Analysis. The MEPs from the 5 Stars voted no. And the assembly ultimately rejected the proposal to raise a €200 billion European fund from taxing the richest 0.5 percent.

Italian Dems split over EU wealth tax, with Schlein’s allies saying yes

In Strasbourg, the PD, or at least the wing of the party most closely aligned with Schlein, voted in favor of raising a €200 billion European fund from a wealth tax on the richest 0.5 percent of the population.

The proposal came from France’s Manon Aubry, from Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party, part of the Left group in the European Parliament. It was an amendment to the Commission’s proposal for a mid-term review of the “2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework.” The final vote was 132 for, 469 against and 20 abstentions. Among those in favor were a number of Dems, from group leader Brando Benifei to Camilla Laureti (a member of the secretariat), Pietro Bartolo, Massimiliano Smeriglio and Giuliano Pisapia.

The Green and Left groups also voted in favor. The votes against came from the People’s Party, the conservative ECR (of which FdI is a member) and Identity and Democracy, which includes the Lega. The M5S MEPs also voted no. Among the Dems, there was opposition from the reformist wing, including Pina Picierno, Mercedes Bresso, Paolo De Castro, Alessandra Moretti, Elisabetta Gualmini and Patrizia Toia. Among the Socialists, despite the official line to vote against the amendment, about one-third voted in favor together with the Left and Greens.

Back in May, the European Parliament voted on another proposal for a wealth tax, put forward by the Socialists, which was similarly rejected on the floor. The Dems had been more united back then: all in favor except for three abstentions and one against. On Tuesday, however, only the leftmost wing decided to vote for French MEP Aubry’s proposal. This marked another split in the Dem group, after the one we saw in June on the use of NRRP funds for arms production.

Group leader Benifei tried to downplay the division while commenting on his yes vote: “It seems like common sense to me to ask the richest 0.5 percent of the population to contribute to European plans for the ecological and digital transition. And I don’t see anything strange about the idea that the EU could have its own taxation.”

As a result, he decided to allow everyone in the group to vote freely on the issue, even though it was a vote that was not strictly about taxation: “It was the right thing to do to give a signal. And, as I recall, the Socialist group’s no vote was strictly on procedural grounds, due to the fact that the amendment was ‘off topic’ with respect to the subject of the debate.”

Massimiliano Smeriglio explained his own vote in favor of the amendment: “At a time when Europe is discussing the social wage, it was important to support a proposal like this one, which would serve to recover resources: in a time of crisis, there is a strong need for a redistribution of wealth. It’s too bad that Parliament made a different choice, supported by all the forces of conservatism.”

On the other hand, sources from the M5S delegation to the European Parliament explained that “the most suitable tools for the EU to find resources for itself are taxes on the windfall profits of banks, energy and insurance companies, in addition to taxes on large multinationals and a stop to tax havens,” not a wealth tax. Hence their decision to vote no on the Left group’s proposal.

The Italian right took the opportunity to attack the PD: “Here it goes again: the left who’s bad at talking the talk and even worse at walking the walk, trying to raise taxes on citizens: nothing more than the failed attempted coup by a left that only cares about disproportionately taxing people in the name of social envy, one of their defining features,” railed Tommaso Foti, the FdI group leader in the Chamber.

The Lega put out statements in the same vein, for once agreeing with their frenemies in Meloni’s party: “So much for the moderate and reformist left: today a good part of the PD cast off the disguise. Fortunately for Italians and Europeans, common sense has prevailed: sticking our hands in citizens’ pockets is the last thing we need right now,” said Lega MEPs Matteo Gazzini and Valentino Grant.

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