Italy: On a collision course with Europe
After three months of postelection chaos, an “exhausted” Italy is “simply relieved to have a government” at last, said Mario Calabresi in La Repubblica (Italy). But the unwieldy coalition forged last week by the far-right League, which together with allied right-leaning parties won 37 percent of the vote in the March election, and the pro-welfare, anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which took 33 percent, won’t bring us stability. Neither party wanted the other to lead, so the prime minister is now the neutral Giuseppe Conte, 53, a law professor with no political experience. How will they govern together? A year ago, remember, Five Star leaders called the League “cryptofascist” and said the two parties were “genetically and culturally opposite.” And the coalition agreement the two produced shows exactly that: It promises both the tax cuts the League demands and the universal basic income that Five Star campaigned on, all of which would cost this indebted nation well over $100 billion a year. “Fasten your seatbelts,” because this government’s “mixture of inexperience, improvisation, and arrogance” will lead us on a wild and possibly dangerous ride.
This divided government is a perfect representation of a divided nation, said Pierre-Cyrille Hautcoeur in Le Monde (France). Italy’s rich industrial North, which voted for the League, has a booming economy and resents the waves of unskilled African migrants who have flowed to Italy in recent years. The more rural South, which voted for Five Star, has a “poorer, poorly educated, and jobless society,” and its people blame their ills on the introduction of the euro in 1999. The split between the two Italies has existed since Italian unification in the late 19th century, but has worsened in the past decade.
This instability threatens the entire European Union, said Ulrich Ladurner in Die Zeit (Germany). If one room in a shared apartment goes up in flames, “surely all the other roommates should shout ‘FIRE!’” Yet criticizing Italy’s political insanity only makes Italians resent the EU even more. In fact, the EU “is an excellent scapegoat” for Italy’s new government, said Italian journalist Roberto Saviano in The Guardian (U.K.). If Conte can’t deliver the League’s flat tax or Five Star’s basic income, EU budget rules will be blamed. Italians voted in this populist government out of anger at their national leaders’ ineptitude. The populists can now channel that rage at an external target.
At least this new coalition is taking action on the immigration crisis, said Anna Sampino in Giornale di Sicilia (Italy). As soon as he was sworn in as interior minister, League leader Matteo Salvini traveled to Sicily, a major landing area for African and other migrants, 120,000 of whom crossed the Mediterranean to Italy last year. Salvini declared that he would build on the previous government’s “policies of control, removal, and expulsion,” and he demanded that the EU share the burden. “Italy,” he said, “cannot be transformed into a refugee camp on behalf of Europe.”