Italy’s Commission nominee: recycling à la Renzi


When it comes to this year’s European Parliament elections, Italy is lagging behind.

So far, none of the major parties have announced their full lists for the election, and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (pictured right) is yet to put forward a nominee to be a European commissioner.

The reason for these delays is the high level of uncertainty on the Italian political scene. Renzi won the leadership of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) in December; two months later he ousted Enrico Letta to take control of a reshuffled government.

The centre-right has fragmented, with ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia re-emerging and the New Centre-Right being established. Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) has sown further confusion with its unpredictable policies and personalities.

It is in this political climate that Renzi will need to consider potential candidates for Italy’s nomination to the European Commission.

Despite the PM’s rhetoric of rejuvenation and renewal, and his refresh of the government, it seems unlikely that the same principles will apply when choosing a commissioner.

Having already placed close allies in key government or party positions, Renzi is likely to adopt the old Italian practice of political recycling – sending a well-known Italian political figure to Brussels.

Read our full profiles of the potential nominees for the Commission from Italy

The candidate who has emerged as a frontrunner in the past few weeks is Massimo D’Alema, with rumours stoked by the presence of Renzi at the launch of Non solo euro, D’Alema’s latest book.

With one spell as prime minister and one as foreign minister on his CV, D’Alema may also be a contender to be High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a post he missed out on in 2009.

The other main candidate for ‘recycling’ is Renzi’s immediate predecessor as PM, Enrico Letta.

Letta seems well suited for a post as commissioner: a former European affairs minister, he has a good profile and reputation in Italy and abroad, and with Renzi calling the shots in Rome, his prospects in the PD and the government are poor for the moment.

Nominating Letta to the Commission would mollify the former prime minister and almost certainly give Italy a key portfolio. Letta is also a possible centre-left contender for the presidency of the European Council.

The future president of the Commission – whoever he or she may be – is likely to want an improved gender balance in the Commission (at present, around one third of commissioners are women), and Emma Bonino is a leading female candidate.

Although a member of the Italian Radicals rather than the PD, she has impeccable credentials. Until February 2014 she was Italy’s foreign minister, having also been Italy’s European affairs minister under Romano Prodi‘s premiership. A convinced European, she has been both a commissioner and an MEP in the past. Like D’Alema or Letta, she would be in line for a major role in the new College.

While Bonino is a non-PD candidate, in the uncertain and divisive Italian political scene Renzi’s coalition partners in Rome may require him to make a greater political compromise in his choice of nominee.

In that case, another recent victim of Renzi’s ‘scrapping’, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, is a strong possibility. Europe minister under Letta and his predecessor, Mario Monti, Moavero Milanesi is a political moderate with direct Brussels experience, having served as a senior official and advisor in the European Commission (from 1995 to 2005) and then at the European Court of Justice. He would also be in line for an important portfolio.

Finally, a number of other candidates have been mooted, including Mario Monti (who was a two-term commissioner as well as having been Italian PM), Paolo De Castro, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee and a former agriculture minister; and from the centre-right, Amalia Sartori, who chairs the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.

With less than 50 days to go before the elections, time is getting short. Renzi’s recycling may have to happen sooner than he thinks.

Chiara Gaudenzi-Morandi and Emanuele Guicciardi – Burson-Marsteller Brussels


  • AlessioPisano

    I see Mr D’Alema the most likely to be nominated by this government as Mr Renzi as to keep calm the old part of his own party

  • tomthumb015

    “high level of uncertainty on the Italian political scene” Is that not always been the case? The real question is Renzi a real reformer, or just another Italian political talker. Will he have the courage and stomach to change and challenge Italy’s labyrinth maze of confusing politics, most people outside Italy hope so. As for the EP2014 elections, and EU Commission, please don’t send Enrico Letta. Send someone new with refreshing idea’s, find another Renzi to send to Brussels? not another Italian eurocrat clone?