What’s next for Italy as populists take charge?

File photo showing Italy's far-right League leader Matteo Salvini at the Foreign Press Club news conference (Reuters)
Updated 21 May 2018
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What’s next for Italy as populists take charge?

  • Italy's proposed coalition mix of far-right, anti-establishment and euro-skeptic policies.
  • Both Di Maio and Salvini insist that they want to create a coalition that can last the full five-year mandate and implement their program.

ROME: A mix of far-right, anti-establishment and euro-skeptic policies, was promised by Italy’s proposed coalition government, leading the international community to wonder what the future holds for the eurozone’s third largest economy.
Here are answers to five pressing questions as the League and Five Star Movement (M5S) prepare to take charge.
Despite outspoken criticism of the European Union from both parties, the final version of the M5S-League government program does not mention a unilateral exit from the eurozone.
M5S abandoned their idea of a referendum on the euro and while the League has called the currency “a failed economic and social experiment,” the party has proposed a series of reforms and an eventual coordinated group exit along with a number of other countries in the long term.
M5S hold more clout in the new coalition having won almost 33 percent in March’s election, compared to the League’s 17 percent, even if League leader Matteo Salvini claims to represent the 37 percent who voted for his rightwing coalition.
While Salvini is the undisputed top dog of the League, the shadow of M5S founder Beppe Grillo, an outspoken former comedian, still looms large over the party led by Luigi Di Maio.
A question mark also hangs over the fate of flamboyant former premier Silvio Berlusconi. Part of the rightwing alliance with Salvini, Berlusconi begrudgingly gave the green light for the League and M5s to make a deal without his Forza Italia party.
The aging media tycoon, however, disapproves of the new government program and, after a recent court ruling overturned a ban on him holding public office, could once again be able to exert influence from inside parliament — if a member of his party offers up their seat.
Never afraid of a long shot, Berlusconi has also offered himself up as a potential future premier.
Both Di Maio and Salvini insist that they want to create a coalition that can last the full five-year mandate and implement their program.
Their parties, however, only have a wafer-thin six vote majority in the Senate, which holds the same power as that of the Chamber of Deputies, where they have a 32-vote majority.
The two parties will have to hold onto their MPs, particularly those who view the new alliance with skepticism, in order to go the distance.
A tumultuous campaign, inconclusive elections and a prolonged period of political deadlock meant that financial markets were already nervous, especially faced with the possibility of a return to the polls.
So the prospect of a M5S-League accord was initially met with some relief — until the coalition revealed their government program.
In response to the document’s costly financial measures and euroskeptic tone, key financial indicators pointed to decreasing investor confidence in Italy.
The difference in yield between Italian and German 10-year government bonds has gained 40 points in less than a week, increasing to 170 points.
Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella has the power to veto ministers and reject any law deemed financially non-viable for the country.
He is also the guarantor of Italy’s international commitments and will keep a close eye on any move to modify the country’s role on the world stage, especially given Salvini’s scathing comments about the EU and praise for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.


NATO, EU, US hail Macedonia vote as key step on Western path

Updated 18 min 46 sec ago
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NATO, EU, US hail Macedonia vote as key step on Western path

BRUSSELS: NATO, the European Union and the US on Saturday hailed a Macedonian parliament vote as another step toward ending a decades-long name row with Greece that takes the small country closer to joining their Western clubs.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini welcomed the close vote late Friday to start the process of renaming the country North Macedonia — a move that EU and NATO member Greece also hailed.
“It’s up to the government & political leaders to complete national procedures on the name agreement & seize this historic opportunity to bring the country into #NATO,” Stoltenberg tweeted after the vote.
“We now expect the national procedures for the implementation of the agreement to continue without any delays, toward the adoption of the constitutional changes,” Mogherini and fellow EU official Johannes Hahn said in a statement.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert welcomed the decision by Macedonia’s parliament “to initiate the constitutional changes needed to implement” the agreement with Greece.
She called it an “historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region.”
Amendments will now be drafted in the capital Skopje to incorporate the new name into the constitution, after which another parliamentary vote will be required to enshrine the changes.
Under the accord, which Prime Minister Zoran Zaev struck with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras in June, the Balkan state would rename itself North Macedonia. In exchange, Athens has promised to stop blocking its entry into NATO and the EU.
Greece has stood in Macedonia’s way for 27 years in protest at the country’s name, which it argues is an encroachment on its own province called Macedonia.
Mogherini and Hahn, the European commissioner who oversees talks to bring new members into the 28-nation bloc, said the vote underscored the determination and courage of both sides to resolve their long dispute.
“This is a truly unique opportunity for decisively moving the country forward on its European Union path as well as for reconciliation in the region,” Mogherini and Hahn said.
“The European Union will continue to fully support and accompany the country, all its citizens and its institutions.”