As Italians prepare to vote in today’s general election, the European Union has issued a warning – making clear that it stands ready to act.
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy party, is widely expected to become prime minister at the head of a right-wing coalition. At an event in Princeton University, Ursula Von der Leyen, the EU president, said she is watching. ‘If things go in a difficult direction, I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland, we have tools,’ she said.
So the unelected Ms Von der Leyen is talking about what she might do if confronted by Meloni being elected and getting ‘difficult’. The ‘tools’ she refers to are those used to withhold funds from Hungary and Poland for alleged violations of what the European Court of Justice has termed the EU’s ‘common values such as the rule of law and solidarity’, mainly in respect of the judiciary and media. That an unelected EU Commission should punish democratically elected governments in Hungary and Poland for failing to uphold common values is extraordinary – that it should threaten to do so in Italy if Meloni is elected and does not behave is outrageous.
Such behavour by the EU is hardly surprising. It reflects the default view of the Euro Establishment on Meloni – the ‘heir to Mussolini’ – which lazily brands her ‘far-right’ or ‘post-fascist’. She is neither, for reasons I explain at length in my recent Spectator interview with her in Rome. Her victory would be a triumph not for dictatorship but democracy. That is to say, if she wins, she will be Italy’s first elected prime minister for 14 years after six unelected prime ministers in a row. And she will be the first-ever woman to hold the post. That, surely, is something to be welcomed in a country often called the ‘beating heart of Europe’?
The more immediate point is that, assuming the opinion polls, which have been as usual suspended two weeks before the elections, were not wildly off, Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party is very popular and she will lead a coalition government that Italians call the ‘centrodestra’ (centre-right).