Executive Brief: The Impact of Italian elections on EU policies. 26.09.2022 Executive Brief: The Impact of Italian elections on EU policies. 26.09.2022

- The outcome of the latest Italian elections points to a significant shift in the balance of power of the third largest EU country by population. The right-wing bloc, made up of Fratelli d’Italia (ECR), Lega (ID), Forza Italia and a smaller party, gained a solid majority of seats, and the leader of Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), Giorgia Meloni, is now set to become the next Italian Prime Minister. Due to the overperformance of her party, and the weaker performance of her allies, she will be able to exert a significant degree of control over the new executive, at least in the short run.

- The party Brothers of Italy used to be a small party until recently and only has a relatively small (for Italian standards) delegation represented in the European Parliament. Its increased importance is likely to be a challenge for several stakeholders who need to find solutions to interact with the new majoritian force. Therefore, it is important to get acquainted with their views and sensitivities.

- EU affairs - general outlook: compared to previous centre-right coalitions, the nationalist element is now more predominant compared to liberal orientations, which will have several implications on the coalition’s approach to EU policies. We expect a more assertive attitude in protecting Italian domestic producers and more difficult relations with France, Germany and the EU Commission on both political, economic and policy matters. The EU affairs’ approach of the new government is likely to be a major source of tension within the coalition, as Lega and Forza Italia will likely try to pull Meloni’s faction in different directions, and this might lead to changes in the coalition composition over the coming years.

- In spite of the strong focus on foreign policy during the electoral campaign, we don’t expect the country’s stance on transatlantic matters to change substantially after the elections. Our data indicates that Brothers of Italy is the most supportive of closer transatlantic ties among Italian parties and Meloni’s party insisted on adding a commitment to support Ukraine unconditionally in the joint coalition’s manifesto.

In some cases, the new government is even likely to be more transatlanticist than previous majorities, especially concerning relations with China, Latin America and the Middle Eastern countries. Tension on Russian sanctions is likely to remain due to the reliance on Russian gas by the Italian industry, although the underperformance of Lega will likely diminish this potential source of friction.

- A bigger impact will be observed with regards to environmental matters, from the Fit to 55 and the energy discussions, to the circular economy and agri-food. The new government will prioritise growth, competitiveness, lower prices and the protection of jobs in manufacturing over higher environmental targets. While coalition members agree with each other on this approach, there will be disagreements on the extent to which Italy should try to reach compromises and preserve positive relations with the other Western European governments.

- However, agri-food and trade can be a bigger source of tension, as Lega’s more protectionist views on agriculture and food are likely to lead to clashes both within the Italian government and with the other EU partners. Fratelli d’Italia will be pressured to support similar positions especially on GMOs, geographical indications, food labelling and other sensitive matters, while the party is set to maintain a more moderate approach on broader issues that have more foreign policy implications, such as the ratification of FTAs.

- When it comes to digital issues, the outlook is more mixed. While the new majority is generally supportive of a stronger focus on economic growth and deregulation, there is also a protectionist orientation to protect domestic businesses from tech giants. This is likely to be more visible with regards to the e-commerce sector. Our data on digital competition shows that, once again, Lega is the most likely to support pro-regulatory initiatives (in this case, proposals to reduce the power of digital gatekeepers), while Forza Italia is the least supportive of public intervention in the digital sector.

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