Italy’s Five Star Movement votes to leave Eurosceptics for Euro liberals

Italy's biggest opposition party, the populist Five Star Movement, voted Monday in favour of leaving a Eurosceptic bloc it is currently part of in the European Parliament.

Italy's Five Star Movement votes to leave Eurosceptics for Euro liberals
Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Party officials said a total of 78.5 percent of members who voted in an online poll had backed a proposal for the party's MEPs to seek membership of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), most of whose members are ardent enthusiasts for European integration.

ALDE MEPs are to decide on Tuesday evening whether to respond positively to Five Star's overtures and its decision to sever its alliance with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group.

Party leader and founder Beppe Grillo had recommended the move on Sunday, arguing that Britain's vote to leave the European Union had made UKIP redundant.

Grillo had forged an alliance with UKIP's then leader Nigel Farage after the 2014 elections to the pan-European assembly.

At the time he ruled out joining ALDE, a grouping led by the former Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, who is also the EU's chief Brexit negotiator.

The U-turn is likely to be interpreted as a sign of Five Star watering down its own Euroscepticism as Italy heads for elections which must take place in the next 14 months.

Current polls suggest Grillo's party could emerge from the vote with the biggest share of the vote but its reluctance to forge alliances with other parties is an obstacle to it forming a government.

Grillo is a long-standing opponent of Italy's membership of the euro and has called for a referendum on withdrawal from the single currency.

But he does not question Italy's membership of the European Union and his younger lieutenants rarely address the euro issue.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Italy to ban lab-grown foods in bid to protect tradition

Italy's government on Tuesday approved a bill banning the use of synthetic foods, including artificial meat, which it says threatens the country's agri-food heritage.

Italy to ban lab-grown foods in bid to protect tradition

“Laboratory products in our opinion do not guarantee quality, well-being and the protection of our culture, our tradition,” said Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, at a press conference on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Four myths about ‘traditional’ Italian food you can stop believing

Meloni’s nationalist administration has pledged to protect Italy’s food businesses from technological innovations seen as harmful, and renamed the agriculture ministry the “ministry for agriculture and food sovereignty”.

Health Minister Orazio Schillac admitted there was “no scientific evidence of possible harmful effects linked to the consumption of synthetic foods” but said the move to ban them was “based on the precautionary principle”.

Meat substitutes have long been produced, with varying degrees of success, from vegetable sources like soya, peas or beans.

The new legislation specifically targets synthetic products being developed in laboratories from animal cells, which aim to ‘grow’ meat without killing the donor animal.

Italy’s goverment says synthetic meat products theaten its national food traditions. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
A 3D-printer at a food expo in Barcelona, Spain, creates plant-based proteins which mimic the texture of beef. Italy has moved to ban the production of such foods. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

If the proposal is passed by parliament, penalties for violations would include fines of up to 60,000 euros ($64,000).

Agriculture lobby Coldiretti praised the move, saying a ban was needed to safeguard domestic production “from the attacks of multinational companies”.

“Italy, which is a European leader in food quality and safety, has a duty to be at the forefront of food policies to defend citizens and businesses,” Coldiretti president Ettore Prandini said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Why claims Italian cuisine is a ‘modern invention’ have angered Italy

But critics said the move was part of the government’s focus on identity politics and would leave Italian businesses trailing behind rivals in other European countries.

“A new day, a new enemy, a new crime,” said Giordano Masini of the left-wing More Europe party.

“Instead of welcoming a potential new development opportunity, which could bring new businesses and more jobs, the government rushes to ban it, imagining health risks that no one has ever shown.”

“In the end, foods obtained via cell culture will arrive anyway, as it is the EFSA that evaluates the health risks of food products [in Europe] not the Italian government, and the European Union will allow them onto the single market. 

“So producers in other countries who, in the meantime, can do research and development will be the ones to benefit.”

Manual widget for ML (class=”ml-manual-widget-container”)

The ban was also crtiticised by organisations supporting the development of cell-based food products across Europe, as well as animal rights groups.

“The passing of such a law would shut down the economic potential of this nascent field in Italy, holding back scientific progress and climate mitigation efforts,” Alice Ravenscroft, head of policy at the Good Food Institute Europe, told Reuters.

In order to come into force, the bill will have to be adopted within two months by parliament, which may amend it during debates.

Currently no marketing applications for such foods have been made in the EU, and it is likely to be at least 2025 before such foods appear on shelves in Europe.

The ban on lab-grown meat was not the only rule proposed by Meloni’s administration aimed at preventing unconventional foods from being served on Italian tables.

The government was also reportedly preparing decrees to introduce information labels on products containing or derived from insects amid concerns about the use of cricket flour.

Italy’s government also said last week it planned to launch a bid to have “Italian cuisine” included on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage, though it was not immediately clear which dishes it would include.