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Both Salvini and Di Maio want a group of their own in EP, but is this possible?

The leader of the League, Matteo Salvini (left side) and the leader of the Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio [personal archive]

They are more and more divided, the two ruling parties of Italy, and their respective leaders. Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio are testing the limit of their coalition, which is not planned at EU level, and unless a last minute U-turn, will not be replicated in the next European Parliament. There, the League and the Five Star Movement (M5S) have always been divided. Salvini’s party sits in the Europe of Nations and Freedom group (ENF), while Di Maio’s Movement finds its place in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group (EFDD). None of them has the intention of forming a common group in the upcoming legislature.

On the contrary, Salvini is working to steal M5S their current allies. The captain himself showed his cards during the press conference held the day after the European elections. “Nigel Farage’s Brexit party will be part of our group”, the leader of the League told the press. Furthermore he announced that Marco Zullo, a former Five-Star converted to the League, has been chosen to strike the deal with the anti-EU British MEPs.

End of the line for EFDD?

Jonathan Bullock, a Brexit party MEP, clarified that the preferred option would be remaining part of the EFDD group. Yet, the group is in trouble. It is not clear whether it will be possible to keep it alive, since its components weren’t confirmed. So far, only two out of the current members were capable to have candidates elected: M5S (Italy) and Brexit party (UK). It misses MEPs from other six EU member States (in order to form a group seven different countries must be represented, and on the top of that, the British MEPs are supposed to leave at the end of October because of Brexit).

Human Shield (Zivi Zid) from Croatia got one seat, and this party was one of the political forces Di Maio has been working with in order to keep the EFDD group alive. It won’t be an easy task, with only one month at disposal. There are possible options among the new non-affiliated parties, such as Vox (Spain, 4 seats), Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (Lithuania, 2 seats), Greek solution (Greece, 1 seat), Hungary (Jobbik, 1 seat), DUP (United Kingdom, 1 seat), Mislav Kolakušić (independent, Croatia).

Salvini already formally with his group

On the other hand Salvini has already launched the big family of sovereignist, anti-EU political forces. Along the way he lost the allies from Bulgaria (Volya) and the Netherlands (PVV), both incapable to bring at least 1 MEP. But ‘the captain’ stole from M5S Alternative fur Deutschland (Germany) and recruited the far-right Germans into the European Alliance of People and Nations (EAPN). So far for this group the situation in terms of members is the following: the League (Italy), Rassemblement National (France), Alternative fur Deutschland (Germany), Vlaams Belang (Belgium), Freedom Party (Austria), People’s party (Denmark), Freedon and direct democracy (Czech republic), the Finns (Finland, coming from the ECR).

Salvini & Co. apparently already are in the position of forming a group. However, Denmark can contribute with just one MEP, Finland and the Czech Republic with two each. In case of a defection the group would be at stake. That’s why having the British on board would be key.

Final official results still have to be announced in Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia, where EAPN has affiliated parties (EKRE, Sme Rodina and SNS respectively). That means there is still a strong possibility to get the party number seven. Meanwhile, Salvini’s men from the League are active to make sure of getting their group.

The Brexiteers’ dilemma and the sorrows of young Di Maio

It doesn’t matter how long the pro-Brexit and anti-EU MEPs from the United Kingdom will stay. The most important thing for Nigel Farage’s troops is to have visibility, as much as they can. For them having a political group in the next European Parliament is key. By having a group they can have more money and speaking time than the not-attached members. They need to be noisy and be on the front pages of all newspapers in order to get the highest attention possible. For such a reason a group is essential.

The fact that EFDD is in trouble makes the situation more complicated for the Brexiteers. Farage is apparently tempted to say goodbye to his friend Luigi di Maio. The Brit told Salvini that in case the EAPN presidency is given to the Brexit party, he is ready to consider the possibility of joining. Of course Salvini doesn’t like such an option.

How can Di Maio keep alive his partnership with Farage? He has nothing to offer him. While the League made its political moves bringing tangible results, the Movement shows up empty-handed. That makes difficult for Farage not to take into account Salvini’s offering.

Of course, if Farage comes to Salvini’s coalition, the Movement would be obliged to move as well. The Greens closed the door to any alliance with the Five Stars, who are now likely doomed to having nothing but the EAPN option for their future. Unless they decide to join the ECR group.

Being in coalition with Salvini would mean for the Five Stars being once more the underdog of the Italian tandem, exactly as it is in Italy, where the League is the real ruling party and M5S the sparring partner. A double humiliation.

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