Both Deputy Prime Ministers, Luigi Di Maio of Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini of The League, were adamant about locking horns with European Union leadership over all issues of sovereignty between now and May's European Parliamentary elections.
Their budget proposal which included both tax cuts and universal income blew past the EU budget limit of 2.0% of GDP, coming in at 2.4%. It has put their Finance Minister, Giovanni Tria, in a difficult position because Tria doesn't want to negotiate this budget with Brussels, preferring a less confrontational, read more pro-EU, approach.
Salvini and Di Maio, however, have other plans. And since I began covering this story last year on my blog, I've said that it was imperative that Salvini force the issue of the Troika's demands – the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – back down their throats on debt restructuring/forgiveness.
What I meant then, and I was focused on Salvini's emergence as the leader of this fight, was that Salvini and Italy, because they are more than technically insolvent, have all the leverage in the negotiations. The size of their outstanding debt and the liabilities existent on the balance sheets of banks across Europe, most notably the nearly $1 trillion in TARGET 2 liabilities, are something Juncker, Draghi, Merkel and Christine LaGarde at the IMF simply cannot ignore.
But, to do this Salvini and now Di Maio have to make a good faith effort to negotiate a good deal for Italy with Brussels, Berlin and the IMF. This is why the budget squeaked past the 2.0% limit and then they walked it back to 2.0% but with provisions they knew would anger the EU finance ministers.
The point of this is to push Brussels and paint them as the bad guys to shift public sentiment back towards an Italeave position. Italy's problems are not solvable with Germany holding the purse strings for all the EU countries.
So, the first prong of their assault on the power structure of the EU is this, challenge them on their budget while making strong statements to the rest of Europe that they are not looking to exit the euro. If they do, it will be Germany forcing that situation.
The other prong of the assault is to remake the EU from within, which Salvini has openly stated is one of his goals.
It started more than a month ago when he met with Hungarian President Viktor Orban who agreed on a strategy of creating a 'League of Leagues' to unite the opposition to the current technocratic rule on the European Commission.
They were clear then that the goal was to wrest control of the European Commission Presidency from the coalition backing current President Jean-Claude Juncker.
With the rise in the polls of Euroskeptic parties across Europe, Salvini and Orban can drive real change in the structure of the parties within the European Parliament. The European People's Party, which Orban's Fidesz party is a member of, is vulnerable to losing its senior position in any coalition because of the huge change in Italy's electoral make-up along with that in Austria with the less radical Sebastian Kurz.