Check what's new on our other blogs:

Fact check: Five Star messages, how many stars credibility?

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement [personal archive]

“After the European elections, everything will change”. As if a handful of MEPs, 20, 30 or even 40 had the power to do so…

Once again politicians from the Five Stars Movement (M5S) are selling what they don’t in store. As if they didn’t promised Italians too much at home, M5S are doubling down by spreading a misleading narrative about Europe.

In a recent official press release, the head of the M5S delegation to the European Parliament, MEP Laura Agea, attacked the European Commission, because of the budget constraints it has been imposing on Italy in recent years.

This is a typical mixture of truth and untruth. And a habit: avoiding to explain how Europe is functioning. It shouldn’t be difficult to say:

Europe is about member states…

The European Union is not a federation. There are no central governments deciding on behalf of the member states. The European Union is more a confederation, and the legislative process foresees power of initiative to the Commission and decisions with a key role of the two other EU bodies. Article 17, paragraph 2, of the consolidated treaties, clearly state:  the Union legislative acts may only be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal, except where the Treaties provide otherwise.

So, the Commission proposes, and governments decide. Once decisions have been taken, the Commission “shall ensure the application of the Treaties, and of measures adopted by the institutions”, as recalled by article 17, paragraph 1, of the consolidated treaties. So, when Laura Agea writes that “the Commission in the recent years has imposed budget constraints”, she is basically stating the obvious. But she omits to say that the EU executive is obliged to enforce the rules. She omits to tell that the EU is not about “us” (proud Italians) versus “them” (insensitive Brussels bureaucrats). And to explain:

Where are the rules coming from?

The answer is: from inter-governmental agreements. By definition an inter-governmental agreement has nothing to do with ‘Europe’, but national States. If unfair rules are in place, this is because of the Italian government.
Politicians from M5S didn’t explain this crucial part, as well as they didn’t explain that both the Fiscal compact and the Stability and growth pact are agreements among the member states of the European Union. This is not “diktat”. If Italians didn’t like them, why did they sign up? Why not explaining? Of course, blaming Europe is much easier than making an intellectual effort. In any case, Italians are not told the truth.
It’s very important to vote, but not managing the expectations will lead to even bigger trouble. Why not say:

Change is not so easy

“From May on, everything will change”. This key message has been repeated by M5S a long time. But let’s be fair. The election of 20, 30, even 40 MEPs means nothing, if no political alliances are found in the institution. In the Council, where member state sit, important decisions are still based on unanimity. The migration dossier already offered to the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, and to those looking closely at his work, the unpleasant experience of achieving tangible progress, despite friendly empty words and taps in the back. So, M5S alone can do very little, but this has never been explained to voters.

If you are in a hole, stop digging. M5S people apparently made things more complicated by triggering a dispute with France, as this website already pointed out. If they really wanted to change things, M5S should play the game from the inside, M5S are on the contrary playing their game from the outside.

Fact check: Is France conducting a colonial policy in Africa?

Ditch Strasbourg! Easier said than done.

“The European Parliament headquarters in Strasbourg must be closed”, M5S leader Luigi di Maio hammered out days ago. Even if many of us could agree on a personal basis, we know that such a decision is impossible without unanimity, meaning France to go against its interest. It’s so easy for Di Maio and friends promising such a thing, without admitting how difficult is to to translate such project in practice.

Furthermore, this is nothing new: the debate about the European Parliament single seat basically started when the initial decision of the double seat was taken. Of course, keeping up work is legitimate, and so should be telling the truth in full. And the truth is: it won’t be easy, and maybe impossible, especially if there is not a huge compensation. Something big must be offered to France in order to convince Paris to give up the Strasbourg flying circus. Italians are currently offering nothing but insults. But how about the internal projects?

A complete mess

So far M5S are not delivering what they promised internally. Their electoral campaign was built on Ilva steelworks, the TAP gas pipeline, the Turin-Lyon high speed railway, the F-35 fighter jets. The Movement committed to stop all these projects, and the outcome is the following: Ilva steelworks in Taranto is still in function, the TAP gas pipeline is being built, the F-35 fighter jets are suspended but not blocked, the high-speed railway project has been reassessed by the current government, but still pending and not rejected.

The basic national income (Reddito di cittadinanza), M5S’ battle horse, is taking a different shape from what Italians expected. There will be no public bonus, rather a new, revisited version of the classical unemployment benefit.

M5S claim there are 5 million people eligible for such a new instrument. In the end, each of them will be offered maximum three jobs opportunities. After the third refusal, they will lose the right of basic income. Having said this, more than the basic income itself, the real bet for the Five Stars was to create 15 million new job opportunities. How about that?

The original sin

“Honesty, honesty”. Since the beginning, this has been the Movement’s password. M5S want to be credible, but they got in trouble from the moment Giuseppe Conte was designated for Prime Minister, as he was immediately found guilty of lying in his CV.

Conte wrote he had “perfected his judicial studies” at numerous foreign institutions, including Cambridge University, New York University and the Sorbonne in Paris. However, the Sorbonne and New York University (NYU) said they couldn’t find any trace of him in their databases.

According to the Italian legislation, everybody is innocent until he is proved guilty. But Conte is not alone. Recently, M5S MEP Marco Valli was found having added a fake university degree in his CV. He assumed wrongdoing and responsibility, but Conte is still at his place.

The Salvini dilemma

In the same ‘honesty track’ lies the new mutation of the Movement in front of the very recent ‘Salvini case’. In Italy judges asked to make the minister of Home affairs accountable for the management of the Diciotti issue. Salvini is accused of power abuse and kidnapping for having refused the disembarkation of asylum seekers.

In February 2016 an inquiry was opened against the minister of Home affairs of that time, Angelino Alfano, for the same reason: abuse of power for having transferred the prefect Fernando Guida from Ennia, in Sicily, to Isernia, in the south-eastern region of Molise. The inquiry was then closed, but at that time M5S asked immediately Alfano to exit the government. No such request was made for Salvini.

Can we trust M5S forecasts?

Last but not least, a few day ago the Italian vice prime minister Luigi Di Maio literally stated: “I do believe that a new economic boom can come, as it happened during the 60’s”.

However, this doesn’t correspond to more authoritative forecasts. Already in November the European Commission suggested that a new recession is about to come.

According to the autumn economic forecasts, in 16 out of 19 member states of the euro area, the GDP will shrink in 2020. Already this year national GDP is foreseen falling in 14 countries out the 19 from the eurozone.

“Five Stars” sounds like the top of the pops. But how much in terms of credibility for M5S?

Be the first to comment on "Fact check: Five Star messages, how many stars credibility?"

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Disclaimer

The project was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this project. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the project.