So Giorgia Meloni can still be decisive: the Prime Minister's last card in Europe

So Giorgia Meloni can still be decisive: the Prime Minister’s last card in Europe

Ursula von der Leyen is counting them one by one, to be sure of crossing the threshold of 361 votes. The president-elect of the European Commission is facing the first tough challenge of her (probable) second mandate at the head of the leading institution of the European Union: convincing the greatest number of MEPs to vote confidence in her. The red date on the agenda is July 18, but most of the games are being played in these days preceding the first meeting of the new European Parliament in Strasbourg, the result of the European elections of June 9. On paper, the necessary seats are there, being able to count in theory on the 399 votes available among the ranks of the Popular, Socialist and Liberal parties. The majority she hopes to count on for her encore is however less compact than it seems.

Like Franck Underwood in House of Cards, German politics is calculating every single vote, between sure, probable and impossible, trying to snatch some unexpected yes. The secret ballot foreseen for this type of vote could turn out to be an unexpected guillotine or a lifeline. To cancel out the betrayals of the snipers that were expected, von der Leyen and her team are trying to convince a series of deputies officially outside the majority to support her. In this plot, a supporting role is played by Giorgia Meloni. Isolated by the new far right of Viktor Orban, Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen, as well as that of the Germans of the AfD, the Prime Minister still hopes to be able to be decisive and obtain in exchange the Commissioner she aspires to.

The guillotine of the secret ballot

The key word that resonates through the corridors of the labyrinthine Strasbourg parliament is transparency. MEPs often throw it in the European executive’s face. However, when it comes to voting on names and not on legislative proposals, the criterion of secrecy is also adopted by the Eurochamber. And it is this element that does not let Ursula von der Leyen sleep soundly, appointed by the heads of government of the 27 member states as leader in Brussels, alongside Antonio Costa and Kaja Kallas, but who still needs the vote of the elected representatives. The triad is not appreciated by everyone within the majority parties (EPP, S&D and Renew). The secret vote was designed to protect MEPs from internal and external pressure and interference (party, political group, heads of state). On the other hand, it prevents voters from monitoring EU parliamentarians on the first important decision connected to their role.

Who supports von der Leyen?

The German Christian Democrat representative is making phone calls and meeting in person with numerous MEPs. Outside his EPP (where he also suffered defections in the votes for the law on the restoration of nature), the first challenge is to secure the votes of the diverse socialist group. Elly Schlein’s PD marches confidently alongside him. The Spanish socialists led at home by Pedro Sanchez and in Brussels by Iratxe García Pérez have already tested coexistence with the EPP during the last mandate and do not seem to have too many qualms.

Some doubts remain about the support from the new large group of French socialists of Place Publique, with leader Raphael Glucksmann still engaged in the aftermath of the French elections and in the difficult coexistence with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise. Outside the majority trio, last week von der Leyen received a yes from the Greens, sealed on social X by co-president Terry Reintke. From Italy, Angelo Bonelli of the Alleanza Verdi Sinistra (Avs) also confirmed that an EU majority, without Orban’s Patriots and Meloni’s conservatives, does not leave them “indifferent”.

The far right in opposition

Certainly outside the fold of supporters should be the radical left of The Left, which Antonio Conte’s Five Stars have just joined, albeit with reservations. The hard and pure opposition to von der Leyen is promised by the Patriots, the new political family created by Viktor Orban, who has gathered around himself Jordan Bardella’s Rassemblement National (recently elected president) and Matteo Salvini’s League (with Vannacci as vice-president). The newly-formed group announced by Alternative for Germany and Tomio Okamura’s Czech party SPD should be even further to the right.

Orbán and Salvini out of the game: Meloni also in the anti-Patriots “sanitary cordon”

If the birth of this political family is confirmed, the right-wing bloc would be divided into three pieces at this point. The only one that von der Leyen could try to pull towards her is that of the Reformists and Conservatives (Ecr) led by Giorgia Meloni. The leader of Fratelli d’Italia, disappointed by her exclusion from the negotiations for top jobs, still hopes to accredit herself as the moderate axis of the European right, despite the scandals linked to the Fanpage investigation into its ruling class.

The fireman Tajani

Von der Leyen does not despise ECR’s votes, nor its policies (see immigration). And a “liquid majority” would be convenient for her, but ECR’s support, even if external, is not gaining popularity among her allies. “Let’s be clear: Ursula von der Leyen must give up on agreements with the far right, including ECR”, wrote the liberal group of Renew Europe on X, while the meeting with the President of the EU Commission was still underway on 10 July. She reiterated that there will be no “structural cooperation” with ECR. In short, the door is ajar, but far from sealed. Meloni has more than a stone in her shoe, after being excluded from the small group of EU leaders who decided on the nominations for top jobs in Brussels.

Antonio Tajani, who managed to keep the late Berlusconi’s party alive in these European elections, is acting as a mediator between Meloni and von der Leyen. He has been working silently for weeks to guarantee a Commissioner for the Italian right, acting as a “fireman” with respect to the heated insinuations of Salvini, who had shouted about a “European coup” after the top job nominations. Having ruled out that the Commissioner could be from Fratelli d’Italia or the Lega, the Foreign Minister is preparing the ground for a representative of Forza Italia. A conquest that would strengthen the Forza Italia group both among the Popular Party and within the government in Rome. We are not sure that it is also convenient for Meloni.