Thursday

14th Dec 2017

Italy's Five Star Movement presents 'sovereignist' agenda

  • The anti-establishment party founded by ex-comedian Beppe Grillo less than eight years ago is closer than it has ever been to power. (Photo: Claudio Bisegni)

If Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) were to win national power, it could pull the country out of Nato and would boycott free-trade deals like TTIP and Ceta, challenge European Union austerity rules, drop sanctions against Russia, recognise Palestinian statehood and insist on the removal of all US nuclear weapons from its territory.

The anti-establishment party founded by ex-comedian Beppe Grillo less than eight years ago is closer than it has ever been to Rome’s Palazzo Chigi, the 16th century prime ministerial office, as it is building up a solid polling lead ahead of general elections due early 2018.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

On Tuesday (18 April), M5S unveiled its foreign policy priorities, packaged in a 10-point, 10-page programme.

“I would call it a serious and responsible programme,” Manlio Di Stefano, a M5S MP from Sicily who is tipped as foreign minister if the party came to power, said in a press conference in parliament.

A 35-year-old graduate in computer engineering and former aid volunteer in Latin America, Di Stefano believes that Italy should stay in Nato only “if it can really change,” otherwise “we will have to consider whether to be a part of it or not.”

The M5S has characterised the Western military alliance as a Cold War relic with a failed legacy in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The party was particularly incensed by Nato’s 2011 bombing campaign that helped topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, but then left Libya in chaos and turned it into the main supplier of Europe-bound boat migrants.

Other highlights of the M5S’ foreign policy agenda included a “rigorous application” of the United Nations’ Charter, a call for the recognition of Palestinian statehood within the borders of 1967, and closer alliances with emerging powers such as the so-called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The party also calls for the dismantling of the so-called troika - formed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - that oversees austerity policies in Greece.

As an "alternative", it wants an "alliance of Southern Europe countries in a dialogue with the so-called 'enlarged Mediterranean'", to overcome austerity and reform the EU.

The propositions were submitted to an online poll involving about 23,500 party activists. Direct democracy is one of the M5S’ main tenets, but activists’ feedback was limited to them being able to rank proposed policies in order of preference.

Blocking TTIP and Ceta, a cause popular also among Europe’s left-wing and Green constituencies, was the M5S rank and file’s favoured policy. More Kremlin-friendly stances, such as withdrawing Russia sanctions and taming Nato’s war-mongering, came only seventh and eight, respectively, in the ranking.

Alessandro Di Battista, another leading M5S parliamentarian, said the party was pushing a “sovereignist” line and was "neither pro-[Russian president Vladimir] Putin nor pro-[US president Donald] Trump," dismissing suggestions that his party was unduly influenced by Moscow.

'Italy cannot afford autarchy'

“What they call ‘sovereignist’ is what our parents and grandparents would have simply called, back in their day, ‘fascist,’” political analyst Francesco Galietti told EUobserver.

Galietti, founder of the Policy Sonar think tank in Rome and a former advisor of centre-right governments, pointed out M5S’ emphasis on political and economic self-sufficiency, which he saw as influenced by Trump's campaign promises which are fading as the reality of Washington government kicks in.

“Italy cannot afford autarchy, even the Duce realised this the hard way,” he quipped, referring to the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Another key M5S policy is a referendum on leaving the eurozone, amid warnings from mainstream commentators that such a move may have disastrous consequences.

“The single currency is precisely the main culprit for surge in absolute and relative poverty in our country,” the M5S’ official blog claimed on Monday.

It remains to be seen if the M5S’ vision has a chance of being put into practice.

The ruling centre-left Democratic Party – distracted by a leadership battle expected to end later this month with the return of former premier Matteo Renzi as the party’s boss – have been overtaken by the M5S in opinion surveys. But even if that is confirmed on election day, it may not translate into enough seats for Grillo's party to form a government.

Pragmatists

Most analysts see three possible post-election scenarios: a hung parliament leading to yet another vote; a grand coalition between Renzi and Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia, to shut the M5S out of power; or a M5S-led administration supported by other protest parties like the hard-right Northern League.

Professor Piero Ignazi, a political scientist from the University of Bologna, told EUobserver he did not believe that the M5S would betray its stand-alone policy and jump into an ideologically awkward deal with the Northern League, one of France’s National Front staunchest allies in Europe.

But in the unlikely event Grillo’s people were going to conquer Palazzo Chigi, Ignazi expected a M5S administration to be less extreme than most people imagine.

“They may not have clear views on many issues … but their advantage is that they are not ideological, they are pragmatists,” the professor said.

Romania searching for EU respectability

Ten years after its accession and a year before holding the EU presidency, the fastest-growing EU economy wants to "engage" more with its partners. But concerns over the rule of law continue to give the country a bad image.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Pro-Kremlin trolls targeted Scottish referendum
  2. MEPs vote to allow phosphate additives in kebabs
  3. Babis government sworn in in Czech Republic
  4. Russia looks to crypto-currencies to evade EU sanctions
  5. Juncker embroiled in Luxembourg wire-tapping trial
  6. Kurz close to forming new Austrian right-wing government
  7. Ministers reach deal on fish quotas but overfishing continues
  8. UK parliament to vote on right to veto final Brexit deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  2. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  3. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  4. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  7. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  8. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  10. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  11. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  12. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe

Latest News

  1. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  2. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short
  3. Brits in EU-27 are uncertain, alone and far from protected
  4. 2018 fishing quotas agreed - but Brexit muddies waters
  5. Medical HQ to spearhead EU military push
  6. Facebook to shift ad revenue away from Ireland
  7. EU renews glyphosate approval, pledges transparency
  8. Romania searching for EU respectability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  2. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  4. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  5. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  6. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  7. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  8. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  9. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  10. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  11. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations