‘Italy WILL be hostile to EU’ – Rise in populism is new threat to Macron’s vision

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Emmanuel Macron is pushing for greater European integration

Mr Macron, who defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen France’s presidential election last year, wants the EU to harmonise its tax policies, establish a minimum wage in every country and a Brussels-appointed eurozone finance minister and a separate budget for countries with the common currency.

But the rising support for anti-establishment parties across Europe — seen most recently in Italy’s general election last week — is putting Mr Macron’s proposals in jeopardy.

Danielle Haralambous, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), said: “Half of the Italian electorate supported anti-establishment parties.

“Independently of who forms the next government, it will be hostile towards the European Union.”

Last Sunday’s election in Italy resulted in a hung parliament, with the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) becoming the biggest single party and strong support for the right-wing Lega party.

Italian politicians will soon start negotiations to form a new government but it is clear that M5S and Lega – which both want to renegotiate the EU’s fiscal rules and increase public spending – will have a strong presence in future policy-making.

Lega leader Matteo Salvini branded the euro a “German currency” and said it had been a mistake for the Italian economy.

Matteo Salvini told supporters the euro was a ‘mistake’

Mr Macron’s proposals are based on a higher-level of risk-sharing between the 19 countries in the eurozone and this a sensitive issue for countries like Germany and Holland who do not want their finances dragged down by neighbours with extreme high levels of debt.

There are also growing voices of opposition to Mr Macron’s dreams of further integration in different capitals across the eurozone.

Italy’s populist Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio

Finance ministers of eight European countries, including Ireland, the Netherlands and Finland, wrote a letter earlier this month arguing that member states should focus on “implementing structural reforms” and “respecting” European fiscal rules — which stipulate ceilings for deficit and public debt — rather than promote changes at the European level.

Although the new German government is expected to support the push for further eurozone reforms, new measures will also have to be approved by other countries.

Speaking last week, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “It’s not a French-German Europe.”

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