By Roberto Castaldi | EURACTIV Italy
President of Italian party ‘Forza Italia’, Silvio Berlusconi attends the center-right closing rally of the campaign for the general elections at Piazza del Popolo, in Rome, Italy, 22 September 2022. [EPA-EFE/GIUSEPPE LAMI]
With Italy’s snap elections set for Sunday (25 September), EURACTIV Italy looks into the programme of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italy, which shows clear support for EU integration – which is in complete contradiction with the programmes presented by its coalition allies.
Read the original article in Italian here.
Forza Italia includes several references to the EU, including a one-page chapter on “Our Foreign and Defence Policy: We are Atlanticists and Europeanists”, as well as another seven pages detailing plans “For a new Europe: Politics, Defence, Real Economy”.
On defence matters, Forza Italia proposes “a single, common European foreign policy”, and also proposes a “shift from the unanimous voting system to qualified majority voting for European Council decisions”. It also calls for a “Common Defence Army with the coordination of the European countries’ military forces and the establishment of a 100,000-man intervention corps,” surpassing the requirement of 60,000 forces laid out in the Helsinki 1999 decision that has never been implemented.
The party also calls to reach the 2% of GDP on defence spending, to align with NATO requirements as well as increased ties with the alliance and the US. In its programme, Forza Italia also proposes a so-called European Marshall Plan for Africa to significantly reduce immigration and increase military collaboration with the countries of North Africa and the Horn of Africa’, as well as a “European plan to help countries with ongoing conflicts and a high percentage of peoples living in absolute poverty”.
In other words, the party views the EU as the entity responsible for neighbourhood stabilisation and rejects nationalist ambitions for Italy as a regional power in the Mediterranean, which characterise the agendas of its main allies.
The text, which was written after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, only refers to the ‘conflict in Ukraine’ but does not mention or condemn the aggressor, nor the support Italy has sent to the country.
Another key issue laid out in the programme is the “compulsory redistribution of immigrants in European countries and community management of repatriations” – a proposal by the Juncker Commission that was opposed by Forza Italia’s far-right allies, League leader Salvini and Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni, and blocked by nationalist governments.
The party’s programme also calls for the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact to be revised by, for example, making the Next Generation EUpermanent, tripling the fund’s financial capacity to finance common EU programmes related to defence, energy, and migration, as well as to support companies and storage of raw materials, for example.In its programme, the party also suggests offering “member states the chance to exchange their existing national bonds for European debt securities”, implying a gradual mutualisation of national debt.
The party also calls for the reform of the European Central Bank (ECB) to make it a lender of last resort, and so that it can buy government bonds and guarantee national public debts. It also calls for any debt reduction measure to be gradual and economically sustainable. As part of its programme, Forza Italia also proposes an overhaul of EU economic governance, by proposing a common financing mechanism for EU public goods.
Overall, Forza Italia’s position is clearly pro-European, which sets the party apart from its main far-right allies. While in many national elections the European cleavage is crucial, Forza Italia has a pro-European program within a nationalist alliance. While in the European Parliament Forza Italia and the EPP usually vote together with Renew and the Socialists and Democrats, in Italy the party is allied with the League and Brothers of Italy, of the Identity and Democracy, and Conservative and Reformists groups.
By Roberto Castaldi | EURACTIV Italy