Silvio Berlusconi keeps bouncing off. The Mediaset owner, three-time Italian Prime Minister, is like one of those smiling figures with a heavy, round base that nobody can knock down. At 86, Il Cavaliere has shown particular talent as a political snack. And from the economy. Above all, however, in the life of the judiciary. After more than 40 lawsuits, including first-instance convictions for underage prostitution and corruption, he was finally convicted of tax evasion. Last week, amid a political firestorm sparked by his criticism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his luck seemed to run out. More than 30 witnesses and glaring evidence urged him to a verdict for buying the silence of those attending 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 throwing mud at the Italian judiciary. However, the problem came from another front.
Today, Il Cavaliere is a vegetarian, has seven dogs, a 33-year-old girlfriend — Forza Italia MP Marta Fascina — and several notches in his health revolver that almost took his life. But it’s still there. Years ago, for a reason, his doctor proclaimed that his patient was immortal. He never ceased to be a defining figure in Italian politics. The fundamental change, however, is that the Forza Italia party, which he founded in 1994 and which still represents the European People’s Party (EPP) in Italy, has become a remnant formation whose life expectancy is linked to the health of its founder. Because in 30 years he has resisted naming a successor who would give the formation normal operation. Today, the only way to portray something as a minority partner in Italy’s governing coalition is to try to cause trouble for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Karima El-Mahroug, known as “Ruby Heartbreaker”, leaves the courthouse in Milan on Thursday. PIERO CRUCIATTI (AFP)
The owner of Mediaset, who in theory represented the moderate and European-leaning component of a government from far-right pastures (Forza Italia forms a coalition with Matteo Salvini’s League and with Meloni’s brothers of Italy), has found a perfect dagger against the executive branch in the Ukraine war , to which he belongs when he does not feel heard. After going to the polling station to vote in Lombardy’s regional elections on Sunday, February 12, journalists asked him about the meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Zelenski in Paris. Meloni had been excluded from this meeting, which irritated her and caused a conflict with France. They asked him if Il Cavaliere had gone to the meeting. “That I speak 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.”
Berlusconi, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, once again urged Zelensky to lay down his arms to avoid more bloodshed, ignoring that his country was under attack from Russia. He then asked the United States to stop funding the purchase of weapons from Kiev. In fact, Il Cavaliere also presented what she sees as a solution to the conflict. “In order to achieve peace, I think that the American President [Joe Biden] You should talk to Zelenskyy and tell him: “After the end of the war you have before you a Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Ukraine […]but on one condition: that you order a truce tomorrow, because from tomorrow we will not give you any more money or give you any more weapons”.
The European People’s Party had always turned a blind eye to the former Italian Prime Minister’s outbursts. In September, its president, the German Manfred Weber, also justified the alliance with the far right of Forza Italia, an unprecedented event in other European countries. But Berlusconi’s enduring pro-Putin stance was a turning point, prompting fierce criticism from the left in the European Parliament this week, surprisingly welcomed by Weber. Two days later, the EPP canceled the European Congress that was to be held in Naples. “Following Berlusconi’s words, we have decided to suspend our study days,” said the German leader.
Subscribe to EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
The open rift with the European House of Popularity may become a bigger problem in the coming months. Weber has approached Meloni on several occasions, and the league has long dreamed of becoming part of this political family and leaving the ultra group in Brussels, which has lost popularity in Italy. “Forza Italia has not represented a moderate, liberal and European center-right party for a long time. The fall of Mario Draghi, for which Berlusconi was directly responsible, was the first warning. His outbursts now with Ukraine only show what that formation has always been: another of his private companies,” says a former Forza Italia minister, now far removed from the party’s core of power.
The popular in Brussels are counting on Italian Antonio Tajani, current Foreign Minister and former President of the European Parliament, to maintain ties with Forza Italia. The idea is to isolate Berlusconi. “Tajani and Forza Italia have our support and we continue to work with the Italian government on EU issues,” Weber said. But the party, according to Il Cavaliere’s lips, the most loyal, is now attacking the PPE, making sure its president’s words are unacceptable. Everything indicates that the popular in Italy will have to look for new interlocutors if they want to maintain the same line as in the rest of Europe. Especially when Berlusconi bounces off every stumble as before.
Follow all international information on Facebook and Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits