After neither Ursula von der Leyen’s thinly veiled threat in the lead-up to the Italian election nor EU Parliament Vice President Katarina Barley’s dismissive criticism of electoral results were taken seriously, Barley has made yet another attempt to pressure Italians into doing the EU’s bidding.
This time, however, Barley has pulled out all the stops: in an open letter addressed to the head of the European People’s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, Barley (SPD), and her German co-signatories Daniel Freund (Greens) and Moritz Körner (FDP) have called for action to be taken against the Italian Right. Specifically, they have requested Weber to pressure Silvio Berlusconi and his Forza Italia (current members of the EPP group) to reject the formation of an “extreme right government” in Italy.
If Forza Italia refuses to comply, they ask Weber to then consider threatening to exclude the Italian party from the EPP. This would be similar to how Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz has been treated.
It comes as no surprise that the letter—signed by three members of the German ‘traffic light coalition’ of Social-Democrats, Greens, and Liberals—tries to advise a competing parliamentary group in the European Parliament to essentially weaken itself. The underlying strategy here seems to be to exclude political groups based solely on what German politicians think of them. Surprisingly, even Markus Söder (CSU), prime minister of Bavaria and a member of the EPP, has suggested that Forza Italia would not be a reliable partner within the EPP anymore.
Adding insult to injury, the open letter by Barley and her co-authors contains the worst insinuations against Giorgia Meloni made to date:
The top candidate and party leader Giorgia Meloni represents right-wing populist positions that are not compatible with fundamental European values, that openly call for discrimination against people, and that deny the most atrocious crimes in European history.
The choice of words is noteworthy, as it is the Holocaust that is usually considered to be “the most atrocious crime in European history.” Thus, without giving any evidence at all, or quoting any statement whatsoever, the passage cited above reads like an accusation that Meloni herself is a ‘Holocaust denier.’ (And, if such a slanderous and wholly unfounded accusation were to gain traction, it would, of course, lead to her complete exclusion and excommunication from public discourse—which seems to be the goal.)
In order to clarify the issue, German newspaper Tichys Einblick took the initiative to reach out to Katarina Barley’s office to ask for clarification on whether the “most atrocious crimes in European history” were indeed referring to the Holocaust. No answer was given at the time of this writing.
The insinuation of Holocaust denial is one of the gravest accusations in contemporary politics, especially in Germany. As such, it should not be so crudely ‘weaponized.’ In the case of Giorgia Meloni, however, it is not only completely unfounded but ignores some very basic facts—such as her issuing a statement earlier this year commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, and her prior visit to the memorial site Yad Vashem in 2009.
Additionally, the result of the recent election will see Ester Mieli, a Jewish descendant of Auschwitz survivors, move into the Italian Senate as a representative of the Fratelli d’Italia.
In light of Meloni’s actions, the letter of Barley and her fellow authors can only be considered a desperate—and highly disrespectful—low blow against the democratically elected, forthcoming prime minister of one of the founding members of the European Union.
The preferred modus operandi in Brussels these days has once again been unmasked.