Silvio Berlusconi always rebounds. The Mediaset owner, three times Prime Minister of Italy, is like one of those smiling figures with a heavy, rounded base that no one can bring down. At 86, Il Cavaliere has shown a special talent as a political snack. And of the economy. But, above all, of judicial life. After more than 40 trials, with first-degree convictions for prostitution of minors and corruption included, he has only been finally sentenced for tax fraud. Last week, amid a political firestorm sparked by his criticism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, it seemed his luck had run out. More than 30 witnesses and flagrant evidence pushed him towards a conviction for buying the silence of the participants in his sex parties at the Arcore mansion: the famous bunga-bunga. But Berlusconi held on, bounced off the ground and got back up with his usual smile. “Thanks to these independent judges,” he exclaimed after a year of pouring mud against the Italian judiciary. The problem, however, came from another front.
Today Il Cavaliere is a vegetarian, he has seven dogs, a 33-year-old girlfriend – the Forza Italia deputy Marta Fascina – and several notches in his health revolver that nearly cost him his life. But he is still there. For a reason his doctor announced years ago that his patient was immortal. He has never ceased to be a determining figure in Italian politics. The fundamental change, however, is that Forza Italia, the party he founded in 1994 and which still represents the European People’s Party in Italy, has become a residual formation whose life expectancy is tied to the health of its founder. Because this, in 30 years, has resisted naming a successor that would give the formation a normal operation. Today, the only way to paint anything as a minority partner in Italy’s governing coalition is to try to create trouble for Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
The owner of Mediaset, which in theory represented the moderate and Europeanist component of a government of far-right wickers (Forza Italia forms a coalition with Matteo Salvini’s League and with Meloni’s Brothers of Italy), has found a dagger in the war in Ukraine perfect against the Executive of which he is a part when he does not feel heard. On Sunday, February 12, after going to the polling station to vote in the Lombardy regional elections, he was asked by journalists about the meeting held in Paris between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Zelensky. . Meloni had been excluded from that meeting, which caused her irritation and a conflict with France. Would Il Cavaliere have gone to the meeting? they asked him. “Me talking to Zelensky? If I had been prime minister, I would never have gone there, because we are witnessing the devastation of your country and the slaughter of your soldiers and civilians.”
The European People’s Party had always looked the other way with the outbursts of the former Italian prime minister. In September, its president, the German Manfred Weber, also justified the alliance with the ultra-right of Forza Italia, an unprecedented event in other European countries. But Berlusconi’s permanent stance in favor of Putin has been a turning point that this week resulted in fierce criticism in the European Parliament from the left that, surprisingly, was applauded by Weber. Two days later, the EPP canceled the European congress that was to be held in Naples. “After Berlusconi’s words, we have decided to suspend our study days,” said the German leader.
The open rift with the European house of the popular can become a bigger problem in the coming months. Weber has already approached Meloni several times and the League has long dreamed of becoming part of that political family and leaving the ultra group in Brussels, which has lost popularity in Italy. “Forza Italia has long ceased to represent a moderate, liberal and European center-right. The fall of Mario Draghi, for which Berlusconi was directly responsible, was the first warning. His outbursts now with Ukraine show only what this formation has always been: another of his private companies, ”says a former minister of Forza Italia, today far from the party’s core of power.
The popular ones in Brussels rely on the Italian Antonio Tajani, current Foreign Minister and former president of the European Parliament, to maintain the relationship with Forza Italia. The idea is to isolate Berlusconi. “Tajani and Forza Italia have our support and we continue to collaborate with the Italian government on EU issues,” Weber said. But the party, on the lips of those most loyal to Il Cavaliere, is now attacking the PPE and they assure that the words of its president are unacceptable. Everything indicates that the popular ones will have to look for new interlocutors in Italy if they want to maintain the same line as in the rest of Europe. Especially if Berlusconi, as up to now, keeps rebounding every time he stumbles.