Thursday, July 25, 2024

Giorgia Meloni’s hard-right European group claims a top EU job

Must read

Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s hard-right European political group has claimed it has enough additional members in the European parliament to overtake French President Emmanuel Macron’s liberal Renew party as the assembly’s third-largest grouping, and claim a top EU job.

Meloni’s European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) has increased to 83 members following this month’s European parliamentary elections, in which parties of the radical right across the continent performed strongly.

If Macron’s Renew party does not expand in size before a July 4 deadline, it would mark only the second time in 40 years that the parliament’s three largest groups are not from the political centre, potentially disrupting a triumvirate that has chosen the EU’s most senior officials for decades.

A reordering of the hierarchy could complicate European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s bid to secure a second five-year term at the helm of the EU’s executive and alter the bloc’s legislative agenda through 2029.

“Elections have shifted Europe’s centre of gravity to the right,” Meloni said on Wednesday. “I think that in the current parliament we will see that step-change in the way we approach certain policies.”

Meloni said she was now “working to organise an alternative front to the left” and negotiating with multiple factions in the European parliament to build consensus on various issues.

“Through negotiations with everyone, I think there could be some surprises on the majorities,” she added.

In her first public comments since a fractious EU heads of government dinner on Monday, Meloni slammed six leaders including Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for their attempt to stitch up a deal on who to appoint as the EU’s three most senior officials for the next five years.

Before the dinner, Scholz, of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the parliament’s second largest group, met Macron and leaders from the centre-right European People’s party (EPP), the assembly’s biggest bloc, to decide their candidates for the three top jobs.

Scholz and Macron reviewed plans for the EPP’s von der Leyen to have a second term. They also discussed related proposals for former Portuguese socialist prime minister António Costa to be the next European Council president, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, and Estonia’s liberal premier Kaja Kallas to be the bloc’s next chief diplomat.

“I found it surreal that some came up with proposals for names for top posts without first reflecting on what were the signals coming from citizens and what should be the change of pace on priorities,” Meloni said.

She also said she would claim “a role of the highest grade” for Italy at the EU institutions. “Everyone today knows what the role is for Italy . . . which today has the most solid government of all,” she added.

New entrants to the ECR include the ultranationalist AUR party from Romania, whose chair George Simion is banned from Ukraine and Moldova on security grounds.

An official from Renew said negotiations were continuing with potential allies and it expected to grow beyond the 80 seats it holds.

“This is a snapshot of a point in time. We have until July 4 to constitute political groups and then we can see who is third,” the official added.

The EPP has made clear that it intends to continue its alliance with the S&D and Renew in order to secure von der Leyen’s reappointment as commission president.

The three groups have more than 400 votes in the 720-strong parliament, where a simple majority of 361 is required for her to obtain a second term.

Renew and S&D have made clear they will not negotiate with the ECR, which they consider part of the far right.

“The ECR [growing] doesn’t change anything. The majority platform still has 55 per cent of the votes,” said an EPP official.

EU diplomats suggested Meloni could push for a senior commissioner, with one saying “she has influence”.

It was a mistake to antagonise her at the dinner but she will not get a seat at the negotiating table on the three top EU jobs, they added.

“She misread the situation because ECR is . . . not part of the governing majority. It’s political reality.”

Additional reporting by Giuliana Ricozzi in Rome and Alice Hancock in Brussels.

Latest article