Abu Dhabi


New York

Tuesday 20th March 2018

Italy - Once A European Leader - Now Absent from the Fight


Roberto Tumbarello

Sat, 05 May 2018 22:50 GMT

Italy, once a leading light in the European Union, now seems the great absentee from Europe.

The imposition of tariffs by President Trump, rather than weakening the EU seems to have strengthened European ties that seemed destined to fade. If the US triggers a trade war with the EU, as well as with China, it indicates fear of a strong and more culturally advanced economic system. In fact, while the world fears Chinese competition for the cost of its cheap labour, it knows that Italian manufacturing is valued for its extremely high quality. 

Unfortunately, at this moment Italy is not present. Not just because it is isolated after elections that have yet to produce a government, but because Italians are convinced that European rules penalise us rather than helping us to grow. This view was clearly manifested in the recent elections where the winning parties - Lega and M5S - are both Eurosceptic. 

These politicians want to change EU rules, especially those on taxation that are not identical in all 28 countries and are therefore seen to penalise Italy where social developments have brought about a continuous growth in the cost of labour. As a result, many industries have shut down production in Italy and switched to other countries where labour costs are lower. This is why, despite the continuous growth of GDP, Italy has serious problems of unemployment, especially in the South and among young people aged between 18 and 30. 

There are even those who want to leave the Eurozone and return to the old lira, believing that the source of our problems is the single European currency. Nobody realises the financial disaster that such a decision would cause, nor do they seem to appreciate the dangers of stoking the tensions of the past that provoked two world wars within twenty years.  

The new generation of political leaders seem to have no memory of war beyond those versions presented in cinema and literature, and believe such conflicts are a thing of the past. But the danger is always around the corner. Tension is often fuelled by provocateurs who act in the interests of the arms industry and are interested in sowing misunderstandings and disagreements. 

One only has to look at wars that break out around the world, some very close to Europe’s borders, to realise that it is often misunderstandings, errors of judgement and even trivial motives that lead to conflicts breaking out.  

It seems odd that the German Chancellor and French President now leading Europe should consult with the British Prime Minister Theresa May, instead of asking for support from Brussels, when the UK is leaving the EU and enjoys historic links to the United States.  

Obviously, Italy is also out of the decision-making loop when it comes to questions about the Iran nuclear deal, about the war in Syria, about terrorism and more generally relations with the Islamic world - where Italy has long had close friends. And this trend – apart from the policy of closing borders to limit migration – leads us further away from France and Germany, in other words away from the leaders of the new Europe.