March 4. 2024. 11:08

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Socialists in Brussels welcome new PD leader amid ambiguous Ukraine stance

New Democratic Party leader Elly Schlein (PD), who vows to upset Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government but remains ambiguous about her position on Ukraine, is set to be welcomed by Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament with open arms.

Schlein, who took over from former Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta on Monday, gave her first speech from party headquarters since her Sunday primaries victory, announcing that PD will be “a problem” for Giorgia Meloni’s (FDI/Ecr) government.

“She is a woman with a clear compass and clear goals, a red heart and the power to inspire others. According to that, she is a leader for Italy and an important person for the whole of Europe”, German MEP Maria Noichl, a member of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in Brussels, told EURACTIV Italy.

Noichl personally knows Schlein, a member of the European Parliament from 2014 to 2019, and describes her as determined to pursue her agenda. “She doesn’t want fascist currents in Europe. She does not want equality to be further blocked or the move to climate neutrality to be delayed”, Noichl explained.

Schlein, the first woman to lead the PD, won the party’s primary elections with 53.75%, compared to 46.25% of the opponent Stefano Bonaccini – reversing the previous vote open only to PD members in which Bonaccini won with 52.87%, and Schlein obtained 34.88%.

This outcome is a symptom of the internal chaos within the party, which is often accused of losing touch with reality and which has seen its support gradually decline, particularly among young people.

Also noteworthy is the unusual process that led to Schlein’s victory, who left PD in 2015 in controversy with former prime minister and Italia Viva (Renew) leader Matteo Renzi and only re-registered in November 2022 to run for its leadership.

During the campaign, she targeted a young electorate by discussing fighting inequality, labour reform, and the climate emergency. She established herself as a progressive, feminist leader close to the LGBTQ+ community.

“The Democrats must be happy to have her because, without Elly Schlein, they would continue to flounder and lose votes”, Prof. Gianfranco Pasquino, political scientist and professor emeritus of Political Science, told EURACTIV Italy.

The 20-point programme presented by the newly appointed secretary, focusing largely on the environment and civil rights, states that it is important to support “the Ukrainian people with any assistance they need to defend themselves” but also that there is a need for “a greater political and diplomatic effort by the EU to create the conditions that will lead to an end to the war”.

Schlein describes herself as a “pacifist” and against weapons as a solution to conflicts. Some PD members have expressed doubts about the secretary’s Ukraine policy line and await clarification. Among them is Bergamo Mayor Giorgio Gori, who threatens to leave the party if it deviates from the previous line on Ukraine.

Critical voices view this ambiguity as a possible rapprochement with the 5-Star Movement of former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who has repeatedly spoken out against sending arms to Ukraine in exchange for strengthening diplomatic avenues.

“I hope that the Italian line on aid to Ukraine does not change because this would be very serious and would certainly weaken Italy in Europe”, Pasquino told EURACTIV Italy.

“The attitude is not perfectly limpid on the point of helping Ukraine defend itself or not, but the crucial step must be this”, the professor added, hoping for less ambiguity and a clear-cut stance from the new Dem leader.

(Federica Pascale |