Two of the “big five” nations within the European Union now sport right-of-center governments. Italy has joined Spain in a move away from the left-of-center politics which have dominated the EU for the past decade.
Together with Austria, these countries may well be leading a trend to the right as the EU moves toward its twin goals of full implementation of the euro (the standard European monetary unit) in 2002 and enlargement of the Union with the impending addition of 13 new member nations.
The electorates of EU member states are showing a marked concern about the prospect of increasing incursions on national sovereignty by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and European Parliament. Additional concern is continuing to mount regarding the prospect of a flood of cheap labor from Eastern and Central Europe as enlargement takes effect.
Recent swings in referenda on the euro and local elections in France, Switzerland and the Nordic countries also point to a trend in voter preference for right-wing stances on major issues.
The melting pot of EU issues may well be behind the recent success of a right-wing coalition headed by Italy’s conservative media magnate, Silvio Berlusconi, in that country’s recent national elections. The suave, smooth-talking billionaire’s coalition largely comprises his own Forza Italia party, the party of former neo-fascist Gianfranco Fini, and rightist Umberto Bossi’s Leaga Norde.
Concern is being voiced over the prospect of a new Italian government (Italy’s 59th since World War ii) maintaining powerful control over the country’s media. Berlusconi owns Italy’s largest private TV network. As control of Italy’s state television enterprise falls to the incumbent government, Berlusconi stands to control two networks which between them attract an audience comprising 90 percent of Italy’s viewing public. This is unprecedented for any European leader. The new leader of Italy may well have his credibility put to the test when he is called upon to honor election promises to scale down his involvement in his media empire.
Watch for Italy’s new government to use its access to media dominance to condition the minds of Italians to demand an increasing say in European Union administration. Watch too for Berlusconi to conclude deals with the EU which will benefit his country in exchange for the use of Italian TV for EU propaganda.