Italy’s constitutional referendum scheduled for 4 December is causing some controversy not only on the national level, but also on the European one.
Massimo D’Alema, president of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), and a former prime minister of Italy, took a firm position against the referendum that could cause the Italian government to step down if a ‘no’ vote prevails.
D’Alema was not the first top level Italian politician to openly oppose Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s position. On Tuesday, another former Italian Premier, Mario Monti also came out against the referendum.
Massimo D’Alema’s expressed his views speaking to the press just before the event “Together – A new direction for a progressive Europe – Stand up for our future!”
The conference was organized not only by FEPS but also other S&D partners, namely the Party of European Socialists (PES), civil society and progressive NGOs.
Among the guests were the European High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.
Despite that the slogan of the conference highlighted the concept of togetherness in front of the challenges that await Europe, the Party of European Socialists seemed to lack a common position on the issue of the Italian referendum.
“The Party of the European Socialists should stay out of issues concerning Italian electors. They should abstain themselves from judging the situation or giving endorsement” said D’Alema, who is part of an internal minority of the Italian Democratic Party which strongly opposes its own leaders’ referendum.
This is a position that that is not shared by Sergei Stanisev, the President of the Party of European Socialists. “We have a clear policy when our member parties are conducting an important political campaign, which is to support them. I believe the referendum is important for the stability of Italy and the governments’ reform plan.”
This is a difference that is well marked also on the possible scenarios in case of a negative outcome from the ballots. Taking the opposite position, D’Alema concluded that “The referendum has nothing to do with stability. There will be no catastrophe.”
S&D President Gianni Pittella rushed to downplay the controversy that he defined as “irrelevant” and “unimportant.” “I don’t see how PES should not endorse the battle of one of its national member parties” he stated.
Nonetheless, Pittella agreed with Stanisev about the possible instability and turmoil that a negative outcome could trigger. “Italy and Europe would come out weakened in a moment in which Europe is already weak, facing euroskepticism and the rise of populists” he said.
“I don’t believe that there will be any major disasters if the ‘no’ wins at the referendum,” Renzi said after the final state dinner that the US President Barack Obama reserved for him last Tuesday.
However, despite the numerous call to downsize the possible negative outcome for the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government, the Italian voters will also shape through the consultation the future of European political stability.
The vote is looking more and more like a referendum on Renzi’s term in office since he had initially promised to quit if the reforms are voted down.
HSBC bank recently warned about a possible “knee-jerk reaction” in the financial markets if a ‘no’ vote rejects constitutional reforms.