Italy will be the EU's biggest challenge after Brexit
The EU has expanded too far and is too inflexible. If there is no change of course, and Italy is its first big challenge after Brexit, the EU may risk unravelling
Were I to be reincarnated, I think I should want to come back as either a counter reformation pope or the EU information commissioner.
As well as a fairly comfortable lifestyle, both roles have created a sense of perfection, that whatever their institutions say is inviolate, the Word made flesh.
You can see it with the Brexit negotiations. The EU says you cannot do it that way and the press and parliament say: ‘that’s it, then; the EU says you can’t do it that way’. Nobody seems to be able to challenge it, any more than they dared challenge the Resurrection.
And the system is firing on all cylinders here in Italy. President Mattarella, a kindly old cove, wanted to help out with the stalemate between the two main electoral protagonists, the centre-right and the Five Star. He offered a Presidential, impartial government which would tide us over until elections in the winter (Italians do not like voting when they could be at the beach).
The impartial government would give Italy a bit of international standing, a leader who could attend European summits, would present a budget to the EU and parliament…..Whoops! See how he did that? Making out that the presentation of a budget conforming to EU rules was something straightforward, non-political. Both sides, naturally, erupted.
Then he was at it again. In his state of the union address: ‘we risk looking as if we lack determination regarding the challenge we must confront…...We have to rediscover Europe, withdrawing ourselves from the futureless hegemony of individualism and of a sovereignist narrative ready to propose solutions as seductive as they are unworkable…’
This tosh could have been written (and possibly was) by the EU’s propaganda unit. You can almost hear the reasonable voice of the Inquisitioner as he explains you will go to hell if you deviate from the norm. Mattarella’s proposal was the EU’s policy back in 2011 when they got rid of Berlusconi: get the President to impose a new government more to European liking and let’s keep them there. Democracy doesn’t matter if you look the other way.
The two winning groups in the Italian election of 4th March, which together comprise some 70% of the Italian vote, do not regard Europe’s budget requirements as non-political. Nor do they regard them as a workable future for Italy. They fully intend to deviate from this foreign regulation; it only needs to be decided in which direction and by how much.
President Mattarella, who doubtless is conscious of his duty of impartiality, must recognise that the EU is a contentious and political matter, not an unalterable fact of life. And the European Union must realise that its relationship with Italy, and perhaps with other states, has changed beyond all measure.
The Italians have come this far and no unelected government in a form appealing to Martin Selmayr will deter them now. Actually, an accord between Salvini and Di Maio will not, in my opinion, last long. There will always be an elephant in the room, or rather a short balding 83 year old called Silvio.
But it could last long enough to pass a budget which busts Brussels’s imposed ceiling wide open, for all to see..
There may then be other revolutions in Europe, other testing of the fabric. There is unease in the rest of the Olive Belt; the thrifty economies of the north are uncomfortable with the high budgets of the Union; and the eastern countries don’t want to be told how to govern by the unelected.
The EU has expanded too far and is too inflexible. If there is no change of course, and Italy is its first big challenge after Brexit, the EU may risk unravelling.
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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