No matter how strange it may appear, a grand coalition Bersani-Berlusconi can provide Italy the stability it needs, although it is “impossible” to guess at this stage who the next Prime Minister will be, Franco Frattini, former European Commissioner told EurActiv today (26 February), in an exclusive interview.
Franco Frattini has served as Foreign Minister in Silvio Berlusconi’s second and third cabinet. He was appointed Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security in the first Barroso Commission, but left to go back as foreign minister in Berlusconi’s fourth cabinet.
As a former EU Commissioner, I needed an interlocutor like you who knows Brussels and understand the doubts we have about the Italian elections. The big question everybody is asking is what is going to happen. Is a coalition possible?
What is important is to have a stable government as soon as possible. All political parties are currently busy to explore practical ways on the possibilities to give Italy a stable government. One of these possibilities is definitely having a big coalition, bringing together the party of Mr Bersani who won the lower house with a tiny majority and Mr Berlusconi, who won with a tiny majority the Senate. Even though in terms of voters Bersani also won also in the upper house, but the Italian electoral system recognized more seats to Berlusconi in the upper house. That said, the two political leaders will now have to reflect on how it will be possible to bring Italy out of uncertainty. The worst scenario, a very irresponsible one, would be to go back to elections in a few months time. That would be irresponsible. I strongly hope no parties, political leaders are thinking about bringing Italy back to vote again in the summer or autumn.
But doesn’t a grand coalition Bersani-Berlusconi look very strange?
Yes, it looks very strange, but it is true that Italy has lived through a series of strange coalitions over the past fourteen months. Italy is close to the nightmare, but it has resources and clear responses to get out of the nightmare. We are close to the tragic situation of uncertainty when Italy and Italians are ready to react. I do hope that political leaders react in that sense.
How do you comment that so many Italians – 25% --voted for Beppe Grillo, basically saying ‘no’ to the political class? What does it mean for Italian democracy?
I think it was a very strong wake-up call. Many had expected a good result for Mr. Grillo, but nobody believed in Grillo getting such a high score.
No one would have believed that one out of four Italians would vote for Grillo, nobody! I respect the outcome and the fact that many Italians voted for him. Politicians made mistakes over the years. These are votes against those who didn’t want to change the electoral system, those who didn’t want to change the legislation against corruption, all those that did not want to give up the privileges in the political classes, all the scandals of people taking public money and showing there is broad corruption in many political parties, from the centre-right and the centre-left.
All these mistakes led to this unpredictable result of Mr. Grillo. We have to respect it now. If you add the 25% who voted for Grillo to the 25% who abstained, who didn’t go to vote, it means that half of Italians protested, half of the Italians expressed their inclination against the system, against the regime, against the political spectrum and the political picture that is now in the Italian parliament. They want a completely new system. Because Berlusconi and Bersani represent only half of the voters. The other side of the coin is represented by those who voted for Grillo and those who didn’t vote at all.
How about Mr. Monti? He is very popular in Brussels, but his results were poor in Italy – how do you explain this?
If you look at the results of Mr. Monti abroad, Italians abroad placed Mr. Monti in the second best place after Bersani. So the results were extremely different. One thing is the reputation of Mr. Monti outside of Italy, ry, where he got 20% on average, which is very high. Another issue is seeing President Monti in Italy, who is seen as responsible for increasing taxation, for austerity measures and so on. This is the reason why Prime Minister Monti got a lot of votes abroad, not at home.
Who will be the PM of Italy?
(Laughs) I think only God really knows. (Laughs) No politician now can say who will be the next Prime Minister. I think, fortunately, thanks God, we got a very excellent President of the Republic. In the hands of President Napolitano will be the extremely difficult situation of the post vote. He will have to explore the possibilities to form a coalition. Nobody knows who will be the first choice of President Napolitano.
By the way, President Napolitano, who indeed commands a lot of respect, will have to step down soon…
Yes, his mandate ends at the end of April, and before that he will have to solve the situation. This is why Napolitano deserves not only our respect, but all our political and human support in those difficult times.
You, yourelf, have not been involved in the campaign?
No, I was not a candidate, I was not involved in the political campaign. I took the decision to go back to my job. I’m Chamber President at the Italian Supreme Court. And my decision has been motivated by the fact that being candidate for an important international post, under indication of President Napolitano and the Prime Minister, also with the support of the honourable Bersani, I don’t want to be seen as a faction or coalition candidate, but rather an Italian candidate. These are the reasons why I’m back to my job, while waiting for a political decision on my candidature.
The rumour goes in Brussels that you are very well placed to be the next NATO Secretary General...
(Laughs) Fingers crossed on that!