EU reaction needed after Italian result

Swing to the right and anti-establishment parties means leaders of the bloc must work more closely to deal with the challenges and much-needed reforms ahead

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2018, 5:48am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2018, 5:48am

China wants a united, stable and prosperous Europe. Italy’s election at the weekend would seem to have harmed those wishes, with two anti-establishment parties garnering half of the vote. The type of government that will emerge remains uncertain with weeks of bargaining ahead, but it is possible that as has been gradually happening in central Europe, one that is hostile to the European Union could evolve. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, as the bloc’s leaders, have to work more closely to deal with the challenges ahead.

‘Europe’s bad night’: far-right surges in Italy, hung parliament likely

The Eurosceptic and populist Five Star Movement was the biggest winner of the poll in Europe’s fourth largest economy, taking about 33 per cent of the vote. But it is being challenged by the anti-immigrant League, which claims to have the right to govern as part of a centre-right coalition after gaining 17.4 per cent of ballots. The fractured nature of Italian politics means that negotiations will take time. Although the two parties benefited from a backlash among the electorate towards refugees and immigrants, they have differing profiles and a coalition between them has been ruled out, lessening the concern among EU lawmakers.

Italy’s domestic troubles, 35 per cent youth unemployment among them, will consume the energy of the next administration. But the result still has to be taken seriously, coming amid Brexit talks and after a string of similar electoral gains by extremist groups across the continent. The far right also gained ground in Germany’s last election six months ago, but the centre held up, proving the nation’s stability and resilience. Italy’s election coincided with a new German coalition government led by Merkel finally being formed.

Glitches, confusion, naked protest mark Italian election

The historic heart of Europe is the Franco-German engine and Macron and Merkel have to work together to revitalise the project. Reforming euro zone governance is at the centre of such efforts to enable the promotion of growth in struggling EU economies, Italy among them. The French president has outlined a long list of plans, including the creation of a euro zone finance minister and budget. His call for a partnership with Merkel to lead their implementation has to be promptly taken up to protect and shore up the EU.