Italy’s election is a political risk for the EU, economic commissioner warns

Italy's election is a political risk for the EU, economic commissioner warns
European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP
The upcoming general election in Italy is one of the "political risks" facing the European Union, according to the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Pierre Moscovici.

Moscovici began his remarks at a Paris press conference by saying he “has faith” in Italy's economic recovery.

He acknowledged the high level of public debt in the Mediterranean nation and said that further reforms were needed, but praised the measures which have already been introduced and have led to a slight fall in debt levels.

“Italy is like a cat; it always lands on its feet,” he quipped. The country last August posted its best annual economic growth figures since 2011.

However, the commissioner went on to say that the uncertain outcome of the Italian general election scheduled for March 4th posed a “political risk” for the EU.

“What majority will emerge from the vote? What programme? What commitment to Europe?” Moscovici said.

Both the Five Star Movement (M5S), which is currently leading polls, and the Northern League, a junior ally in a centre-right coalition, have long called for a referendum on euro membership, though both have toned down their anti-EU stances in the run-up to the election.
But of the major parties, only the ruling Democratic Party, weakened from internal rifts and splits over the past year, is firmly pro-EU. And even that party is taking an ever stronger line in calling for reforms. 

At Tuesday's press conference, Moscovici also touched on recent comments from Attilio Fontana, a centre-right-backed candidate running to be president of Lombardy, who on Sunday spoke of the need to protect “our white race” from migration. Fontana later said the phrase was a “slip of the tongue” and that he had meant to say “our history and our society”.

The EU commissioner described the remark as “scandalous” and urged voters to tackle “illiberal, racist, extremist parties”.