Over the past few years, interdependence and the increasing importance of external constraints on Member State governments’ domestic policies have deepened relations between the European Union (EU) and European cabinets. This article investigates the Conte I and Conte II governments’ approach to the EU. Drawing on cleavage theory, we hypothesise that the PD exercised a ‘mitigation effect’ on M5S Euroscepticism, leading to a change in the government’s attitude towards the EU. We test this hypothesis through a small-n comparative analysis based on the two governments’ political pro-grammes, composition, and budgetary policy in the framework of the European Semester. The article is structured as follows: First, we build the theoretical framework on cleavage theory and the ‘mitigation effect’ hypothesis. Second, we illustrate the transition from the Conte I to the Conte II government. Third, we discuss the method and research strategy. Finally, we examine the Conte governments’ polit-ical programmes, composition and budgetary policy with a view to testing the ‘mitigation effect’. Our analysis shows that a shift in Italy’s orientation towards the EU occurred in the transition from Conte I to Conte II, owing much to the PD’s involvement in the latter.
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