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Italy’s Turn Against Europe

After less than two months in office, Italy's populist government has hit the ground running, by cracking down on immigration and launching an attack on the country's independent civil service. With European Parliament elections approaching next year, what happens in Italy is unlikely to stay in Italy.

BOLOGNA – It has been less than two months since the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the right-wing League party formed a new Italian government, so it is too early to tell how the coalition will translate its campaign rhetoric into concrete policies. In fact, the coalition’s internal contradictions might limit the scope of its legislative action, or even bring about its downfall – possibly even before the European Parliament elections in May 2019.

That said, it is not too early to see what the Italian government’s anti-European posture will mean for Europe. For European Union leaders watching from Brussels, the political dynamic that the M5S/League coalition has set in motion could prove far more consequential than any specific policy initiatives.

The M5S/League coalition is the first instance of an overtly anti-EU government coming to power in one of the bloc’s founding member states. Although its radicalism is partly a response to the Italian economy’s dismal performance over the past two decades, a similar brand of anti-establishment politics has taken root in European countries that have fared better. Far from being an outlier, Italy could be a harbinger of what awaits many other countries, especially after the EU elections.

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