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M5S: You can call them ‘alternative’…

Flag of the Five Star Movement waved during a demonstration in Rome [personal archive]

Call them “alternative”, if you think they are. Politicians from the 5-Star Movement (M5S) say they are anti-system and anti-establishment. Especially outside Italy, it is not easy to put them into a category. M5S is a completely new political force, confronted to all traditional issues. Not having the majority to rule the country alone, Luigi di Maio’s force is obliged to work in coalition with people representing exactly what it is supposed to fight against.

The program for Europe of M5S is expected to be published in February. One thing is certain: there is no way that it could be compatible with the political views of Matteo Salvini’s League, 

No sovereignist, please!

The paradox is that the League’s natural allies in Europe are sovereignist forces, such as those led by Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, or Victor Orban. But for M5S such ideology cannot be the answer for the Italian needs. It is a shared belief within the Five Stars that sovereignist policies lead to austerity, which is something M5S is strongly opposing.

Both M5S and the League are already represented in the European Parliament, but their MEPs don’t sit together. The 4 March 2018 election created an alliance in Rome which is unlikely to be reproduced in Brussels and Strasbourg. The big question mark is how the next European elections would affect – and possibly harm- the governing coalition.

For Europe, but not for this Europe

M5S is not against the European Union, is against “this kind of” Union. That’s what the Five Stars love to repeat. The Italian budgetary procedure has revealed Di Maio’s party ambition to challenge austerity, which in their view is masterminded by EU member from the continent’s North, as well as by the traditional European political parties – the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Party of European Socialists (PES). Consequently one of the main political goal of M5S is to rewrite the economic rules. But what could be its political allies to make this possible?

Alliances with EPP or PES are clearly not an option. Perhaps joining the group of European Liberals is bit more conceivable, even though ALDE is also seen as one of the main “traditional” forces which during the 2015 Eurozone crisis imposed austerity on Greece.

Enough austerity!

The Fiscal compact, the Stability and growth pact and their provisions are symbols of what Di Maio’s force wants to oppose in Europe. On their official blog M5S MEPs have started to post a series of articles on austerity, explaining why according to them the “politically correct”

thinking in Brussels is unfeasible and unsustainable. 

“To close this long season of austerity means to make Europe growing again”, according to the M5S envoys in Brussels and Strasbourg. For them, the next European elections will be the opportunity to work even harder for reaching this goal. 

But the question remains: With who?

Password: “change”

M5S is keen to establish a political group with like-minded new forces emerging from the vote of next May. Internal voting autonomy will remain as the main condition of the group to come.

Luigi Di Maio, as political chief, will bear the responsibility of bringing a strong Five Stars delegation into the next European Parliament. True to their faith in the internet, M5S will organise web consultations to determine candidates for the electoral lists, but also with whom they would seat in the next European Parliament.

Against EU hypocrisy

It may sound contradictory, but on migration M5S has been comfortable with its Lega coalition ally. The main difference between the two forces is possibly that Lega is clearly anti-migration, while M5S has been opposing the hypocrisy of other EU countries who haven’t alleviated Italy in sharing the burden.

Regarding the euro, both Lega and M5S no longer speak of return to the Lira, but again, their motivations differ. For Salvini, allied to forces who want to destroy the EU, the position is tactical. The leader of the League simply doesn’t want to alienate an electorate he needs – the business-minded Italians who value the single market and the common EU currency.

For M5S the euro is clearly not an issue any longer. In the past the idea of a referendum to ask the reintroduction of former Italian Lira was invoked, but such a possibility is not on the M5S political agenda any longer. For the Italian economy, M5S has ideas, but they are compatible both with the single market and the single currency.

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