FLORENCE, Italy — As Italy’s leading vote-getters work through the weekend to hammer out a coalition deal — about time, some might add, two months after the election — the EU and Brussels establishments are in a state of heightened anxiety.
A government of the 5Stars (anti-establishment, in media shorthand) and the League (far right, ditto) together, or somehow alone, is unprecedented. Never before in any of the six original EU countries, much less one of its leading powers, have parties deeply skeptical toward the EU grabbed the reins of power. If that happens, the consequences for Italy and the EU could be felt for months and years to come.
But the appetizer has been served. A surprise election outcome that sidelined Italy’s more traditional left and right parties and catapulted this odd couple into the limelight is disrupting European politics in unexpected ways.
Here’s how Italy may yet blow up the EU as we know it.
EU reform is dead, long live …
If the EU elite have understood one thing from Brexit, it is that the EU needs to change. Two years on, that’s where the agreement ends. Italy is poised to be the nail in its coffin — or, perhaps less likely, a shot of adrenaline.
Donald Tusk, who runs the European Council, attempted the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap in September 2016. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker won plaudits for his 2017 Future of Europe white paper, but tanked when six months later he put forward a specific plan that wasn’t mentioned in the initial paper. Emmanuel Macron attempted to start the EU’s traditional Franco-German motor for reform, and kept pushing in his speech accepting the Charlemagne Prize this week; but the French president has found himself blocked by a German election stalemate and then a government in Berlin allergic to ideas like a eurozone finance minister.