Second, in Europe Italy has clearly chosen a pro-European side. This should not be underestimated, as it was not at all obvious before the elections. The electoral campaign has been fought by many on an anti-EU basis and the risk of a Eurosceptic drift was in fact substantial, but it has not materialised. This may partly be due to the attitude that Italians traditionally have vis-à-vis Europe. As previous analysis has shown, in Italy, confidence in the European institutions has decreased over time but the positive confidence gap between European versus national institutions has remained the largest since the start of the sovereign crisis. Third, the contrast with neighbouring France, is striking. Two countries that are frequently compared in terms of economic indicators, France and Italy could hardly look more different in terms of preferences expressed vis-à-vis Europe. The victory of Marine Le Pen’s anti-EU Front National – which affirmed itself as the first party with an unforeseen 25% - is impressive, in a country that has been among the founding fathers of the European project. Coupled with Holland’s approval rating being in the doldrums, this electoral result could slow down the traditional Franco-German engine for European integration and prelude to a reassessment in the geography of alliances. In this process, Italy should play a role and put itself forward as a decided leader in the project of more European integration.By the way, I think the Italian result is much more significant than the narrow Syriza victory in Greece. Greece has been an outlier throughout the crisis: a very small economy with a very high sovereign debt, quite atypical of other "Club Med" countries (Spanish debt was private, not sovereign, before the crisis, and Italy's high sovereign debt was contracted in the pre-euro years, not as a result of the euro as in the Greek case). Those who think that Alexis Tsipras is going to lead Europe to a sustainable order are dreaming. Italy, on the other hand, is about to assume the rotating council presidency. To be sure, Italy is in great need of substantial structural reform and is hardly a model of government efficiency. But there are positive signs.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Italy Shows the Way