‘Friends of Putin’ poll win big risk to EU

ROME, Italy (AFP) — A victory for Italy’s hard-right parties in the 25 September elections would present a “big risk” to the European Union, former premier and Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta warned in an interview with AFP.

The alliance comprising Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is polling at more than 46 percent ahead of the vote, compared to around 30 percent who back Letta and his left-wing allies.

Italy “runs a big risk if it puts itself in the hands of friends of Trump and Putin,” Letta said, referring to Meloni’s admiration of former United States president Donald Trump and Salvini and Berlusconi’s historic ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

This was also a risk for the EU, as “there has never been a major European country governed by political forces so clearly against the idea of a community of Europe,” the 56-year-old said at his party’s headquarters in central Rome.

By contrast, for the Democratic Party, “our idea of Europe is an idea of cooperation, of solidarity, of decisions taken by the majority, without someone like (Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor) Orban every time using his veto and blocking decisions.”

The right-wing coalition has pledged to press for reform of the EU and more immediately, to revise Italy’s plans for spending almost 200 billion euros in post-pandemic recovery funds.

Moscow’s bet

Italy’s elections come at a sensitive moment. Russia’s war in Ukraine has brought about an energy crisis and soaring inflation is squeezing businesses and households still recovering from the devastation of coronavirus.

Letta has warned repeatedly that Moscow is seeking to interfere in Italy’s politics, notably by cutting supplies of energy on a country heavily reliant on Russian gas.

“It’s obvious that Moscow is pushing for a right-wing victory in Italy,” Letta said.

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