United States of Europe: Berlusconi backs EU heavyweight Tajani for Italy PM

Europhile Mr Tajani is one of three names Mr Berlusconi has in mind for the high-profile job ahead of the upcoming general election in  

The 81-year-old centre-right leader said the European Parliament President would be a “very good choice” due to his standing on the European stage. 

The four-times prime minister Mr Berlusconi is presenting himself as a moderate, pro-European figure ahead of the March 4 vote, and on Monday he met EU leaders in Brussels where he promised Italy would keep its budget deficit inside EU limits.

Mr Berlusconi said in an interview with RTL radio station in Italy: “If it were possible to have Tajani, it would be a very good choice, highly valued in Europe, but it would certainly be a loss for Italy at the EU level. 

“In addition to him, there are two other possibilities, but I will not reveal them now. 

“We have talked about them with the allies, but we have to win first.”

Mr Tajani is a member of Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, which is favoured to win the most seats in the March 4 vote.

The list comes as Mr Berlusconi cannot run himself because of a 2013 tax fraud conviction.

Speaking on RTL radio, Mr Berlusconi said: “If it were possible to have Antonio Tajani as premier it would be a wonderful choice, he has always shown total and absolute loyalty to our principles and ideas, and to Silvio Berlusconi.”

He wrote on Twitter publicising the interview: “Antonio Tajani would be a very beautiful choice as prime minister.”

Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the anti-immigrant Northern League led by Matteo Salvini, are leading in the opinion polls though no single bloc appears yet to have enough votes to govern alone.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement is polling as the single biggest party at just under 30 percent.

Mr Berlusconi and Mr Salvini have agreed that whichever party gets most votes will pick the bloc’s candidate for prime minister. Forza Italia is polling about four points ahead of the League.

Mr Tajani’s two and a half year term will come to an end in 2019 when there are European Parliament elections. 

The European Parlaiement chief has asked the EU to keep out of Italian politics and has asked unelected figures in Brussels to not comment on the upcoming general election in Italy. 

Mr Berlusconi said that Mr Tajani’s credentials include him being one of the founders of Forza Italia and being “highly respected in Europe”. 

Mr Berlusconi has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to try to get his ban on holding office lifted, but they are not expected to make any ruling before March 4.

If Mr Tajani does take office, it would be a successful move for the EU amid hopes of further integration. 

(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.)