ROME (Reuters) – The Italian League of the Right has featured prominent anti-euro activists among its candidates in next month’s European Parliament election, rekindling doubts over the ruling party’s commitment to the single currency.
Antonio Rinaldi, who teaches economics at Link Campus in Rome and is a frequent guest on television talk shows, has been campaigning for years for Italy to “take back the keys to our own house” by leaving the euro zone .
Francesca Donato, another candidate on the party list presented on Wednesday, is president of the Italian association Eurexit, whose objective declared on its website is to “leave the euro to revive our economy and restore democracy”.
Anti-euro activists say exiting the euro would allow Italy to revive its stagnant economy by spending more and devaluing its currency, thereby promoting exports. Others warn the move would lead to capital flight, higher borrowing costs and inflation, reducing the value of Italians’ savings.
When Matteo Salvini became head of what was then called the Northern League in 2013, he was reeling from corruption scandals and only had around 4% of the vote. He galvanized supporters with a fiercely anti-euro message and ran in the last European elections in 2014 under the slogan: “No euro”.
The first months of the current government of the League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which took office last June, have been marked by market fears that the coalition may devise an ‘Italexit‘, which has driven the climb upward. Italian borrowing costs.
Those worries have vanished thanks to assurances from Economy Minister Giovanni Tria that Italy is fully committed to the euro, and Salvini said in December he wanted to “change the EU’s rules from within” .
THE LEAGUE AT THE TOP OF THE SURVEYS
The League is now Italy’s most popular party with over 30% support, according to opinion polls, but critics remain wary of its intentions with the single currency.
“His position on the euro is essentially ambiguous,” said Riccardo Puglisi, professor of pro-euro economics at the University of Pavia.
“On the one hand, his political program with 5 stars rules out an Italexit, but his economic spokesman Claudio Borghi is openly hostile to the euro, and now Salvini is putting forward candidates who are perhaps even more Eurosceptic.”
Donato told Reuters his job in Brussels would not be to work for an exit from the euro but to fight for changes to the EU’s fiscal rules and the mandate of the European Central Bank.
She said the ECB’s main goal should be full employment, while the EU should allow budget deficits of up to 6% of gross domestic product and be tougher for countries like Germany that show excessive trade surpluses.
Italy clashed with Brussels last fall over its expansionary fiscal plans and many economists see its huge and growing public debt, which stands at 132% of gross domestic product, as a latent threat to the monetary union of the EU.
âThe euro does not work and cannot continue like this, but we want to try to reform it and make it sustainable,â Donato said. âIf we fail then it will be easier to explain to the Italians that the only thing to do is leave. “