Open Europe Blog

Italian Lega Nord party’s opposition to the euro is clearly not limited to two nostalgic MPs organising a rally where the Italian lira is used as the official currency. Call it political opportunity, but since Lega Nord is no longer in government, it has stepped up its anti-euro rhetoric by several notches.

Roberto Maroni (see picture) – the party’s recently appointed Secretary General and a former Italian Interior Minister – made some very interesting remarks in an interview with La Repubblica (available here).

He said,

“At the end of August, we will submit to the Court of Cassation [Italy’s supreme court] a citizens’ initiative for a legislative proposal to hold a consultative [i.e. not legally binding] referendum on the same day as the 2013 elections, in which Italian citizens can have their say on the euro. I want to collect millions of signatures, and I can guarantee that our initiative is not an isolated one in Europe.” 

“Listening to the people is no blasphemy. In any case, it would be a consultative referendum. My objective would be for such a referendum to be held in all [eurozone] member states before the 2014 European elections. This is why I am going to meet the euro-critics in other EU member states.” 

So what would happen if the ‘no’ camp were to win (which, according to recent opinion polls, looks unlikely at the moment)? This is Maroni’s thought-provoking idea,

“New scenarios would open up. What I would like to see is a new eurozone with Northern Italy in the euro. But in order to get there, a referendum is needed first. The most important thing is that democracy should decide, not bureaucracy.” 

However, Maroni’s position sounds rather confused. On the one hand, keeping only Northern Italy in a ‘new eurozone’ would entail splitting the country first (which, by the way, remains the primary aim of some Lega Nord members). On the other hand, Maroni also seems to suggest that Italy would not face mayhem outside the single currency. He argues,

“Great Britain taught us a great lesson with the Olympics. Someone must explain to me why that country is so strong outside the euro, whereas Italy outside the single currency would be a catastrophe…Anyway, our vision is not anti-European, but neo-European. And we are the only ones who have it.” 

On a more general note about the future of European integration, Maroni said,

“The analysis [Lega Nord] made more than ten years ago turned out to be correct. Europe has failed. We are not going towards the United States of Europe envisaged by Carlo Cattaneo and Altiero Spinelli, but rather towards a single state which has all the characteristics of Hobbes’ Leviathan.” 

“I agree with what the Bavarian Minister-President [Horst Seehofer, who also featured on our blog recently] has said. People don’t want a European super-state…One thing is certain: the political union supported by the élites has turned out to be a fantasy of poets [this expression should sound familiar to the readers of our daily press summary, see here], and a denial of democracy. This [happens] because the bureaucracies rule.”

Pretty strong words to say on the Ferragosto bank holiday, with many Italians (including Mario Monti) enjoying their summer break. It is too early to say how far Lega Nord can get with this initiative. According to the Italian constitution, 50,000 signatures are required to submit a citizens’ initiative – a number Lega Nord should be able to collect easily. However, the draft bill then needs to get parliamentary approval to become law – which looks much more difficult to achieve.

Nonetheless, the initiative in itself is politically quite significant. Furthermore, it will be very interesting to see how many Italians will sign up to it – we can see the number going well beyond the legally required threshold of 50,000.

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