It is difficult to interpret the italian M5S position on Europe. To begin to understand, we must consider the institutionalization process of the movement, founded by Beppe Grillo. In a process of normalization, written by Massimiliano Panarari (editorialist of the Italian newspaper La Stampa) on my university research magazine Luiss-Open a few days ago, he argues that M5S is aiming to target the moderate voters of the electorate.
Incorporating their own European policies into the national agenda and opening the M5S party to technicians are two actions of the same strategy: to prepare M5S to the possible govern responsibility.
So, is the evolving stance on Europe by M5S party, just an opportunistic game of playing politics, particularly with the Italian election beckoning — or after M5S founder, Beppe Grillo’s drift into political obscurity and the concomitant rise of the former webmaster, football stadium steward, hardware technician, marketing agent and waiter, Luigi Di Maio, —a genuine turning point towards a party that can lead the country?
To answer this question, we need to turn back to the last 12 months. In January 2017, Grillo tried to form an alliance with the Liberal European Parliament group, ALDE. However, he was forced to quickly return to the stable alliance with the Eurosceptic group, led by UKIP. Despite this agreement, the M5S European representatives, according to VoteWatch monitoring, voted only 27,1% in Nigel Farage ‘s direction;72,9% of their votes in these years were in favor of the left group GUE /NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left. European Parliamentary Group); 50,2% in favor of Liberal ALDE.
In April 2017 Grillo declared that the European Union is a ‘garbage bag’ with 27 nations asking themselves how and why they fall in. Again, he said, that Europe has no future since it is a sort of “ship of fools.” Furthermore, his position against the Euro has been instrumental in promoting the idea of a national referendum against the Euro.
Nowadays marks a turning point. At the beginning of this year, the M5S leader, Luigi Di Maio, during a popular Italian talk show, Porta a Porta, announced that this is not the right moment to leave Euro. The reason for this radical change of strategy, he said to the anchor, is that the German-French axis is now not so performant. Therefore, the No-Euro campaign and referendum remains the extrema ratio and the agenda should focus more on macroeconomic issues.
In February, during a University conference, the same new leader clarified that the European Union items are not a matter on foreign policy. “The EU should be considered the natural house of the M5S “he said.
Now we come to the national program of the Movement and the electoral manifesto. The former dedicates a specific chapter to Europe. The latter, voted by activists, neither mentions Europe in the 20 points: that means that Europe is not in the Movement’s political agenda. At the top of the electoral manifesto are the following: the tax reduction for citizens, small and medium enterprises and house services; the fight against fiscal evasion, the fight against bureaucracy, strong public deficit reduction, more policemen and security services for migrants, more money for health services and reimbursement to small savers who lost their savings in the banks default; and increasing pensions and a flat sum allowance for the unemployed: in others words, a better air for a better life in a smart nation.
The afore mentioned chapter repeats the context of the parliamentary resolution presented to the Italian Senate last 24 January by M5S. In the document, the original position of the Movement appears once again clear, coherent and in line with the original Eurosceptic position of the founder.
According to M5S, the main enemies are the EU Commission staff and the European budget balance (which is in negotiation right now by the way). M5S proposes a strong balance reduction thanks to a revision of salaries, but this item covers less than 6% of the total budget, the European Central Bank and Schengen agreement. M5S also advocate more power to national parliaments, thanks to an unclearly defined interaction with the European Parliament and augmented power to the European Council (The empowerment of the National Parliament and European Council probably leads to less power to the Commission, but this aspect is not specified).
The M5S proposal is to introduce into the European treaties not well-defined “specific technical, economic and juridical procedures”, that can enable a single country to permanently opt-out of Eurozone. However, if the mentioned technical, economic and juridical procedures are not accepted at European Union level, the Program will call for the return of the country’s monetary sovereignty.
We can continue reading the program and the resolution, but I think it will be clear to the reader that there still exists substantial M5S hostility towards the European project. The process of M5S institutionalization is just a veneer to convince the still prevalent European heart of the majority of Italians to vote for the new partnership of Di Maio and Casaleggio (owner of the M5S voting platform). The narrative changes, but the fight against any sort of intermediation of citizenship and competence continues. Competences are needed to promote the common project again, and more competences are needed to reform it.
published also in spanish with the title EL M5E y El fantasma del Italexit on LaRazon El M5E