Daily Press Summary
Anti-euro comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement becomes largest party in Italian elections upset; Consensus emerges among political leaders that re-run elections must be avoided
Uncertainty over Italy’s political future has erupted after the general elections failed to deliver a clear majority in the Italian Senate – the upper house of the Italian parliament. The centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani won a narrow majority in the Lower House, beating Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition by less than 0.4%. The Secretary-General of Berlusconi’s party, Angelino Alfano, has suggested that the votes be recounted given the narrow gap between the two blocs. In a major upset, the Five-Star Movement – led by anti-euro comedian Beppe Grillo – emerged as the largest single party in the lower house, with over 25% of support, and the second-largest party in the Senate, where he won 23.8% of votes. Outgoing PM Mario Monti was the biggest loser, with his party getting less than 10% of votes in both houses.
Bersani is likely to be the first tasked with forming the new government but without a majority in the Senate re-run elections are a possibility. However, late last night and this morning, there seemed to be a consensus emerging amongst the big parties that immediate re-run elections should be avoided. Silvio Berlusconi told Canale 5 this morning that a new vote “is not useful” at this stage. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano should start consultations shortly, though the official talks over who will form the next government will not start until March 15 when the Italian parliament reconvenes. Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta appeared on Euronews and Sky News discussing the first results of the elections. Vincenzo is also quoted by Deutsche Welle, while Open Europe’s Director Mats Persson is quoted by the Telegraph saying that “a majority of Italians have clearly voted against the Brussels consensus”. Open Europe is also quoted by the Telegraph live blog and the Express.
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Open Europe Chairman Lord Leach appeared on BBC Radio 4 discussing the foundation of Open Europe and its forerunner, the campaign group Business for Sterling, noting that business attitudes to the EU have grown more sceptical upon hearing the arguments against greater integration.
BBC Radio 4
French Finance Minister rejects Cameron’s EU strategy
City AM quotes French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici as saying, “It is for the UK to decide if it wants more integration with Europe – an increasingly integrated core is not a threat to the UK, but if it wants to be semi-detached it will lose clout in Europe and internationally.” Speaking to an audience in the City yesterday, he warned renegotiation may not be an option, saying, “Other countries should not be expected to accept piecemeal application of the rules.”
Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann called on France to stick to its deficit targets yesterday, saying, it is “particularly important for the heavyweights [in the eurozone], to give clear signals, which boost the credibility of fiscal rules and agreements”.
Weidmann speech Bloomberg Reuters NYT FT CityAM CNBC
In a joint statement, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici declared that discussions on a Cypriot bailout “should resume shortly with a view to reach an agreement before the end of March.”
Joint Statement Süddeutsche CityAM
The Guardian reports that the Home Office is considering introducing a mandatory ID card scheme for EU nationals coming to the UK for more than three months. The residence cards would allow migrants to access public services, including welfare benefits.
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The FT reports that the payback of the ECB’s Long Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO) highlights the on-going fragmentation in eurozone financial markets, as stronger northern banks repay some funds while weaker southern ones continue to be reliant on ECB funding.
Spain is facing a showdown with the EU over its plan to merge numerous regulatory agencies, including the telecoms and energy regulators, which the Commission has suggested would break EU telecoms laws.
Dutch opposition parties have called on Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to clarify how much the Netherlands will pay into the EU budget 2014-2020.
The German media reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Turkey has been marked by deadlock on a number of difficult issues, including Turkey’s EU accession process. Merkel, who has previously backed a "privileged partnership" as opposed to full membership, noted that failure to agree on the Ankara Protocol, which would see Turkey opening its ports to goods from Cyprus, was holding up Turkey's membership ambitions.
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Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski is today chairing a meeting of the Polish Cabinet dealing specifically with the government’s strategy for joining the eurozone. Rzeczpospolita cites Komorowski as saying that it would be better to avoid setting a date for Poland’s entry and instead set a date for the completion of the Maastrict eurozone accession criteria.
Rzeczpospolita Polskie Radio TVN
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša’s centre-right coalition government is under threat ahead of a vote of confidence on 27 February after the People’s Party’s withdrew from his government.
Die Welt reports that following yesterday’s EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych pledged to implement political reforms by May in order to complete the signing of an association agreement between the two parties in the autumn. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso President also promised €610m of EU aid to help Ukraine deal with its deficit problem.