Nobody Is Happy in Germany, League Calls for Italian Euro Exit

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Nobody in Germany is happy with the deal Angela Merkel struck with the Social Democrats this week.

Politico reports that conservatives are upset she gave the Finance Ministry to the left. The party’s youth wing is openly calling for Merkel’s replacement.

The Financial Times reports that Martin Schulz is testing his Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) unity by joining the new government as foreign minister.

Tilman Pradt argued here the other day that Schulz has wasted away his credibility by reneging on his promise never to serve under Merkel. “Given the fate of its sister parties in Europe,” Pradt wrote, “the SPD should have been aware of the dangers of putting personal ambitions over party politics.” Read more

Italian Voting Reforms Could Have Little Impact on Balance Between Parties

The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010
The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010 (Stefano Maffei)

Voting reforms enacted by the Italian parliament this week could do little to make the country more governable, an analysis of Ipsos polling data by Corriere della Sera reveals. The three main political blocs would remain roughly equal in size.

The new law allocates a third of the seats in the lower chamber on a first-past-the-post basis and removes the premium for the largest party.

The expectation was that these changes would hurt the populist Five Star Movement and help the mainstream left and right.

But it turns out the effect could be negligible. Read more

Italy’s Five Stars to Switch from Anti- to Pro-EU Bloc

Italian Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo gives a speech at Optima Italia, May 18, 2016
Italian Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo gives a speech at Optima Italia, May 18, 2016 (Optima Italia SpA)

Italy’s Euroskeptic Five Star Movement is leaving Nigel Farage’s group in the European Parliament and applying to join the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) instead, Beppe Grillo announced on Monday. Read more

Le Pen Struggles to Find Allies; Farage Finds Italian Friend

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 13, 2011
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 13, 2011 (European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari)

France’s Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders are struggling to find enough supporters in the European Parliament to form a Euroskeptic bloc of their own while the group led by Britain’s Nigel Farage appeared to have won a new member on Wednesday: Italy’s Five Star Movement.

Farage, whose United Kingdom Independence Party doubled its seats in this weekend’s election, making his the largest British party in the European Parliament, met Italy’s Beppe Grillo in Brussels where the two pledged to “immediately begin discussions” to form an alliance.

Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement came in second to Italy’s ruling Democratic Party in the European election. While it has refused to enter any coalitions at home, it seeks a referendum on the country’s membership of the euro which Grillo believes is responsible for Italy’s economic hardships. Farage wants Britain to simply pull out of the European Union altogether.

To be recognized as a political group in the European Parliament, at least 25 members from seven different countries are needed. In the new legislature, UKIP will have 24 seats. The Five Star Movement will have seventeen.

Farage needs the Five Star Movement because his current Italian ally, the separatist Lega Nord, is leaving his group to join Le Pen and Wilders.

Euroskeptic competition

Le Pen’s Front national became the largest French party in the European Parliament with 24 seats. Wilders’ Freedom Party surprisingly lost one seat and will have four.

Their allies include Austria’s Freedom Party, which will also have four seats, and Belgium’s separatist Vlaams Belang, with just one seat.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Wilders acknowledged that he was two countries short, but, he said, “I’m confident that we can do it.”

Le Pen argued, “We have five nationalities already out of the seven that we need, so it’s a pretty solid basis for us to form a group.”

The Sweden Democrats, with two seats, are a likely ally. But adding them would alienate the Danish People’s Party, which is more likely to join either Farage’s bloc or the European Conservatives and Reformists instead: the mildly Euroskeptic group that is led by Britain’s Conservatives and the Polish Law and Justice party. It is also in talks with the German anti-euro party Alternative für Deutschland, which won seven seats.

There are nationalists from Belgium, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia still looking for a European group to join, but it looks like most will prefer either the Conservatives and Reformists or Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy over the more xenophobic bloc of Le Pen and Wilders.

Greece’s Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik, fascist parties that won three seats each, are beyond the pale for all groups.