Italy’s centre-right wants Meloni in EPP

Rome: Italian centre-right party Forza Italia wants right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s party to join the European People’s Party (EPP) to strengthen Italy’s influence in the European Parliament, MEP Salvatore De Meo told Euractiv.

Italy has been governed by a right-wing coalition composed of Matteo Salvini’s far-right Lega (ID), Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing Fratelli d’Italia (ECR), and Antonio Tajani’s centre-right Forza Italia (EPP) since 2022.

While these parties have shown openness to replicate their alliance at the EU level in the past, recent statements by EPP’s leaders are giving momentum to the idea, especially those of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who is pondering the possibility of some ECR members jumping ship and joining EPP instead.
Italian MEP and the constitutional affairs committee chair Salvatore De Meo affirmed in an interview with Euractiv that Forza Italia is open to Meloni’s party joining them in Europe’s biggest political family.

“[Former Forza Italia leader Silvio] Berlusconi thought this, and [current leader] Antonio Tajani has always imagined that the Italian centre-right, everything, even the League, could find a way into the EPP”, he added.

De Meo said that having more Italian MEPs would “give Italy a chance to express its position more authoritatively (…) a better chance to decide on some strategies” of the EPP, the EU’s biggest political family.

Currently, Forza Italia and FdI altogether would add up 20 MEPs, making it the second biggest national delegation in the EPP. After the EU elections in June, they are projected to add up a total of 30 seats – with the potential of becoming the largest delegation above Germany’s Christian Democrats.

Many centre-right party members would be uncomfortable opening the door to ECR parties joining ranks immediately, and the EPP is likely to test the waters first with broader collaboration in specific policy areas during the next term.

“ECR is always among the forces that play a role in the European Parliament, I hope we can work with ECR,” Forza Italia’s Antonio Tajani told the press during the congress.

While EPP President Manfred Weber said on Monday he is ready to collaborate with Meloni in the next legislature as she fulfils the requirements of being pro-European, pro-rule of law, pro-Ukraine, and pro-NATO, other party members are more sceptical.

“Institutionally, the European Commission needs to collaborate with any prime minister of any EU member state”, said Romanian EPP group vice-president and MEP Sigfried Mure?an when asked whether EPP should collaborate with FdI, “but it is clear that the EPP as a whole needs to cooperate with pro-European forces,” he said ruling out Meloni.

“There is still a very long way for her party to go to transform itself in terms of leadership, in terms of the programme, to become a credible pro-European party,” Mure?an, whose party is governing in a grand coalition with the Socialists, added.

De Meo acknowledged that not everyone in EPP “agrees to this alliance vis-à-vis others.”
“However, it is something that can be reasoned about, and we need to understand what we want to agree on,” he added.

For their part, EU Socialists describe such a development “surprising”.

“I can understand a lot of things in the name of realpolitik, but I can’t imagine how it would be possible for the EPP to accept in their family a party leader who still fails to declare herself anti-fascist […] It will be surprising, considering the political history of the movement that Giorgia Meloni represents,” Giacomo Filibeck, the PES secretary general told Euractiv in an interview on Wednesday.

De Meo also signalled that Italy should aim for the agriculture, internal market, or energy Commission portfolio while floating that Antonio Tajani, former President of the European Parliament and current Italian Foreign Minister, could be a candidate for a top job. “Let’s see,” he said.

But nothing has been decided, and he said it is up to Meloni, Salvini, and Tajani himself to decide, contingent on the election results.
While joining a government coalition with Meloni has hoovered up votes from far-right Lega, De Meo expects that FdI joining EPP would not affect their electoral performance as “we have our own constituent who does not recognise himself in the politics of Fratelli d’Italia and nor in the politics of the League.” “Our voter is moderate,” he added.