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Italy clashes with EU leaders may cost it with European Commission post

08 Jun 2019, 01:50 ( 10 days ago)

By Eric J. Lyman, Xinhua
File Photo Xinhua.

Over the last year, Italy has clashed with the European Commission over the country's deficit and spending plans. Soon, the country will discover if those problems will cost it in terms of representation on the commission itself, analysts said.

   Last month, citizens across the 28-nation European Union voted for 751 members of the new European Parliament. Next, each member state will nominate a representative to the European Commission and then the members of the European Parliament will decide the role each will take.

   For the past five years, Italian Federica Mogherini has been the commissioner for foreign affairs and vice-president of the commission.

   According to Lorenzo Castellani, a professor specializing in the history of political institutions at Rome's LUISS University, Italy would probably like to have its representative to the commission appointed to another top role.

   Most likely, Italy will push for an area where it can promote the government's political priorities, such as a commissioner with a portfolio related to economic policy, European integration, or migration.

   All three are areas where the Italian government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has repeatedly clashed with the European Commission.

   "Italy could end up with a smaller role than it should be based on the size of the economy and the country's population," Castellani told Xinhua. "If lawmakers vote to put Italy's representative in a second-tier position or one far from the government's main priorities, I think we could see a conflict."

   According to Lucio Levi, a political analyst with the Einstein Center for International Studies in Turin, a smaller role for Italy's representative on the European Commission would be in line with recent trends.

   "Thanks to the government's controversial policies, Italy's role has been diminished already," Levi said in an interview. "Italy has isolated itself within the European Union and so it has less influence than it should have. A diminished role in the European Commission would not be out of line."

   Last year, Italy locked horns with the Commission over the size of the country's budget deficit for eight weeks before agreeing to a compromise. Now, Italy faces the prospect of fines for not respecting the terms of the compromise agreement.

   Since the Conte government took over a year ago, Italy has maintained the strictest rules in the European Union limiting arrivals from would-be asylum seekers. In April, the country also warned European neighbors that as many as 700,000 potential migrants were set to launch for Europe from Libya, but the threat has yet to materialize.

   Italy has also expressed doubts on most recent measures that would have drawn it closer to Europe, such as the high-speed train line between Turin, Italy and Lyon, France.

   "Italy has not been shy about standing up to European officials," Gian Franco Gallo, a political affairs analyst with ABS Securities in Milan, told Xinhua. "It will not be a surprise to see European officials do the same."