EU crisis summit in Ventotene replete with delusion
The highly symbolic EU summit in Ventotene, Italy, inaugurates a move in the balance of power to the left. A new EU army is likely to be the first substantive move after the Brexit vote, as the delusions continue unabated
There are certainly worse places to work if you have to do it in August. Ventotene is an island group in the Tyrrhenian Sea, just south of Rome, and Matteo Renzi was playing host to Angela Merkel and François Hollande
It evokes a happy comparison with Silvio Berlusconi who took over the rotating leadership of Europe on 1st July but assumed nobody worked at that time of year so didn’t restart the European motor until September. These people work and want to be seen to be working.
The choice of Ventotene is significant. On Santo Stefano, one of the island group, there is an old prison which Mussolini had fixed up and used to house political prisoners. Amongst the inmates was a young communist called Altiero Spinelli. From prison he wrote the Ventotene Manifesto, for circulation amongst the wartime communist groups.
The Manifesto proposed European Unity, not as a distant goal, but as something instantly achievable by political will; bien pensant politicians agreeing to push forwards together.
It made its author revered throughout Europe as one of its founding fathers. It is said he smuggled it out written on cigarette papers, so not quite on the back of a fag packet.
Spinelli, though he broke with Stalin, remained a communist until his death, and it is easy to see where the stifling bureaucracy and disdain for democracy which marks the EU had its origins.
The tripartite summit, then, is filled with symbolism. It is part of a series of meetings to work out where Europe should go after the departure of Britain. One of the most interesting aspects is that there are three countries involved. Traditionally Europe has been run by France and Germany, with the other two large countries, Britain and Italy, having a subsidiary role, and behind them the rest.
Now Europe will be propelled by three countries. No one voted for this. At least they are following Spinelli’s philosophy that democracy is less important than heading towards your goal.
The balance will now inevitably be further to the left, more expansionary economically, more statist. This represents a victory for Matteo Renzi, finally at the top table, and a retreat for Angela Merkel, which the Bundesbank may never forgive.
The summit was billed in the European Press as the start of Europe 2.0, a new multi-speed Europe. However it is not that. If they had permitted a multi-speed Europe years ago they would not have lost Britain and there would not be all this trouble with Turkey. Rather than allowing countries to go at their own speed, the three powers will agree on new aspects of integration, then bully and bribe the others to follow them.
There will be no backtracking and there will be consequences for those ‘left behind’.
The first development will be a new European Army. They will try to merge the commands of the three armies (probably using English as a common language) then get the others to subscribe to and pay for it. One of the largest armies in Europe is that of Greece, which doesn’t even have the same alphabet. Vladimir Putin must be wetting himself.
Europe’s élite seems more than ever detached from reality. Far from a new departure this is another let down for the European people. The single currency is collapsing, unemployment high, the economy stagnant, migration and terrorism a constant worry and the only answer their leaders can come up with is ‘more Europe’.
The people of Europe are facing a new form of undemocratic government with new masters. More integration, less democracy will be the watchwords. More confusion and bureaucracy will be the methodology; more public unrest the outcome. It will be held up by the elections in France and Germany next year and those in Italy in 2018 or earlier.
Europe 2.0 will fail and we shall be looking for a new version unless the people put a stop to it. Who knows? They might do just that.
Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here
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