Italy’s Prime minister Matteo Renzi gestures as he arrives before an EU summit meeting on June 28, 2016 at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016. / AFP / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
As stated by the previous post I have been fascinated by the fallout of the UK referendum on European Union membership. I’ve read voraciously about it. This is what the internet allows you to do. But another thing about the internet is that if you can read another language often you are allowed to see things from another perspective.
This is especially the case about Brexit. Reading Italian media I got a different sense of this event.
If they want to go, let them.
Many commentators congratulated Britain for making a choice. It was recognised that it was a democratic choice and if that’s what they want to do is up to them. There was a sense that the EU can survive without the UK (as long as France and Germany are in it).
Italy is not part of the domino
Some say that Italy may be part of the next domino to request a referendum and thus leave the EU. There are certainly plenty of Eurosceptic in Italy, or even anti EU, but I sense there isn’t a big move against it. Italy has been part of the EU since its inception as the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, unlike Britain that was a reluctant participant from 1972.
Besides a referendum would be difficult as under the Italian constitution they can only be carried out to:
- Repeal a law or laws
- To alter constitutional legislation
- To join regions together or create new ones
- To move a province or city to another region
There is no provision to ask Italian citizens to do a type of referendum like the one carried out in Britain. This would need a change to the constitution itself (which can be done by Parliament in certain circumstances) and that presents its own problems.
The interesting aspect is what will be the attitude of ‘new parties’ which have arisen out of the dissatisfaction of the old ones, and this is especially the 5 Stars Movement. This party wants to call itself a ‘movement’ rather than a party as it wants to distance itself from the old order. It arose from an idea of Beppe Grillo, who is a satirical comedian who made jokes about the Italian political system.
While it may seem strange that a comic started a political movement it is not surprising given that the political situation in Italy was locked amongst two parties which seemed to do little apart from attaching themselves to as many ministries as possible. Grillo decried this situation for years and started a movement that quickly snowballed into a political party much to everyone’s (and I think Grillo himself) surprise. In the recent elections for mayor the 5 stars movement won the capital, Rome and a major city of the north Turin.
As a protest movement 5 Stelle has attracted support from a wide range of people. Imagine ranging from Jacquie Lambie to Tony Windsor and you may have an idea. But a positive thing is that unlike other parts of Europe it has channeled the anger and dissatisfaction towards it, rather than going to some nasty right wing groups. Its stance is to remain in the EU and with other like minded European groups work to reform it from within. It is however against the Euro which they see it as a disaster and would like a referendum to abolish the law that has instituted it in Italy. Their policy is outlined here.
It pushes Italy up the ladder
While Italy has major financial problems, it is nevertheless a major economy. The exit of the United Kingdom (which was second after Germany) means that Italy goes from the fourth biggest economy in the EU to third after Germany and France.
This was reflected at a press conference ahead of the EU summit meeting where the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi was invited with Merkel and Hollande. I think Renzi beamed like he scored the goal to win the Euro football championship for the Azzurri.
Let’s face it. The UK was a bit of a nuisance.
Sergio Romano is an editor in the Corriere della Sera, one of the major newspapers in Italy. He also has been the Italian ambassador in Russia. In his opinion while the UK was one of the most important countries in the EU, it often obstructed more integration because it feared about its sovereignty, or feared that it would diminish its global importance. According to Romano the push to include Easter European countries was a strategy by John Major to weaken the EU. Which remarkably is almost exactly what this clip from ‘Yes Minister’ says.
So according to Romano, without the UK placing impediments, the EU will be free to continue its program of integration. Although if we see what happened with the Euro, I am not sure many Europeans will be that willing to go down this path.