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Italian Coalition nominates Russia friendly populist as new PM

There is a storm brewing in Europe, and the winds of disunity and populism are blowing strong

After months of back and forth over getting a majority percentage of the popular vote, the two parties with the highest public backing have come together to nominate a candidate, Giuseppe Conte, to form a new government in Italy and serve as the next PM.

The Coalition has prepared a populist proposal to combat poverty, migration, and relations with Russia, the problem is that it comes with a hefty price tag. With Italy’s swelling debt problem, the plan isn’t viewed with much enthusiasm by other members of the EU.

Also troubling for the European bloc is the fact that sentiments in the Mediterranean country have been running a little counter to its migrant policy, which has brought about its own slew of problems for the nation that once hosted the seat of the Roman Empire.

Additionally, the clash of views surrounding economic cooperation with Russia have been a political hot button for both Italy and EU, where Italy considers better relations with Russia to be an integral part of having a healthier economy as well as avoiding an unnecessary belligerent foreign policy providing little to no benefit, while the EU has taken Washington’s lead in viewing Russia as an evil empire in the making and as a major cause of the bloc’s problems, both regarding the economy and security.

Deutsche Welle reports:

Giuseppe Conte has been chosen by a coalition of two populist parties as its pick to be Italy’s next prime minister. The move could set Italy on a collision course with the EU.

Giuseppe Conte, a 54-year-old law professor and something of a political novice, was named as the pick to be Italy’s next prime minister by Five Star Movement (M5S) leader Luigi Di Maio.

Conte, who was born in the southern province of Foggia and has never been elected to parliament, comes from the M5S side of the coalition.

The now-likely coalition government in Rome made up of the M5S and League parties is on a possible collision course with other EU member states after it announced spending plans likely to increase the country’s already towering public debt.

What is in the coalition deal? The two parties agreed to give monthly payments of at least €780 ($920) to Italians living below the poverty line. The deal also foresees a maximum individual tax rate of 15 percent, while business would pay 20 percent at most. The platform includes the introduction of tougher rules on deporting migrants and calls for fostering dialogue with Russia on economic and foreign policy matters.

Why is the EU concerned? Italy is the third-largest economy in the EU, but is running public debt of more than 130 percent of GDP— second only to Greece. Economists and EU policymakers worry that the spending plans contained in the coalition’s program will increase the country’s debt burden still further. The coalition is also at odds with the EU over its pro-Russian stance and over its euroskeptic attitude, reflected in League leader Matteo Salvini’s “Italians First” motto.

In response to the bloc’s concerns, M5S’s Di Maio said “first let us govern, then you can legitimately criticize us.”

The nomination presents yet another area in which to worry about possible dissension, as popular sentiment, as well as Italian public policy, are increasingly viewing the EU with a degree of distrust. With disparities in economic, security and foreign policy interests, Italy and the EU sit on opposing sides of the table.

The EU worries that Italy could be the next Greece, with threats of an EU exit or default on their debt, together with a refusal to abide by the bloc’s policies on numerous issues, Italy acts as yet another centrifugal force within Western Europe.

With Britain’s upcoming exit from the Union, Poland and Hungary’s disaffection with the bloc’s migration policy, among others, rocky relations with Washington over the Iran nuclear deal, trade tariffs, secondary sanctions, security, and energy issues, there is a storm brewing in Europe, and the winds of disunity and populism are blowing strong.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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