving unanimity and opposes increasing the competences and powers of the Union.

To face the US, China and Russia, League says joint EU action is not necessary, and instead calls on Italy to revive its role “to safeguard the national interest” – a concept the party does not clearly define in its programme.

However, some of the programme’s sections, notably on the economy, implicitly refer to the EU, and in particular to the national recovery and resilience plan, EU structural funds and EU programmes more generally, as these would be essential to fund League’s proposals.

In what appears to be a somewhat contradictory programme, League wants Italy to regain absolute sovereignty without EU constraints, but still considers EU funds to be necessary for the implementation of its proposals, and is even proposing to strengthen Italy’s permanent representation in Brussels and to create better coordination between the representation, the ministries, the national Parliament and Italian MEPs.

In short, the League despises the EU, but implicitly recognises that Italy cannot do without it.

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