Italy versus the EU
The EU’s worst nightmare has taken place: Italy has a new, populist, Euroskeptic and anti-German government that paradoxically enjoys almost unanimous popularity thanks to the absurd interference of Brussels and Berlin.
Instead of weakening Euroskeptic parties, the “anti-populist” maneuvers orchestrated by Brussels — with the help of banks, ratings agencies, the media and other strong powers — made it clear to anyone that it is right to accuse the EU of ingesting national democratic processes and trying to steer them.
“Italy is a nation with limited sovereignty, and this is bad.” This sentence is on the lips of millions of citizens disappointed by the harsh contrast between President Sergio Mattarella and the so-called populist coalition formed by the League and the Five Star Movement (M5S).
The turning point occurred on May 27 when the president rejected Paolo Savona, whom the coalition chose as economy minister, because of its anti-euro stance and for fear of negative reactions from the EU and stock exchanges.
At that point, the League and M5S left the negotiations, and Mattarella gave the task of forming the government to technocrat Carlo Cottarelli, who would not have enjoyed a majority in Parliament and would have immediately resigned, but would have remained in office until the next election in September.
This has triggered a major dispute among constitutional law experts, and has led to populists speaking of a coup (the leader of M5S has asked for Mattarella’s impeachment). Above all, this abruptly opened all Italians’ eyes to something that everyone should have understood for years: By joining the EU, Italy accepted the limitation of its sovereignty.
The EU budget commissioner made it clear, saying: “My expectation is that the next weeks will show that developments in Italy’s markets and economy will have such an influence that it will become a signal for voters not to vote for populists.”
The real winner is Matteo Salvini, whose party has surged in popularity. As interior minister, he will face problems linked to crime and immigration.
This phrase, from a German, galvanized the populists, and all polls showed that they would win 90 percent of seats in the September election. Faced with this coming storm, the president has sought a compromise by giving the populists another chance to form a government.
The League and M5S accepted, moving Savona to the Ministry of EU Policies, and choosing as economy minister one of his disciples, economist Giovanni Tria, who recently wrote: “It is Germany that should exit the euro because its trade balance surplus is not compatible with the fixed exchange rate regime that exists in the euro zone, or at least accept a shift to a regime of adjustable fixed exchange rates.”
We are already witnessing an exchange of insults and stereotypes that seemed buried forever. According to German media, Italians are lazy scammers who exploit German work. According to Italians, Germans are authoritarians, invaders and predators.
Much will depend not on Italy’s foreign minister, who will be a technocrat, and not on Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is an unknown professor, but on the leaders of the League and M5S (Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, respectively).
The real winner is Salvini, whose party has surged in popularity. As interior minister, he will face problems linked to crime and immigration. His natural allies are EU members the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, and the leaders he admires are US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. For the EU, it will be a very hot summer.
• Max Ferrari is a journalist and politician. He is a former parliamentary journalist, a war correspondent in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, and director of a TV channel. He is an expert in geopolitics and energy policy.