Italy gets it: The problems begin in Brussels
Confronted by Trump, Putin and Brexit, Europe has reverted to type. Its answer to problems, as it always has been, is ‘more Europe’, which, of course, means more poison for an already dying patient. Italy, it seems, is waking up to this suicidal course
Let us begin with a question: who said ‘the problem with Europe is Europe itself’, and ‘the problems begin in Brussels and Frankfurt’? Was it (a) Donald Trump; (b) the Italian Economy Minister or (c) Nigel Farage?
Yes, step forward Pier Carlo Padoan who, like many of his countrymen, is getting fed up.
It has been an up and down few days for Padoan and for Italy. There have been more serious earthquakes, this time without loss of life, then the dreadful avalanche on a hotel in the Abruzzo, in which, despite heroic efforts of Italy’s Civil Protection units who arrived on skis, there has been a number of casualties.
On the economic front, the European Commission has rejected the budget. This was the feelgood, giveaway budget Matteo Renzi and Padoan had brought out to get people voting in their favour in the December constitutional referendum. It didn’t work, but to make matters worse, Brussels has now told Rome it needs to make more than €3 billion of savings.
Against that, Europe has just replaced one of its Presidents. Yes, I knew that would get you excited.
The Presidents, to remind you, are: of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker; of the European Council, Donald Tusk; of the Council of European Union, the Government of Malta; of the Council of Europe, Pedro Agramund (me neither); and of the European Parliament, formerly Martin Schultz, now Antonio Tajani of Italy.
Schultz, you remember, was a bearded, rather self-important German. He is principally famous for having had a row with Silvio Berlusconi, in which the latter said ‘they are making a film about concentration camps in my country and you would have been excellent for the part of the camp guard’.
Schultz had left the Presidency of the Parliament in order to fight Angela Merkel in the German elections this year, but decided he didn’t have a hope. Rather than pursuing a well-deserved obscurity in his home country, he has decided to draw two salaries, one as a German MP, one as an MEP. He will also retain membership of a few committees so Europe will, unfortunately, still have the benefit of him. At least the President of Gambia departed for good.
Schulz will be replaced, ironically, by a friend of Berlusconi: Antonio Tajani did a stint as Silvio’s spokesman (surely one of the most exhilarating and varied jobs on the planet). But do not imagine this appointment will bring a new Roman style to a post previously held by a dour German.
The new guy is a dull, European type who was once a failed candidate to be mayor of Rome then an incompetent EU Commissioner. It was him that was formally told of what would become the diesel emissions scandal while industry commissioner four years ago, but he did nothing. No one seems to mind.
We, the people, of course, had no input into who should hold this significant office. It was a backroom stitch-up, mainly organised by Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the fourth largest parliamentary group. Verhofstadt had initially tried to get the MEPs of Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star Movement into his grouping, but his own membership refused to have them.
The new lead grouping will be slightly to the right of the previous one, though they are all, to be honest, much the same.
Whilst Tajani’s ‘election’ adds to the number of influential Italians in Europe (alongside Mario Draghi, governor of the central bank and Federica Mogherini, Foreign Minister) it is essentially more of the same thing. Tajani is of the same grouping as Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker.
What we have learned is that, confronted by Trump, Putin and Brexit, Europe has reverted to type. Its answer to problems, as it always has been, is ‘more Europe’. More obedient Tajanis, their strings pulled by insane Euro-fanatics like Verhofstadt, Schultz and Juncker. If you are a southern European, poor and out of work, this appointment will be ‘no change’.
It is better than the earthquakes, but not much.
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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