So, the ‘elite’ President of Italy has vetoed the appointment of a ‘populist’ finance minister, citing “uncertainty” about Italy’s membership of the euro, which is apparently inviolable. “I asked for… an authoritative person from the parliamentary majority who is consistent with the government programme… who isn’t seen as a supporter of a line that could probably, or even inevitably, provoke Italy’s exit from the euro,” President Sergio Mattarella said.
It doesn’t appear that a ‘government programme’ in Italy may be anti-EU or anti-euro (if they aren’t the same thing), confirming (if there was ever any doubt) that “there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties,” as Jean-Claude Juncker once said. Italians who voted for populist parties in the hope of change have discovered that the ballot box no longer works. Those who supported the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Lega aren’t by any means all ‘extremists’, ‘racists’, ‘xenophobes’, etc., etc. They are fathers who want to provide for their families, mothers who want to feed their babies, teenagers who want a job…
Youth unemployment in Italy is 31.5%; in Sicily it is a whopping 57.2%. Try telling an educated jobless 18-year-old that the EU is working or that the euro is the fount of prosperity, and he’ll kick you very swiftly where it hurts. Try telling three million angry and forgotten youngsters that they should be welcoming millions of immigrants from Romania, Morocco, Albania and Nigeria because it’s the tolerant, generous and Christian thing to do.
So Italians voted for change: they want to see immigration controlled, and they want jobs. The EU doesn’t permit the former, and the constraints of the euro hinder the latter. So they voted in their millions for political parties which offered potential solutions. You may not approve of the policies of the Lega or M5S, but in the General Election of March 2018 they won 37% and 32% respectively: they may be ‘populist’ in their policies, but they have (or had) a popular mandate (if they could agree) to form a coalition and to govern.
Lega is by far the more Eurosceptic party: they voted against the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe and have proposed abandoning the euro. M5S opposes the centralised powers of the European Central Bank and has called for a re-think on Economic and Monetary Union. While there are valid questions about whether this amounts to Euroscepticism at all, there is no doubt that both parties agree that the Italian economy isn’t quite working, and that something needs to be done.
But that something, according to President Mattarella, may not extend to appointing Eurosceptic Paolo Savona as Finance Minister, for that might lead to Italy leaving the euro (or even, God forbid, the EU), and that is not “consistent with the government programme”. And so, once again, the elite ruler installs an elite-approved technocrat to govern his country in order to induce fiscal responsibility and restore financial stability. His name is Carlo Cottarelli, formerly executive director of the International Monetary Fund.
Yes, Italy is now governed by an unelected banker, in the interests of investors: the euro is omnipotent; the market rules the demos; Mammon trumps democracy.
You can’t have elite philosopher-kings beholden to hoi polloi, and so there is no place for democracy in the European Union, for there was never intended to be. In order to achieve fiscal union – a United States of Europe – with a single currency, a single bank, a single interest rate, a single taxation policy, and a single economic policy, there must be an ultimate authority; a single president who won’t be accountable to the people or subject to the vicissitudes and inconveniences of democracy.
While we await the man of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all people – the one who will lift the EU out of the economic morass into which it is sinking – Italians are forced to bow the knee to Carlo Cottarelli. Whether he be god or devil, they must receive him.
Just what are three million young, educated, unemployed and frustrated Italians supposed to do when the ballot box no longer works?