In recent years, the relationship between Italy and the European Union (EU) has worsened due to the emergence of an increasingly negative attitude towards the question of European integration. The growth in citizens' disaffection with, and hostility towards, the political elites is part of a more general trend witnessed throughout the EU. From this point of view, an understanding of whether, and in what way, the role of Prime Minister (PM) has been affected by this change of perspective, especially following the various crises affecting the EU in the last 10 years, would be worthwhile we believe. This article examines the political positions of all PM during the so-called Second Republic (1994–now), by means of a longitudinal content analysis. This analysis reveals that after 2008, and for the first time in the history of the Italy–EU relationship, PMs' speeches have included sharp criticism of the EU. In particular, two PMs (Renzi and Conte) have clearly rejected those conditionality mechanisms implied by the EU. The results of this study confirm the start of a phase of strong conflict/politicization in regard to the EU and its institutional functioning.
This article contributes to the broader literature concerning the study of the relationship between political elites and the EU, by focusing for the first time not simply on party leaders but on one of the most important institutional roles in the Italian political system (the Presidenza del Consiglio).