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Meloni contests ‘undemocratic’ EU top jobs talks, mulling abstention

“It seems to me that, so far, there's been an unwillingness to account for the message delivered by citizens at the ballot box,” Giorgia Meloni told the country's Parliament.
“It seems to me that, so far, there's been an unwillingness to account for the message delivered by citizens at the ballot box,” Giorgia Meloni told the country's Parliament. Copyright Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse
Copyright Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse
By Gerardo Fortuna
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Exclusion from a preliminary deal to allocate the bloc's top jobs following June's elections has enraged Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni who’s now considering formally abstaining from the decision, according to media reports.

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An agreement brokered over the EU top jobs in the wake of last week’s informal summit without Italy’s involvement has triggered the ire of premier Giorgia Meloni, who was considered to have earned the role of ‘kingmaker’ in the process after the positive performance of her Brothers of Italy party at the EU elections.

The announcement of a preliminary deal brokered yesterday by representatives of the European People's Party (EPP), the socialists, and the liberals came as a bolt out of the blue for the Italian government which did not receive the news well.

Meloni has openly contested the selection method “in which a few people claim to decide for everyone” speaking today before the country’s Parliament ahead of an EU leaders summit convening in Brussels to decide on the issue.

“No true democrat who believes in popular sovereignty can in his or her heart consider it acceptable that in Europe there was an attempt to negotiate on top positions even before the people went to the polls,” she said of the process.

According to Italy’s prime minister, the latest agreement overrides the logic of consensus on which most decisions at the EU level have always been based by not including “those on the opposite political side and those of nations considered too small to be worthy to sit at the tables that count.”

She said she considered it “surreal” that during last week's informal meeting, names were proposed for top posts as the result of bilateral talks between parties, “without even the pretence of an open discussion, based on how citizens had spoken at the ballot box.”

“It seems to me that, so far, there's been an unwillingness to account for the message delivered by citizens at the ballot box,” she added commenting on the substance of the deal.

For Meloni, EU citizens asked for a change of tack by rejecting policies pursued by governing forces “in many of the large European nations, which are also very often the forces that have dictated the Union's policies in recent years,” she said, in a thinly veiled reference to Germany and France, which brokered the EU top jobs deal.

Isolated within the European Council, Meloni is now considering a dramatic response, including abstaining from the final decision on the EU top jobs to be taken in the upcoming European Council set to begin tomorrow, Italian media outlets have reported.

According to the EU treaties, such a decision can be taken by qualified majority – but by convention, leaders seek consensus when appointing top positions.

Meloni’s abstention could cause political fragmentation as a result for the exclusion of Italy from the talks. “Decisions could have been postponed until the summit starting tomorrow to show more respect for a founding EU member state,” sources within the Italian government told Italy’s daily Corriere della Sera.

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was part of the talks, was tasked with informing Meloni about the outcome but, according to La Stampa, she never picked up the phone. Other media outlet reports that Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen will personally negotiate with Meloni to garner the support of the 24 Brothers of Italy MEPs for her reappointment in a Strasbourg plenary set for the middle of next month.

Italy is expected to get a Commission vice-presidency and a relevant portfolio in exchange for its support for the top jobs package. But Meloni warned that she will “simply ask [for this] in return for a role that Italy is rightfully entitled to”.

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