First criticism within European PP for supporting Italian coalition led by far-right

The first criticism is already heard in the conservative political family. This is happening in Germany, the country of origin of Bavarian Manfred Weber, the president of the European PP and the leader of his political family in the European Parliament. Germany, moreover, is a country where conservatives have traditionally shied away from pacts with the far right: former German Chancellor Angela Merkel championed the position during her tenure, to the point of refusing to let her party govern one German region because , for this they had to agree on an alternative for Germany. This government ended up in the hands of the German leftist Die Linke of the Land of Thuringia.

But Weber is not only breaking with German tradition, but his predecessor, Poland’s Donald Tusk, when asked about the Castilla y León governance pact between the Popular Party and Vox, said it represented a “capitulation”. And hopefully it was an “incident” and not a “trend”. But now that Poland’s Tusk is no longer at the head of a major European political family, Weber’s response is very different.

A different answer to what was expressed before the Italian elections by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who leads the community on the basis of an agreement between the executive authorities. popular, socialists and liberals: “Democracy needs everyone. Democracy is a continuous process. We never finish. We had elections in Sweden as well. My approach is that any democratic government that wants to work with us, we will work together. You are not just a member state that comes and says ‘I want, I want, I want’. But you are in the Council of Europe and you realize that my future and my well-being also depend on the other 26. This is also the beauty of democracy, which is sometimes slow. You will see. If things go in a difficult direction, I have already talked about Hungary and Poland, we have the tools.

Weber campaigned in support of Silvio Berlusconi, the long-time leader of Forza Italia, who ran in coalition with two far-right parties: the Brothers of Italy, led by Giorgia Mellon, who won the election; and Lega, by Matteo Salvini.

And after weeks of silence, Markus Soder, the Bavarian president and leader of the CSU, Weber’s party, spoke out against Berlusconi and thus against his fellow party colleague and the position of European PP president.

According to a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ)Weber came under fire from his own party leadership at an internal meeting after Sunday’s election, with Soder calling his support for Berlusconi a “serious strategic mistake”.

“We have always made it clear that we are building a wall against neo-fascist groups, this is the opinion of the majority in the CSU,” Soder said after a CSU leadership meeting in Munich on Monday.

Quoting the participants of the meeting SZThe leader of the CSU regional group Alexander Dobrindt called on Weber to break the alliance with the post-fascist parties. After the meeting, Dobrindt told public television that the center-right should never support “those who have the character of right-wing nationalists in Europe.”

Soder’s criticism is also explained by the fact that he lived first-hand in flirting with the speeches of the extreme right. A few years ago, it was he who brought the CSU closer to the AfD’s positions, which ultimately scared off many voters and led the CSU to collapse in the 2018 Bavarian elections.

Soder later described it as a “political near-death experience” that he did not want to repeat. It also explains why Soder has publicly distanced himself from Weber, expressing his opposition to “supporting far-right governments.”

The role of Forza Italia

In an interview on the television network ARD, Weber tried to explain the reasons for his support: “Forza Italia is a member of the EPP, which I lead, for 25 years. And my job was to strengthen a pro-European force like Forza Italia. Now we have to wait for the next step, Sergio Mattarella, the president, has to decide who he will appoint to form the government.

Weber tried to answer internal criticism like this: “Of course we need firewalls precisely because of our German experience. With the AfD, I am the first to say so. But Forza Italia is a member of the EPP and pro-European, no doubt about that. And let’s see what the new government will be like. But the Lega ruled Italy for five years, previously with the M5S and now [Mario] Draghi and now they got only 9%. You can’t, you shouldn’t compare the Italian system with the German one. I understand that Markus Soder emphasizes the Bavarian point of view, the German point of view. But I have a European responsibility and I want to keep Italy on a pro-European course and therefore our support for Forza Italia.”

Berlusconi himself defended the same thesis as Weber in Corriere della Sera: “We have Golden share [acción de oro], but of course we will never have to use it. If it really thought that there was a risk of populist drift, the government would not have started. Moreover, we would not even be allied with the other two parties of our coalition.”

“I hope that Forza Italia, which is part of the EPP, will be able to ensure the continuation of Italy’s European path. Italians are good Europeans, they know their place,” said German Michael Galler (CDU), coordinator of the EPP in the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

In this sense, Manfred Weber tried to differentiate the German extreme right from Italy: “In Germany we are concerned to get the AfD out of all parliaments as much as possible as an anti-European party. But Italy is Italy, not Germany, and therefore we have to approach each country from a different perspective. We have to see that the government is coming now, this coalition also has clear pro-European accents, which wants to deepen Europe, strengthen it, support Ukraine. Maloney, for example, made it clear that sanctions should be applied to Russia. Citizens voted, they made a choice. Now it is up to Mattarella to build a reasonable government.”

But this strategy of cooperating with the far right to moderate him did not work in the EPP with Fides, the party of Viktor Orbán, who was eventually expelled from the conservative family. Why should this work now? “I’ve been trying for a long time because I think we need to build alliances in Europe and show a little more respect for Italy in the German discussion. Democracy worked. The Italian left-hander was punished. We, as the European People’s Party, Christian Democrats, have clear principles: we must be pro-European and pro-Ukrainian. There is no gray, whether you are for Putin or against him; Do you uphold the rule of law or not? We will use these criteria to assess whether the Italian government is on the right track. And in the face of the winter of crisis that is coming, with inflation and recession, everyone who takes responsibility in Italy knows that the center must be in the government and shape things.

“I am the person who is on the ground,” Weber says, “and who is negotiating to keep Italy on board.” As a G7 country, Italy is particularly important to Germans.

What does this victory in Italy and the result of the extreme right in Sweden mean for Europe? “First of all, the leftists no longer make offers to citizens, they are almost non-existent in Central and Eastern Europe, they have been punished in Italy, and they have disappeared in France. That is, there is no alternative on the left. And, for us as Christian Democrats, it means that our offer is a way to better address the concerns of voters who are sometimes open to populist proposals. But Maloney also knows he will only receive money from the recovery funds if Draghi’s promised reform steps are implemented. I have no doubt that the new government also wants to carry out reforms. But now it’s time to wait and see what happens, to respect democracy, to respect Italians with the election results and now to build a new government attached to the European spectrum. I see possibilities for it to work. ”

Source: El Diario





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