Beppe Grillo, leader of Italy’s Five Star Movement, has launched an assault against the government in Rome. The battle, which he says he will soon win, is taking place in Brussels, the city where he marched against Chinese steel dumping and in favour of the European steel industry.
Euronews’ Gardenia Trezzini spoke to Grillo about Europe, populism and the media.
Gardenia Trezzini, euronews“Beppe Grillo, our meeting takes place at a time that, without undue exaggeration, can be labelled ‘historic’. That’s to say, the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. What’s your take on that?”
Beppe Grillo, Leader of the Five Star Movement“It’s an extraordinary turning point. This corn cob – we can also call Trump that in a nice way – doesn’t have particularly outstanding qualities. He was such a target for the media, with such terrifying accusations of sexism and racism, as well as being harassed by the establishment – such as the New York Times – but, in the end, he won.
“That is a symbol of the tragedy and the apocalypse of traditional information. The television and newspapers are always late and they relay old information. They no longer anticipate anything and they’re only just understanding that idiots, the disadvantaged, those who are marginalised – and there are millions of them – use alternative media, such as the Internet, which passes under the radar of television, a medium people no longer use.
“With Trump, exactly the same thing has happened as with my Five Star Movement, which was born of the Internet: the media were taken aback and asked us where we were before. We gathered millions of people in public squares and they marvelled. We became the biggest movement in Italy and journalists and philosophers continued to say that we were benefitting from people’s dissatisfaction. We’ll get into government and they’ll ask themselves how we did it.”
euronews“There is a gap between giving populist speeches and governing a nation.”
Beppe Grillo“We want to govern, but we don’t want to simply change the power by replacing it with our own. We want a change within civilisation, a change of world vision.
“We’re talking about dematerialised industry, an end to working for money, the start of working for other payment, a universal citizens revenue. If our society is founded on work, what will happen if work disappears? What will we do with millions of people in flux? We have to organise and manage all that.”
euronews“Do you think appealing to people’s emotions is enough to get elected? Is that a political project?”
Beppe Grillo“This information never ceases to make the rounds: you don’t have a political project, you’re not capable, you’re imbeciles, amateurs…
“And yet, the amateurs are the ones conquering the world and I’m rejoicing in it because the professionals are the ones who have reduced the world to this state. Hillary Clinton, Obama and all the rest have destroyed democracy and their international policies.
“If that’s the case, it signifies that the experts, economists and intellectuals have completely misunderstood everything, especially if the situation is the way it is. If the EU is what we have today, it means the European dream has evaporated. Brexit and Trump are signs of a huge change. If we manage to understand that, we’ll also get to face it.”
euronews“Until now, these anti-establishment movements have come face-to-face with their own limits: as soon as they come to power they seem to lose their capabilities and reason for being. Alexis Tsipras, in Greece, for example…”
Beppe Grillo“Yes, I agree.”
euronews“Let’s take the example of Podemos in Spain. They came within reach of power, then had to backtrack. Why?”
Beppe Grillo“Because there’s an outdated way of thinking. Because they think power is managed by forming coalitions or by making agreements with others.
“From our side, we want to give the tools to the citizens. We have an operating system called Rousseau, to which every Italian citizen can subscribe for free. There they can vote in regional and local elections and check what their local MPs are proposing. Absolutely any citizen can even suggest laws in their own name.
“This is something never before directly seen in democracy and neither Tsipras nor Podemos have done it.”
euronews“You said that you’re not interested in breaking up the European Union, but rather in profoundly changing it. What can a small group of MEPs do to put into motion such great change?”
Beppe Grillo“The little group of MEPs is making its voice heard, but there are complications… In parliament, there are lobby groups and commissions. Parliament decides, but at the same time doesn’t decide.
“We do what we can, in line with our vision of a world based on a circular economy. We put forward the idea of a circular economy as the energy of the future and the proposal has been adopted by the European parliament.”
euronews“One hot topic at the Commission at the moment is the problem of the conflicts of interest concerning certain politicians.
“President Juncker suggested modifying the code of ethics and lengthening the period of abstinence from any private work for former Commission members to three years. Is that enough?”
Beppe Grillo“I have serious doubts about a potential change in the code of ethics being made by a former minister of a tax haven.”
euronews“You don’t think the Commission is legitimate?”
Beppe Grillo“Absolutely not. Particularly because it’s a Commission that no one has actually elected. That’s what brought us closer to Nigel Farage: a democracy coming from the people.”
euronews“You don’t regret being allied with Farage?”
Beppe Grillo“It was an alliance of convenience, made to give us enough support to enter parliament. We’ve always maintained this idea of total autonomy in decision-making, but we united over the common idea of a different Europe, a mosaic of autonomies and sovereignties.
“I’m not against Europe, but I am against the single currency. Conversely, I am for the idea of a common currency. The words are important: ‘common’ and ‘single’ are two different concepts.
“In any case, the UK has demonstrated something that we in Italy couldn’t even dream of: organising a clear ‘yes-no’ referendum.”
euronews“That is ‘clear’ in terms of the result and not its consequences. In reality, the population is torn. Many people’s views have done u-turns.”
Beppe Grillo“Whatever happens, the responsibility returns entirely to the British. They made the decision.”
Biography: Beppe Grillo
- Beppe Grillo was born in Genes, Italy, in 1948.
- A comedian and an actor, his shows were successful both on the television and in the theatre from the end of the 1970s.
- In 2009, with manager Gianroberto Casaleggio, he founded the Five Star Movement.
- In the 2013 elections, Five Star became Italy’s second-biggest political group. Since 2014, its representatives have held seats in the European Parliament as part of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group.
- Beppe Grillo’s blog has ranked several times among the world’s most influential blog.
euronews“Doesn’t it bother you that Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is playing the spoilsport in Europe? Criticising European institutions was your battle horse and now he is flexing his muscles in Brussels.”
Beppe Grillo“Renzi has to do that. But he’s just copying me and in doing so, strengthens the original.”
euronews“Whatever it may be, his position at the head of the government can get him results.”
Beppe Grillo“Very well. If he wants to hold a referendum on the euro, he’ll have our support. If he wants to leave the Fiscal Stability Treaty – the so-called Fiscal Compact – which was one of our battles, we’ll be there.”
euronews“In the quarrel over the flexibility of public accounts due to the earthquake and immigration, who are you supporting?”
Beppe Grillo“On that, I share Renzi’s position. I have nothing against projects and ideas. I have preconceptions about him. For me, he is completely undeserving of confidence.”
euronews“Renzi’s negotiating power will also depend on the outcome of the constitutional referendum in December. We’ll see whether he sinks or swims.”
Beppe Grillo“It’s already lost for him.”
euronews“If he doesn’t win, will you ask for early elections?”
Beppe Grillo“Whatever happens, we want elections because the government as it stands is not legitimate and, as a consequence, neither are we.
“From this point onwards, the government moves forward simply by approving laws based on how urgent they are. And 90 percent of laws are approved using this method. So what good will it do to reform the Senate to make the process quicker?”
euronews“Can you see yourself at the head of the Italian government?”
Beppe Grillo“No, no. I was never in the race. Never.”
euronews“So, Beppe Grillo is not even a candidate to become prime minister or to take on another official role, if one day the Five Star Movement was to win the elections?”
Beppe Grillo“The time is fast approaching.”
euronews“Really? A projection?”
Beppe Grillo“People just need to go and vote. We’re sure to win.”