EU President von der Leyen to Italy's rights: "We have tools"

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Leyen's authority has already initiated a number of so-called infringement proceedings against Hungary and Poland and has also filed complaints with the European Court of Justice.

(Photo: AP)

Princeton, Rome EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has direction Italy Consequences indicated should the right-wing parties there violate democratic principles of the EU in an election victory. At the US University of Princeton, the German politician said on Thursday when a student asked if she had any concerns about the elections in Italy, especially since some candidates in Rome had ties to Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin: "We'll see. If things go in a difficult direction - I've already talked about Hungary and Poland - then we have tools.”

Von der Leyen's authority has already initiated a number of so-called infringement proceedings against the two states and has also filed complaints with the European Court of Justice. Because it also sees the risk of misuse of EU funds in Hungary, the EU Commission recently also proposed freezing 7.5 billion euros from the EU budget earmarked for Hungary.

Matteo Salvini, the head of the right-wing populist Lega, reacted indignantly to von der Leyen's comment and called it "a shabby threat". Von der Leyen represents all Europeans, "we all pay their salaries," said the former interior minister in a TV interview on Friday. He spoke of a "disgusting and arrogant threat".

The Lega MPs in the European Parliament announced that they wanted to have the incident checked, as the Ansa news agency wrote. "The President of the European Commission must apologize and respect the vote of the Italians," they demanded.

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The Lega is running in an alliance with the right-wing national party Fratelli d'Italia and the conservative Forza Italy in the elections on Sunday. According to polls, the bloc is well ahead of the centre-left and center parties. Fratelli's Giorgia Meloni could become the new prime minister, the strongest single party according to polls. She is considered extremely critical of the EU.

According to pollsters, a victory for the right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni of the post-fascist Fratelli d'Italia has become slightly less likely. Although polls are banned shortly before the parliamentary elections this Sunday, seven pollsters polled by Reuters see the center-left party (PD) around lead candidate Enrico Letta and the 5-star movement of former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on the rise.

>> Read also: If she wins the election on Sunday, Italy's EU membership will be in jeopardy. A comment.

"You shouldn't rule out anything," said the head of the opinion research institute Eumetra, Renato Mannheimer. "I would estimate the probability of a right-wing majority at 60 to 65 percent." Three weeks ago it was about 80 percent.

At the time the survey stopped on September 10, most researchers put the “Italian brothers” ahead with about 24 percent. The entire right-wing bloc, which includes former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and ex-Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's Lega, was seen at about 46 percent. According to experts, the 5-Star Movement in particular has caught up recently and could overtake the Lega as the third-strongest party. "Conte ran a very good election campaign and hardly did anything wrong," said the head of the agency EMG Different, Fabrizio Masia.

Italy: Victory of centre-right likely to be difficult to avoid

However, most pollsters agree that the split between the 5-Star Movement and the PD is reducing both parties' chances of winning a third of the first-past-the-post parliamentary seats. It is expected that these seats will go almost entirely to the united right. The rest of the seats are allocated by proportional representation.

"Even the growth of the 5 Star Movement, if not phenomenal, does not seem enough to prevent a victory for the centre-right," said Lorenzo Pregliasco, head of YouTrend agency. EMG researcher Masia said the Conservatives could only be stopped if, in addition to the 5 Star Movement, the center party should also get "Action" around ten percent and take away from the right. Before the polls were suspended, "Action" was about 6.5 percent.

The choice is necessary because of the earlier ECB-President Mario Draghi resigned in July after breaking his broad coalition government after around a year and a half in office as prime minister. However, he is still in office. President Sergio Mattarella then paved the way for new elections by decreeing the dissolution of both houses of parliament. This made it necessary to vote within 70 days.

More: Giorgia Meloni – This radical right wants to rule Italy

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