It was another exciting week in Strasbourg. Not only did MEPs from across the political spectrum race to show righteous anger at Donald Trump, the president of new protectionism, but they saw the fall (and rise) of two EU governments in the space of a few days.
While Parliament focused on the next long-term budget and its impact on regional policy (meaning money to less developed regions), Italy and Spain - two countries that are supposed to get more funding from Cohesion in the years to come - saw their political fortunes take a rollercoaster ride.
In an unexpected twist, Italy's election winners, Five Star and Lega, went back to the drawing board after President Sergio Matarella dismissed their first attempt and reached a deal to form a coalition government, led by political novice Giuseppe Conte.
MEPs interviewed by EURACTIV before the news was announced said Europe should not be afraid of a Lega-M5S coalition in office.
“It is not a secret that we are very critical towards Europe,” M5S MEP Tiziana Beghin said.
However, she insisted, “we have worked for four years here in Parliament and everybody knows how proactive and how constructive we can be, with the aim to improve Europe and to improve the response of this institutions to the needs of the citizens”.
One of the main concerns in Brussels is whether the new government might lead Italy out of the Eurozone. But Beghin insisted it was not their intention.
However, Roberto Gualtieri, MEP from the outgoing Democratic Party, is indeed concerned about the impact the new government might have on Italy’s position in Europe.
“We said since the beginning that an outcome of the elections making those parties stronger and weakening our party, our government, would make Italy weaker in all the negotiation tables,” and this, Gualtieri argues, is bad for Italy and for the EU.
Nevertheless, the social-democrat MEP warned that the government might not last long.
“If this government will pursue a programme of social injustice, like the flat tax, unsustainable finances and adventures like double currency, the people will send them home,” Gualtieri said. “We will not leave the euro because Italians do not want that.”
In Spain, a history of sorts was also made, after five deputies of Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) said they would support a motion of no confidence on conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, weakened by corruption scandals in his own party.
Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez is thus set to become the first politician to oust a prime minister through a no-motion vote, which is scheduled for today (1 June).
With a concise “C’est fini” (it is over), socialist MEP Javi López reacted to PNV’s announcement.
“Today we avoid the first obstacle on a path towards change in our country,” tweeted Podemos MEP Tania González. “I am excited with the possibility of a new horizon.”
In opposition to the left-wing parties’ excitement, Estebal González Pons, chair of the PP delegation in the European Parliament, attacked Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez for the support he got for the vote, including the Basque and Catalan deputies.
“If Puigdemont is happy for Sánchez to become President, it is because it can’t be good for Spain,” González said. Carles Puigdemont, the deposed Catalan leader now in exile in Germany, has been Rajoy’s arch-enemy and was indicted for his role in Catalonia’s independence referendum in October.