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Italexit — Really?

ITALEXIT – really?
Sergio Mattarella, Italy's president, received a standing ovation in the Italian parliament in March for his rousing defense of EU integration. But anti-Euro group Lega Nord (Northern League) MPs stormed out from the chamber, and the Five Star Movement gained ground. Many commentators though this was the start of Italexit. Are they right or wrong?

Lorenzo Sasso, the Vice President of the Association Italiani a Mosca, and Professor of International Business Law at Higher School of Economics in Moscow, also Giovanni Ferri, Professor of economics and international relations at the Lumsa Unversity in Rome, join the program.

The overriding question in Italy is the economy. Professor Ferris says that Italy is going through a difficult time but that this is not a uniquely Italian problem. He thinks that Italy’s economy will get back on track. Professor Sasso paints a more optimistic picture and says that there has been positive economic data coming from local and international sources and cites as an example the IMF which has revised Italy’s 2017 GDP upwards by.5%, to nearly 1.3%, “which is a decent recovery. More recently we have had news of companies starting new investment cycles, particularly in machinery and transport equipment. It also seems that the worst is over in terms of bankruptcies and in the labor market, we have seen that the unemployment level is gradually creeping down.”

Perhaps surprisingly for many international observers, both speakers think that leaving the EU would not be a good idea for Italy. Professor Ferro says: "Although very fashionable, leaving the EU is very unrealistic.” Professor Ferri adds that “it would be disastrous for Italy to exit the Euro, …there are so many uncertainties, this is not the solution."

Professor Sasso considers the Northern League as being unable to govern Italy alone, “so it will have to form an alliance with another Party. He dismisses the Five Star Movement as losing ground because although they have the advantage of never having being in power, they are also inexperienced. “For the time being, this is not an option.” The political situation in Europe is that an equilibrium needs to be found between the hegemonic France and Germany and everybody else, a solution would be to integrate politically within Europe. Within a Federal Authority, a United States of Europe, these problems would be solved..,” he says.

Professor Ferri says that there seems to be a growing awareness in continental Europe, “after the vagaries of what has happened after Trump was appointed, the political elite and the people in continental Europe are becoming more aware that we cannot afford to break apart, and if I look at the latest information from the Euro Barometer, I find that the number of people who trust the EU is increasing, not only in France and Germany but in the so called ‘PIGS.’ There is a growing consensus within Europe for going for what is called a United States of Europe.”

Professor Sasso sees that Brexit in actually providing a good reason for Europe to go ahead and integrate more. Host John Harrison asks Professor Ferri if the movement towards greater integration in Europe will in fact cause a reaction in terms of nationalism in each country and in particular in Italy? Professor Ferri jokes that the UK will be allowed back in again of it changes its mind, and explains that the main problem is the thousands and thousands of people trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. “Italy has been left [to sort out her problems] alone, this is not good. The rest of the EU has to compromise and find some kind of political solution to share the costs otherwise we will be pushed into the arms of the populists… But I believe that Brexit and Trump were enough to warn the leaders in Berlin and Paris that we cannot walk that way.”

The program closes with a discussion about EU and Russia sanctions. Both quests feel that this issue has been badly managed as Russia is a part of Europe, and that Italy should definitely be trying to engage in trade with Russia.

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