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“+Europa”: the new italian Liberal-Democratic challenge against populism

In this contribution, ALDE Individual Member and relevant blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini speaks about the birth of ‘+ Europa’, a new list promoted by former EU Commissioner Emma Bonino, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Benedetto Della Vedova, and the movement of Radicali Italiani. The list intends to constitute a common point of reference for Italian radical liberals, liberal-democrats and reformists alike. +Europa’s ambition is running for the political elections of 2018.

+Europa is an Italian liberal-democratic list which intends to offer an alternative to growing populism and represent the Italians voters who embrace the ambitious project of constructing the United States of Europe. Through +Europa, radical liberals and liberal-democrats are determined to regain the seats in the Italian Parliament that they have been missing for a long time. The promoters of +Europa are the historical leader of Radicali Italiani Emma Bonino, former EU Commissioner and former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and founder of the pro- European Union movement ‘Forza Europa’; Andrea Mazziotti, current chairman of the Commission for Constitutional Affairs, formerly member of ‘Scelta Civica’ and now of ‘Civici e Innovatori; and, finally, the movement of Radicali Italiani led by secretary Riccardo Magi. On November 23rd, the presentation of +Europa, a list whose vision is eloquently conveyed by the ‘+E’ symbol with which it will compare on the voting papers, was held in Rome.

Riccardo Magi introduced the vision behind the list by explaining that “today’s distinctions are no longer between right and left, or between conservatives and reformists; but among those who believe that social and economic problems can be solved by closing within national borders and by resorting to neo-nationalism, and those who think that we must build an open society and re-launching the process of European integration.”. He went on to explain how the challenge implied in this vision is “fighting the clichés about Europe shared by most of Italian party leaders, according to which Europe is a ‘bad stepmother’.” Until those leaders will continue exploiting and disseminating these stereotypes, Magi concluded, “+Europa can only be and will remain an independent list. ” “The European Union is the only place where we want to stay”, added Emma Bonino, “since more Europe means more peace, more security, more rights, more growth, more culture, and more freedom.” She then reminded that the European Commission has always had solid arguments to criticize the management of Italian public finances, and that the ‘bonus policy’ promoted by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, as well as the agreement the current government made with Libya on migrants, were all serious mistakes. +Europa shall not be approached as the list of Radicali Italiani only though.  As Carmelo Palma, one of the early proponents of the list, explains, “The list represents all liberal-democratic, secular, pro-European Union and anti-populist Italian voters”. Those same voters were so far represented by a constellation of movements – like ‘Scelta Civica’ and ‘Fare per fermare il declino’ – who can now find, in +Europa, a common political platform.

One main obstacle to the parliamentary representation of +Europa exists though. The Italian electoral law requires, to any political movement not already represented in the Parliament, to collect a minimum number of validated signatures in each and all constituencies. For +Europa, this requirement comes down to collecting 50,000 signatures . That is why a campaign aimed at recruiting voters willing to undersign the list, as well as validating the signatures of others, was promptly launched by Radicali Italiani and by the several liberal associations that gravitate around +Europa. “It’s an uphill ride”, explains Carmelo Palma, “especially considering that due to the approval of the new electoral law in October 2017, all constituencies themselves shall be first formally constituted; only then, which means around mid-December, we could start with the collection of signatures. This means that we will have 45 days in total to collect 50,000 signatures throughout the whole country.” The stringency of this requirement has led Emma Bonino, Benedetto Della Vedova and Riccardo Magi to submit a formal request to Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to lower the quota of signatures necessary for presenting +Europa among all other candidate-lists. Whilst Gentiloni’s position in regard is yet unknown, liberal activists continue to campaign for empowering +Europa to run at the next political elections.

Emanuele Lombardini

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