Interview published on 19/09/2020 in Repubblica

Rome, 19th September 2020

“Despite the attacks by Giorgia Meloni, who wanted to take away my citizenship, I am still an Italian citizen and I already voted at the referendum: firmly ‘No'”. Sandro Gozi, Member of the European Parliament, elected on the Macronian Renaissance list, former Secretary of State for European Affairs, launches a political project for Italy inspired by the model of the “Renew Europe” group. “The ‘No’ to the referendum is also a political opportunity to turn the page,” he says. His book “La Cible” (the target) on the challenge to propose an alternative to the right, has just been published in France.

Mr. Gozi, are you voting in the referendum? And what?

“As an Italian residing abroad, I have already voted: firmly ‘No'”.

‘No’ in defence of constitutional balances or for political reasons, against 5-Star Movement (M5S)?

“‘No’ against twenty years of anti-parliamentary and anti-representative democracy rhetoric. It is true that at the end of the First Republic some parliamentarians have done a lot to unleash anger and even hatred towards Parliament. From the anti-establishment outcry to the ‘can of tuna’*, there is a silver thread of which this referendum is the last act. It is a very dangerous tragicomedy”.

What is at stake?

“Cutting the number of parliamentarians is a reform that is as pointless as it is dangerous. Useless because cutting does not solve any of the problems of Italian democracy. In the twelve years in which I have been an Italian parliamentarian we have cut allowances, salaries, offices, without ever addressing the functioning of the Chambers. This has only increased distrust. Cutting just for the sake of cutting is dangerous. If a new Davide Casaleggio comes along and brings us a wonderful digital platform, then what do we do? Do we shut down the Parliament altogether?”.

Is this referendum also a political opportunity, then?

“In a political system in which on the left the Democratic Party is increasingly squeezed into the M5S logic with the only stated objective of Secretary Nicola Zingaretti to beat the right, and where the centre-right has split into two extreme right parties – the more traditional one of Giorgia Meloni and the lepenist one of Matteo Salvini – to say No to the referendum is to defend liberal and representative democracy. It means saying Yes to the Recovery Plan. I remember that Ceccardi, the Lega candidate in Tuscany, voted against the Recovery Fund in the European Parliament, that’s to say, against €209 billion for Italy. Well, I think there is space for a new political proposal”.

What are you thinking of, and with whom?

“Of an Italian grouping on the model of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament. In Europe there was a need for new political proposal because the European People’s Party (EPP) was not able to distance itself from Orban and the European Socialist Party was too static. The Renew Europe group has brought together pro-Europeans, Macronians, Renzians, socialists, ecologists and even some conservatives”.

And in Italy would it also appeal to Berlusconians?

” It would appeal to the voters of Forza Italia who think they belong to a moderate and pro-European centre-right and find themselves between the hands of Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini. The most important thing is to start a new phase for Italy in which the anti-establishment outcry is replaced by concrete politics. The Italians deserve it, because they showed great dignity during the Covid health emergency. If Italy is the first beneficiary country of the Recovery Fund and the most mentioned the other day by von der Leyen, I think it is because of the dignity they showed. And we must not respond now with cuts in the number of Members of Parliament, but through effective politics that takes advantage of an historic opportunity”.

Could the referendum and the regional elections put the Conte government in trouble?

“Conte government’s future will be determined by its ability to use the great European plan. I believe that Italy should think of a plan like the French one, in which national and European funds are put together to achieve specific objectives and with an assessment of the achievement of each individual objective. In Europe there is little talk about the referendum on the cut in the number of parliamentarians, but a lot about how Italy will use the Recovery Fund. The Conte government also has a responsibility towards EU leaders and MEPs who have fought for it”.


*In reference to the statement made by the founder of M5S, Beppe Grillo, who promised to open the Italian Parliament as a “can of tuna” (Translator’s note)