‘Uncertain Italy election could increase anti-migration sentiment’

Political instability in Italy might create migration issues, eurozone trouble, according to former foreign minister George Vella and economist Philip von Brockdorff

MS5 founder Beppe Grillo (left) with his party’s candidate for prime minister, 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio
MS5 founder Beppe Grillo (left) with his party’s candidate for prime minister, 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio

Malta should hope for Matteo Renzi to lead the next Italian government, former foreign affairs minister George Vella told MaltaToday.

As Italy enters an election campaign and the maverick Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle) appears as a frontrunner, Vella said it would be best for Malta to see a coalition led by Renzi’s Democratic Party, as Malta had a good relationship with the ex-premier and current Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

“It however looks very likely that there would be no clear winner in the election, nor is it possible to say for certain which types of coalitions could be formed,” Vella said.

Asked about the possible impact of the Italian elections in March on the migration situation, Vella said that if the Northern League and other right-wing parties received a lot of support in the election, this could increase existing anti-immigration sentiments in Europe.

Echoing Vella’s sentiments, economist Philip von Brockdorff said that an uncertain Italian electoral result would affect Malta in terms of the migration.

Big amici: Joseph Muscat (left) with Matteo Renzi
Big amici: Joseph Muscat (left) with Matteo Renzi

“It is in Malta’s interest to have a stable government in Italy, but it doesn’t seem like this will be the case,” he said.

“Migrants from Africa are currently all being taken in by Italy. Parties like the Five Star Movement, which is currently the most popular in Italy, are creating anti-European Union views which will create political instability in the Mediterranean, with an effect on Malta,” von Brockdorff maintained.

Vella explained that there were already ongoing anti-migration efforts in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Austria.

A rise in right-wing party support in Italy, a country which takes on large quantities of migrants, come the March election, would mean the European Union should seriously rethink its stance on migration, given that a substantial number of countries in Europe would then have rightist parties with a role in government, he said.

“It is difficult to predict exactly what will happen. Even if the DP manages to be elected, it is not certain Renzi will be prime minister, due to party infighting,” Vella highlighted.

But it is not just migration that has observers worried. Political instability in Italy, the eurozone’s third-largest economy, would create economic uncertainty within the euro area too, von Brockdorff said.

“The Italian economy hasn’t yet fully recovered from the 2008 economic crisis, so prospects aren’t good for Italy and the euro. The value of our common currency could decrease vis-à-vis other currencies such as the United States dollar,” he said.

“If the euro weakens, that means things like purchasing energy will cost more for Malta,” he added.

The economist also explained how the current EU economic recovery was very fragile, and one could not exclude that another economic crisis could be on the way, albeit possibly not as deep as the 2008 one.

Both Vella and von Brockdorff said that the situation in Germany, where a likely coalition between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and Martin Schulz’s Social Democratic Party could take months to form, would only serve to compound issues within the EU.

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