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The EU’s Italian nightmare

15 1 0
29.05.2018

LONDON – In 1972, a time of great stress in the White House and in the Italian economy, U.S. President Richard Nixon, asked to reflect on the fate of Italy’s currency, famously snapped: “I don’t give a sh-t about the lira!” His line, recorded amid his Watergate travails, points to Italy being of peripheral concern to the world’s great ones.

It isn’t now. The lira has gone; the country’s entry into the euro zone on Jan. 1, 1999, has made it a country that the great powers do have to care about. After Brexit it will be the third-largest economy in the European Union and the eighth-largest in the world with a nominal GDP of nearly $2.2 trillion and a population of 60 million.

It is a member of NATO and of the Group of Seven. Were it to default on its more than $2.6 trillion public debt, it could not be “saved” like Greece. Yet now, the matter of saving Italy (from itself) is squarely in front of its fellow members of the EU.

Squarely before them now too is a newly-coalesced Italian government that is their nightmare. It is composed of two parties: one, which received the largest share of the votes in an inconclusive general election on March 4, is the Five Star Movement, a party founded in 2009 by the comedian Beppe Grillo on the idea that the internet facilitates direct democracy, rendering parliament and its representatives obsolete.

Having, for the moment, largely put to one side the revolutionary project of replacing them,........

© The Japan Times