As expected, the European Council and Parliament agreed on the 2017 European budget Thursday night. And as expected, Italy abstained, the first time this has happened in the history of the Union. It was actually a calibrated move: The annual budget does not require unanimity, and the vast majority of countries — all but two — were in favor. So even an Italian vote against the budget would only have had a symbolic value.
The abstention confirms the hardline of the Renzi government and strengthens the threat to vote against the multi-annual budget, which requires unanimity — but without overdoing it.
The abstention is justified by the acceptance of some of the modifications Italy requested, especially on the allocation of additional €700 million for the Erasmus and Youth Projects. “A few steps forward, but not enough,” according to Undersecretary Sandro Gozi who reiterates his now daily threat: “We keep the veto on the overall budget and we will evaluate the situation again in December.”
To be clear, it is a “reserved” vote and not a “veto,” but the term is used to bolster the chaotic election campaign in which Matteo Renzi has hung his hat on euroscepticism. The idea would be to occupy the entire board by presenting itself as a force of government to bear in the name of stability and as anti-system force to be strengthened in the name of radical transformation.