Common-Sense Europeans Are Hatching a Plan To Deflate EU’s Seemingly Unstoppable Bloat — but Will It Float?

Discontent with the Brussels bureaucracy and its progressive agenda is running high ahead of elections for the European Parliament.

AP/Luca Bruno
The leader of the Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, at Milan, November 4, 2023. AP/Luca Bruno

As the political winds across Europe blow right, it will only be a matter of time before that energy is harnessed to rein in a monstrous bureaucracy — the European Union. That process began in earnest Sunday at Florence.

There, in the cradle of the Renaissance, the Italian deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, was joined by center-right leaders and some 2,000 of their supporters from across the Continent for a forum aptly called “Free Europe! Jobs, Security, Common Sense.”

For Mr. Salvini, whose Northern League party forms part of Italy’s governing coalition — of which Prime Minister Meloni’s Brothers of Italy is a part — the Tuscan parley offers a moment to regroup. It follows the surprise win in the Netherlands of Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom. Plus, too, the growing popularity of Marine Le Pen as France finds a fiercely festering  frustration with President Macron. 

Mr. Salvini, seen by some as a future rival of Ms. Meloni, spelled out the mission early and clearly. He said that for him it was “a beautiful day in a splendid city, as for the first time another majority is possible in Europe.” He called on the center-right to shun “entanglements with socialists and the left” and said he envisioned “a different future for young people, different from the anger of the left that now prevails with Von der Leyen and Soros.”

Those were jabs at the European Commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen, who cannot seem to keep herself from bemoaning Brexit, and George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire investor who donates millions of dollars to left-wing political causes, including to various non-governmental organizations in Europe. 

They were not the only ones: “Today in Florence men and women with common sense and courage are gathered who will defeat an enemy who is the first enemy of Europe, the Freemason technocrats who want to destroy the identity of our continent.” 

In Europe, it is widely accepted that members of a fraternal organization with long historical roots, the Freemasons, fill many positions of various government bureaucracies. One can find references on the internet to American presidents — going back to President Washington and forward to President Truman — being Freemasons.

For Eurosceptic politicians like Mr. Salvini and Ms. Le Pen, though, one of the problems of an expanding European Union is that it creates a byzantine tangle of regulations and gives Brussels bureaucrats too much power over the daily lives of ordinary European citizens. 

The forum took place in a section of the Fortezza da Bazzo, a fortress nestled within Florence’s sturdy 14th-century walls. They provided a fitting backdrop for the messages those on the left instantly branded as populist but that have long been marinating and that resonate in many European capitals beyond Brussels.

In a video message, Ms. Le Pen said, “The EU debases our history and our cultures, it sees us as packaged goods, and harms our people.” The charismatic head of France’s National Rally also took aim at Ms. Von der Leyen’s ineffectual call to tackle the migrant crisis by sending refugees all over Europe.

“For Ms. Von Der Leyen, immigration is not a problem but a project. If we do nothing, we will let Brussels govern to the detriment of the lives of the European people.”

Lest the event’s detractors at Paris and Rome — and there were many, particularly in the left-leaning press — think that the physical absence of Ms. Le Pen from Florence meant a lack of momentum for her National Rally party’s inroads on Monsieur Macron’s rudderless path, think again. The wily Ms. Le Pen dispatched her party’s upbeat new president, Jordan Bardella, to Italy in her place. 

Note that Mr. Bardella, who at just 28 rather neatly removes Emmanuel Macron’s youth card from the deck, is also one of the vice-presidents of Identity and Democracy, a right-of-center caucus of the European Parliament. And that is what up-and-coming politicians like him, and those already in positions of power like Mr. Salvini, had their sights on at Tuscany over the weekend, because European parliamentary elections are coming up in June.

“Next year, for the first time in the history of the European institutions, the united and determined center-right can free Brussels from those who occupy it illegally,” Mr. Salvini said, essentially branding as squatters the peripatetic Ms. Von der Leyen and her diminishing roster of neo-liberal acolytes. 

What will be the first European Parliament election after Brexit could also be a game-changer if the Identity and Democracy group makes big gains, and in effect the “Free Europe!” forum marked the start of the campaign. 

There are hurdles to clear, to be sure. The center-right leader of Italy’s Forza Italia party, Antonio Tajani, has already ruled out working with some ID members, including the popular but polarizing Dutchman of the moment, Mr. Wilders. He is still involved in negotiations for the formation of his country’s next government, and like Ms. Pen sent a video message “to the city of Europe’s rebirth” in support of his Italian ally, to whom he referred as “Matteo.”

Still, there is a sense of growing anger and frustration with the European Union, some of it on display in Italy. The head of the Alliance for the Union of Romanians party, George Simion, was on hand at Florence to say that “We are seeing hell in Europe: we have irregular migrants, lost factories, lost national identity and the decline of Christianity. And they [seek to] prevent us from using words like father, mother, and Christmas.”

Also present was co-chair of the Alternative for Germany party, Tino Chrupalla. The Eurosceptic anti-immigrant party seemingly emerged out of nowhere this year, but in reality it did not — discontent breeds alternatives. That party is now the second biggest in Germany. At this rate, the June political forecast for dreary Brussels might just include a hurricane.

The New York Sun

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