Brussels has ways to deal with member states that stray from its values, says Ursula von der Leyen
The EU has “toolsto answer if the political situation in Italy is going into a “hard steeringsaid European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday. She hinted that the country could face sanctions such as those recently imposed on Hungary and Poland if the next election results in the planned right-wing sweep.
“My approach is that whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we work together“, she said in response to a question about whether she had”concernsabout Sunday’s Italian parliamentary vote, in which the conservative Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) are expected to take first place.
“If things go in a difficult way, I talked about Hungary and Poland, we have tools“, explained von der Leyen.
While EC spokesman Eric Mamer was quick to clarify that von der Leyen was simply “highlighting the role of the Commission as guardian of the [European] treaties relating to the rule of law, not everyone interpreted his words that way.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the populist League party, denounced the “shameful arroganceand called on the EC torespect the free, democratic and sovereign vote of the Italian people!“In the last ballot at the start of the month, the League was expected to win 12% of the vote.
Earlier this month, the EC recommended suspending 7.5 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in funding to Hungary – a third of the money it receives from Brussels – over of so-called “the erosion of the rule of law.“Brussels imposed a similar sentence on Poland last year after the country’s constitutional court found that certain Polish laws prevailed over those of the EU.
Italy’s snap general election was triggered by the resignation of Prime Minister Mario Draghi in July after his ruling coalition partners deserted him. As of September 9, when the blackout on the publication of electoral polls came into effect, the Fratelli d’Italia were estimated at 25% of the vote. In addition to the League’s 12%, coalition partner Forza Italia are expected to collect 8%, meaning a victory for the conservative bloc is easily within reach. Fratelli d’Italia barely got 4% of the vote in 2018.
Like the rest of the EU, Italy is grappling with a cost of living crisis exacerbated by bloc-wide sanctions on Russian oil and gas. General elections had already been set for next year.