Pop­ulist Ital­ian coali­tion set to chal­lenge ‘shak­ing’ Europe

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Nick Squires in Rome

ITALY edged to­wards the for­ma­tion of a pop­ulist, Euroscep­tic gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day af­ter the Five Star Move­ment and the hard-right League said they were mak­ing good progress in talks.

If a deal can be reached, it will mark the first time that a found­ing mem­ber of the Euro­pean project is led by pop­ulist, anti-eu par­ties.

“Italy will be­come a sort of lab­o­ra­tory of pop­ulism, ca­pa­ble of alarm­ing our neigh­bours and al­lies,” the daily La Repub­blica said in a front-page ed­i­to­rial.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions were due to con­tinue over the week­end and a new gov­ern­ment could be an­nounced on Mon­day af­ter Ital­ian pol­i­tics had been paral­ysed since an in­con­clu­sive gen­eral elec­tion on March 4.

If the par­ties can forge an al­liance, they would present a big chal­lenge to the EU just as its en­er­gies are fo­cused on Brexit.

The League wants to ditch the euro as Italy’s cur­rency and both par­ties have blamed Brus­sels for eco­nomic pain caused by aus­ter­ity poli­cies and for not do­ing enough to help with the mi­grant cri­sis in the Mediter­ranean.

With the pop­ulist par­ties seem­ingly on the verge of tak­ing power, Italy’s pres­i­dent warned that the EU was fac­ing un­prece­dented chal­lenges but that Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion should con­tinue.

The Euro­pean ed­i­fice is “shak­ing” and needs ur­gent main­te­nance, Ser­gio Mattarella told a con­fer­ence out­side Florence.

But he also said it was folly to imag­ine that Europe’s prob­lems could be dealt with at “only the na­tional level”.

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