According to legend, the wedding of the goddess Thetis and the hero Peleus was the one event that should not be missed. All the gods and goddesses attended, except one: Eris, the goddess of discord, had not been invited. Out of anger and insult, she decided to take revenge by throwing a golden apple – the famous Apple of Discord – with the inscription “For the fair” into the midst of the guests. This act ultimately led to the Trojan War.
If Italy does indeed elect the far-right Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) led by Giorgia Meloni on Sunday, it will be the third far-right government in Europe, after Sweden and Fidesz in Hungary. But an alliance of the three governments at the EU level is unlikely, because the positions are too different, discord is far too great.
Even though there is undeniably cause for concern, it should be kept in mind that these political groups are deeply divisive: They still fail to form a homogeneous group in the European Parliament. The ECR Group has 63 MEPs, the ID 70, while the EPP has 179.
Within the fractured European family of the far right, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its stance toward Moscow may seem reminiscent of the apple in ancient times. Take, for example, the diametrically opposed positions between Poland’s PiS and Orbán’s Fidesz, which helped blow up Visegrád.
Difficult decision making
“There is no stable alliance between the extreme right-wing parties. You can see this in the European Parliament, where the alliance of the extreme and far-right has still not materialized. There are still major differences on issues such as immigration or Russia,” Eric Maurice, head of the Robert Schuman Foundation’s Brussels office, told Europe.Table.
“Nor will there necessarily be a stable alliance between governments (note: that have extreme right in their ranks). For example, at the level of economic policy, it is not certain that Sweden will support Italy’s demands,” he adds.
A third aspect highlighted by the European policy expert is the formation of the national governments themselves. “In Sweden and Italy, coalition governments will be at work,” meaning a constellation that can lead to potential conflicts within these governments. That means it will be difficult to get a clear position from these countries during negotiations in the EU Council of Ministers, he says. This would complicate decision-making at the EU level.
For all these reasons, the EU expert believes it is unlikely that a new alliance with Sweden, Italy and Hungary will emerge from the ashes of the Visegrád states. But the vacuum left by Mario Draghi’s departure will be deafening. Italy carries weight in the council. The country accounts for 17 percent of the EU’s industrial output, more than any other member state except Germany. In a recent analysis, Teresa Coratella and Arturo Varvelli, both of the think tank ECFR Rome, rub salt into the European wound by recalling that it is thanks to Mario Draghi’s leadership that Italy has “finally” begun to realize its potential by addressing its historic problems.
Paris and Berlin lose an ally
“He led Italian politics towards full support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion – despite fluctuating public opinion on the issue. Draghi even guided French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz through their initial hesitancy to back Ukraine’s bid for EU membership. Furthermore, he played an important role in formulating EU sanctions on Russia – and, as discussed, in Italian and EU energy policy. During the political crisis that would eventually bring down his government, he spent two days in Algiers securing alternatives to Russian gas. This demonstrated a willingness to put the national interest before career that is increasingly rare among Italian politicians,” the authors write.
So Paris and Berlin are losing an important ally. However, the fall of Draghi’s government “is an act of self-harm by his rivals”, the two researchers write, as the former governor of the European Central Bank has left a legacy that will be difficult to dismantle. “Unless populist and Eurosceptic parties take over, Draghi’s political orientation on Russia, Ukraine, transatlantic relations, and the EU will likely survive the difficult times ahead – not least thanks to a lack of credible alternatives.” Not least because of the deep internal schisms among the extreme right and far-right formations.