The EU's coup in Italy; a neo-authoritarian fiasco
This is the ghastly, undemocratic face of the EU. Just as they told countries to vote again when they had got their referendums "wrong", just as they got rid of the elected Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi in 2011, now they have forbidden the chosen Italian finance minister because he is critical of the euro. Welcome to the EU's neo-authoritarian disaster in the making
It is important to remember that the Italian general election took place on 4th March, twelve weeks ago as I write, and the Prime Minister, despite having been soundly defeated, is still Paolo Gentiloni.
Always Italy has made some sort of inciucio, or stitch-up, or there has been a Presidential government. Now maybe not.
What happened over the weekend of 26th and 27th of May was the worst conceivable result of the almost forgotten election. Italy is left in Limbo, with little likelihood of an administration being formed in the foreseeable future, and a constitutional crisis on its hands.
The last time the leader of the largest party became Prime Minister in the usual way was in 2008. Berlusconi was removed from office and four appointees succeeded him. It was important that this time democracy was seen to work. It hasn’t.
What has happened is this: after a long period of negotiation it was agreed between Luigi di Maio and Matteo Salvini that in return for Salvini dropping Silvio Berlusconi from his grouping he could have more power than his single party’s electoral vote suggested. The two would be partners.
They worked long and hard on a list of names for Prime Minister and the main offices of state. The Prime Minister’s position was difficult enough: the favourite Giuseppe Conte turned out to have ‘embellished’ his cv. But the name of the Finance Minister, an octogenarian professor called Paolo Savona, was going to be difficult.
Savona has been critical of the euro; not, it should be stated, of the EU as such. He wrote that joining the euro was, for Italy, a huge mistake, and that it cannot share the same currency as Germany. This is simply not done at a high level in EU politics.
Now, you may argue that you do not have to be a professor of economics to notice that joining the euro was a mistake. Since 1999 the Italian economy has grown by around 6%, whilst that of Germany has grown by more than 25%. Britain, out of the euro, has grown by 38%.
Unemployment is 11%. In the south, youth unemployment is at the 50% level, a whole generation which will probably never work, wasted by allowing politics precedence over economics. Even in these good times Italy has been struggling to grow at all.
Then, over the weekend, we had a repeat of the 2011 crisis, where European leaders called the then president Giorgio Napolitano to tell him Berlusconi must go, and the president, probably exceeding his powers, agreed. Since then, Monti, Letta, Renzi and Gentiloni have all been appointees.
We know that President Mattarella received a call over the weekend from Wolfgang Schaeuble. No longer German Finance Minister but still influential, he was one of the gang which removed the elected government in 2011. Who else called? Merkel, Rutte of Holland, Le Roi Soleil Macron, Juncker and Selmayr? Probably all of them.
The upshot is that President Mattarella has refused the appointment of Paolo Savona, and the two leaders have refused to submit, instructing Giuseppe Conte to surrender his mandate. The joke in Italy is that he has probably now gone to upgrade his cv to show he was Prime Minister.
Di Maio has called for the President’s impeachment. What the markets, already jittery, think of this is anyone’s guess.
This is the ghastly, undemocratic face of the EU. Just as they told countries to vote again when they had got their referendums "wrong", just as they got rid of the elected Prime Minister Berlusconi in 2011, now they have forbidden the chosen finance minister.
The EU, Juncker, Merkel and the whole dreadful lot of them, are saying to the Italian people ‘You can’t be trusted to choose your own government. You might make the mistake of choosing someone we don’t like.’
Now let’s see what the Italians think of that. Watch this space.
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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