With snap elections set for Sunday (25 September) in Italy, EURACTIV Italy is investigating former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italy programme, which shows clear support for EU integration – in complete contradiction to the programs promoted by presented to its coalition partners.
Read the original article in Italian here.
Forza Italia contains several references to the EU, including a one-page chapter on “Our Foreign and Defense Policy: We are Atlanticists and Europeans” and another seven pages of detailed plans “For a New Europe: Politics, Defence, Real Economy”.
On defense issues, Forza Italia proposes “a single, common European foreign policy” and also proposes a “change from the unanimous voting system to qualified majority voting for European Council decisions”. It also calls for a “Common Defense Army with the coordination of European countries’ armed forces and the establishment of a 100,000-strong intervention corps,” surpassing the requirement of 60,000 forces set out in the 1999 Helsinki decision, which was never implemented.
The party also calls for reaching the 2% of GDP for defense spending to align with NATO requirements and strengthen ties with the Alliance and the US. In its program, Forza Italia also proposes a so-called European Marshall Plan for Africa to significantly reduce immigration and increase military cooperation with the countries of North Africa and the Horn of Africa, as well as a “European plan to support countries in ongoing conflicts and a high percentage of people living in absolute poverty”.
In other words, the party sees the EU as the authority in charge of neighborhood stabilization and rejects nationalist ambitions for Italy as a Mediterranean regional power that shape the agendas of its key allies.
The text, written after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, refers only to the “conflict in Ukraine” but does not mention or condemn the aggressor or the support Italy is giving to the country.
Another central theme of the program is the “mandatory relocation of immigrants in European countries and the collaborative management of returns” – a proposal by the Juncker Commission, led by far-right Forza Italia allies, the leader of the Liga Salvini and the leader of the brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni was rejected, and blocked by nationalist governments.
The party’s program also calls for an overhaul of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact, for example by making the Next Generation EU permanent and tripling the fund’s financial capacity to finance joint EU programs in defence, energy and migration, as well as to support businesses and the storage of raw materials, for example. In its programme, the party also proposes “to offer member states the possibility of swapping their existing government bonds for European debt instruments”, which implies a gradual mutualisation of public debt.
The party is also calling for a reform of the European Central Bank (ECB) to make it the lender of last resort so it can buy government bonds and guarantee national government debt. It also calls for all debt reduction measures to be gradual and economically sustainable. As part of its programme, Forza Italia is also proposing an overhaul of the EU’s economic governance by proposing a common financing mechanism for EU public goods.
Overall, Forza Italia’s position is clearly pro-European, which sets the party apart from its main far-right allies. While the European division is crucial in many national elections, Forza Italia has a pro-European program within a nationalist alliance. While Forza Italia and the EPP usually vote alongside Renew and the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, in Italy the party allies itself with the League and the Italian Brothers, Identity and Democracy, and the Conservatives and Reformists.