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Because almost no Italian MEP voted in favor of the Stability Pact

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Because almost no Italian MEP voted in favor of the Stability Pact

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On Tuesday the European Parliament gathered in plenary session definitively approved the reform of the Stability Pact, i.e. the set of complex fiscal rules to which all member states of the European Union are subject. The Pact especially affects countries with the largest public debt and with the tendency to keep the annual deficit rather high, such as Italy (the deficit is the difference between income and expenditure in a state’s budget). For this reason, the Italian government led by Giorgia Meloni had negotiated the points of the text for months, and then approved it in December 2023 at the Council of the European Union (the body in which the governments of the 27 member countries are represented). That same text was then based on an original proposal from the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, the Italian Paolo Gentiloni, an expression of the Democratic Party.

Yet, despite the fact that the Pact was drawn up by an important leader of the PD and was approved by the Italian Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti, in Tuesday’s final vote no Italian party represented in the European Parliament voted in favor of the text: almost all of them abstained, the 5 Star Movement voted against. Only three Italian MEPs voted in favor of the most important of the votes on the new reform: Lara Comi of Forza Italia, Herbert Dorfmann of the Südtiroler Volkspartei and Marco Zullo, former M5S who today is not part of any party but sits in the Renew parliamentary group, that is, liberals.

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In short, no Italian party wanted to “own” the approval of the Pact from a political point of view. The new rules are complex: for the most indebted countries they provide individual spending plans lasting four years, extendable up to seven years, which allow it to be reduced and brought back into line with European standards. General objectives are then envisaged: for example, countries like Italy which have a debt-to-GDP ratio above 90 percent will have to reduce their public debt by one percentage point per year.

These rules are considered on paper to be softer than in the past but the stricter ones have never been applied, so it is not clear whether they could harm or benefit Italy in the future. Much will also depend on how the new European Commission, which will take office in the summer after the European elections, chooses to interpret them (the Commission is the European institution tasked with monitoring the fiscal policies of national governments). When in doubt, no party wanted to take sides.

It didn’t help that the electoral campaign in Italy for the European elections began weeks ago: no party wanted to expose itself to possible political attacks from its opponents.

The League, to which Giorgetti belongs, had already made it known in the morning that it would abstain. In a press release he explained that the new Stability Pact, although improved “compared to the initial proposal thanks to the work and commitment of Minister Giorgetti”, represents “a compromise which unfortunately still presents critical elements”. The other parties in the majority also abstained: Fratelli d’Italia is not part of the majority that manages the work of the European Parliament, and its abstention is therefore more understandable.

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Forza Italia, however, was one of the few national parties belonging to the European People’s Party, the main European centre-right party, to abstain.

As for the Democratic Party, they had been discussing for days what to do when it came time to vote. Immediately after the Instagram live in which she announced that she would not put her surname on the party symbol, the secretary Elly Schlein had called a meeting with some members of the secretariat, some parliamentarians and MEPs to discuss what to do. Contrasting approaches emerged at the meeting. Peppe Provenzano, head of Foreign Affairs and representative of the most left-wing area of ​​the party, had proposed voting against the reform. The more moderate area, represented by Senator Alessandro Alfieri (responsible for Reforms) and MEP Irene Tinagli, had said they preferred to vote in favour. In the end Schlein opted for compromise and asked his MEPs to abstain.

In the end, the only Italian MEPs to vote against were those from the 5 Star Movement, which has been opposing the final version of the reform with very clear tones for months. “Whoever votes yes to this Stability Pact is betraying Italy and its citizens,” said the group leader of the M5S in the European Parliament, Tiziana Beghin, today.

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