After the elections in Italy: South Tyrol suspicions about Meloni

Status: 10/11/2022 3:33 PM

In Rome, election winner Meloni prepares to take office as prime minister. Many South Tyroleans see this with concern: they fear that Meloni could try to limit their right to autonomy.

By Anja Miller and Jörg Seisselberg, ARD Studio Rome

In South Tyrol, the old worries are suddenly back: the Schützenbund and Heimatbund are taking to the streets in the center of Bolzano. The men and women of the German-speaking ethnic group want to commemorate the so-called March on Evil in 1922: Fascist villains stormed a school to force the Italianization of South Tyrol.

Jorg Seisselberg

Christoph Schmidt of the German National Riflemen in Bozen notes with concern that 100 years later, Giorgia Meloni with her right-wing party Fratelli d’Italia is preparing to take over the government in Rome: he and the gunmen would look at it “with eagle eyes,, in which direction the new Italian politics will go,” he says. The aim of the gunmen is to “represent and defend our independence, our autonomy and our German and Ladin people of South Tyrol”.

After Meloni’s election in Italy: South Tyroleans want to defend autonomy

europe magazine, 11.10.2022

“Flowering Tree” of Autonomy

At times, violent clashes between the German- and Italian-speaking ethnic groups formed South Tyrol not only during the Fascist era. In recent decades, South Tyrol has become a successful model for many different cultures to live together.

“South Tyrol’s autonomy has deep roots,” says Monica Rosini, professor of autonomy law at the University of Bozen. Unfortunately, this is also characterized by violence and pain. But now, Rosini says, autonomy is “a booming boom that has made this area an economically rich area.”

South Tyrol has the highest gross national product and thus the greatest economic power in Italy, and at the same time the lowest unemployment rate. The province benefits, among other things, from its autonomy status, which means that it can retain a large part of its tax revenue and does not have to hand it over to Rome.

Meloni stormed back in 2015

Meloni has made it clear several times in the past that this autonomy status is a thorn in her side – including when the South Tyrolean authorities refused to mark public buildings in 2015 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the war against Austria-Hungary.

At the time, Meloni questioned the tax benefits for South Tyrol. “I think you should say to these people: if they feel Austrian, then they should go and live in Austria,” she stormed. “And if the Italian flag is not good for you, then the billions of euros that the Italian state is transferring for the autonomy of South Tyrol are not good either.”

Similar world view, but fronts

Eva Klotz of the South Tyrolean Freedom Party, which advocates the separation of South Tyrol from Italy, has not forgotten this statement by Melonis. Together with representatives of the far-right FPÖ from Austria, Klotz warns in an open letter about Meloni, calling her, among other things, a “South Tyrolean hater” and a “fascist wolf in sheep’s clothing”. According to Klotz, their request to emigrate to Austria is “very close to some sort of deportation policy”.

After years of relatively harmonious coexistence and the economic boom in South Tyrol, the fronts threaten to harden again. Nationalisms on both sides are currently clashing, says Hannes Obermair of research institute Eurac Research: “Meloni argues for ‘dio, patria, famiglia’, ie God, nation, family. The protectors for God, emperor and fatherland”.

Both have, according to Obermair, “essentially an equally conservative, reactionary worldview” – one on the Italian side, the other on the German-speaking side.

“protected by international law”

The South Tyrolean People’s Party (SVP), which has been in power in Bolzano for decades, does not want new barricades in people’s minds. The German-speaking collection movement unites various political movements under one roof. Julia Unterberger of the left wing of the SVP is optimistic that Meloni will not shake South Tyrol’s autonomy status.

Even if she limits: “Meloni will certainly not help us to further develop this autonomy”. On the other hand, Unterberger does not believe “that she will try to take God knows anything from us” – which Meloni could not do either, emphasizes the SVP senator, “because our autonomy is protected by international law” and is thus not just an internal Italian affair.

The young people of the South Tyrolean People’s Party are absolutely in favor of a clear demarcation: on Monday they called on the SVP representatives to vote in parliament at least against a government led by Meloni.

“South Tyrol hater” Meloni? Concerns in Bolzano over the formation of a government

Jörg Seisselberg, ARD Rome, 10/11/2022 12:29 pm

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