*European dreams and fears for 2018
VIEW FROM ROME
Elections in Italy are foreseen in the first quarter of 2018, most probably on 4 March. The last election created an unstable legislature, which saw four different centre-left governments. Recently, the Parliament passed a new electoral law (supported by Renzi’s Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia). But rather than bringing more stability, the new law is designed to reward coalitions while penalising solo riders — clearly intended to restrict the rise of the Five Star Movement.
This tells us much about the government’s hopes for 2018: win over the Eurosceptic populists and remain anchored to Europe and its Franco-German engine.
No doubt the next months will be characterized by intense political confrontation, where populist arguments will dominate. While in past elections the theme of Europe was not part of electoral campaigns, today it is, and not in the way Europhiles hoped for. Indeed, the last European barometer highlights how Italians have become Europe critics, where only few years ago they were overwhelmingly pro Europe. The Euro crisis, migration and security concerns are the major drivers of this U-turn.
The Democratic Party should try to ally with new political forces, such as “More Europe”, in order to overcome the current negativity and create a pro-European narrative echoing Macron’s «Europe qui protége”. Some also fear the interference of fake news and a potential involvement of Russia through direct or indirect support to the North League and the 5 Stars Movement, who allegedly have strong ties with the giant neighbour, and who are strongly Eurosceptic.
According to an IPSOS recent poll, migration is a major fear among Italians, second only to employment. Clearly, this is a subjective matter: the actual number of migrants reaching Italy does not justify such concerns. As in other countries, it is very likely that many Italians will vote out of fear instead of out of rational thinking, and certainly not out of hope. Worse, populist arguments have also penetrated traditional party agendas, while the right wing, once moderate and focused on a liberal program, today has become a much more aggressive far-right.
Hopes and fears are two parts of the same coin, with migration and Europe being very much interlinked. The European Union took too long to respond to Italy’s appeals for solidarity and relocation schemes have never been truly implemented. Instead of coming up with a common policy to manage migration, the EU has outsourced it: to Turkey for the Syrian refugees and to Libya — an almost-failed state — for Sub-Sahara Africans, with tragic consequences.
The future does not look bright: the ongoing attitude of the Visegrads, the clash between Tusk and the Commission, the US leaving the global compact on migration, all reduce the possibility of solving the problem. The challenge for winning the next election will be rebuilding the foundation of trust among citizens, and to do so parties will need to come up with a strong vision and concrete plans, both on Europe and on fear-creating issues such as migration. Failing to do so will mean their defeat.
* The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: http://ecfr.eu
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