March 14, 2019

THERE ARE NO TRANSNATIONALISTS:

How the EU infantilises national politics: Italy's political chaos is the inevitable consequence of being ruled by others (Tim Parks, 14 MARCH 2019, UnHerd)

Since ratification of the Maastricht treaty in 1993 Italy has been governed by alternatĀ­ing centre-Right and centre-Left governments, the former mainly represented by Berlusconi and the latter Prodi, then Renzi. Committed to following the Maastricht criteria and later the European Fiscal Compact in relation to annual deficit, overall debt, and various other key economic parameters, they had little room for manoeuvre. The result was that, despite a rhetoric of profound ideological division, Italians got used to seeing very little difference in economic policy whoever the party in government.

Prior to the introduction of the Euro in 2002, this situation was made palatable by a fairly steady 1.5% growth rate, comparable with Germany and the rest of the EU. After 2002, however, Italy began to lose ground, and between 2007 and 2017 it had an annual GDP decline of 0.6% compared to a German growth rate of 1.2%. In 10 years, a 20% difference in economic performance has opened up between Italy and its main trading partner, and relative salary levels have fallen drastically.

Between 2008 and 2015 Italy lost 15% of its manufacturing base and the sector's workforce shrunk by 18%. Meanwhile the construction industry shed 25% of capacity and lost 30% of its workforce. Unemployment stands at 10%, while youth unemployment is over 30%.

Most of all, there is no sign of progress and no positive future to look forward to. Every time a government seeks to follow an expansionist policy it is swiftly reminded by Brussels of the need to abide by the rigid Fiscal Compact. Sanctions are threatened and, worse still, Italian government bond rates are forced up in relation to German bonds increasing public borrowing costs, alienating foreign investors and generally worsening an already depressed situation.

This might be acceptable if Italians felt there was any democratic process that could alter EU policy. This is not the case. The idealism that drove the Maastricht process is long gone. European elections are seen as little more than an opinion poll for national parties, with no sense that the European Parliament could function as an instrument for improving economic prospects for Italy.

As the EU came to be seen more and more as an externally imposed necessity, rather than a community Italians are enthusiastically part of, it was inevitable that new parties would emerge taking an anti-European stance and criticising the leaders of the mainstream parties for abject compliance with Brussels.

Posted by at March 14, 2019 8:40 PM

  

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