Abstract: In 2017, Italy, France, and Germany jointly supported the setting up of an EU-wide investment screening mechanism to strengthen the EU’s capacity to screen and eventually block foreign investments. In a few months, however, the Italian government changed position dramatically, shifting from leading supporter to staunchest opposer of this pol-icy initiative. Such a change of positioning was decisive in both watering down the initial proposal and moving for-ward with the idea of a looser mechanism coordinating national investment screening activities. This article develops an explanation of the Italian government’s changing negotiating stance. We develop an argument that stresses how two factors combined to produce this puzzling outcome. First, we stress the role of political parties as drivers of governments’ foreign economic policy choices. More specifically, we show that the preferences of the parties form-ing the Italian government after the 2018 general elections (the Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement) were crucial in shaping Italy’s evolving stance on this important issue. Second, we highlight the implications of the tension that exists between two different “varieties” of anti-globalism. While “self-proclaimed” anti-globalist political parties usu-ally combine a traditional critique of globalization and opposition to further political integration in the EU, they may be forced to prioritize one over the other when they prove incompatible. In this context, we show how Italian anti-globalist parties’ choice to prioritize anti-Europeanism over anti-globalism led them to prefer strengthening domes-tic-level institutions to screen FDIs rather than allowing the EU to acquire new powers.
Keywords: economic security; EU; investment screening; Italy; political‐economy; political parties