Renzi: “Europe has taken the wrong road, austerity alone is not enough” by MATTEO RENZI *

“If we care about European institutions, we must make our voice heard. We are doing it for Europe’s, not Italy’s, sake”

Dear Editor-in-chief,
in the past twenty-four months of my government I have been repeatedly been made the object of attention by Eugenio Scalfari. I consider it an honor, since I hold in high esteem the founder of La Repubblica, one of the most authoritative voices in Italian journalism. The topic that he’s been raising in the last few hours forces me to attempt an answer. Let me get straight to the point: I very much respect the debate that has sprung up, on which Italy has something to say, and says it. But the question of a European Treasury “superminister” is not the main point. The problem of the economy in the Union today lies not in the superminister, but in its direction.
Our government believes that in the past years Europe has taken the wrong road. And that if we care about European institutions, we must make our voice heard. We are doing it for Europe’s, not Italy’s, sake.

To get to the point: during the past eight years of democratic presidency, the United States has bet on growth, investments and innovation, while Europe was betting on austerity, currency and strictness. From an economic standpoint the United States is faring better than they were eight years ago. Europe, on the other hand, is faring worse. If we had to sum it up in a headline, or for a tweet if you prefer, we would write: Obama did well. Barroso didn’t.

Austerity alone is not enough. On the other hand, the European countries that have in fact grown did so only by blatantly violating the deficit rules. I am thinking of Cameron’s UK, who has financed a tax cut that has brought the deficit to 5%, or to Rajoy’s Spain, whose growth has been accompanied by an average deficit of almost 6%.

Insisting for eight years straight on a cure that does not work is a form of “therapeutic obstinacy”.

I am not talking about rules, let that be clear. Italy follows the rules, and this year our deficit will be the lowest it has been in the past decade (2.5%). Germany, on the other hand, does not follow the rules, and its trade surplus still exceeds the Commission guidelines. In spite of that, Italy has restarted, thanks to the increase in consumption, to its citizens’ confidence, to the Job Act and to the reforms – which are hard and yet necessary.

The problem lies not in the rules. The problem is the economic politics of this Europe of ours.

Before tackling the issue of superministers we should probably define clearly the economic politics that we intend to follow. Because austerity, alone, can be a killer.

As for Italy: some people say that the battle that we have engaged in for the past months has not worked on a domestic level. According to others, it has improved the government popularity. I would not know. I don’t trust polls. They almost never get it right.
If I had paid attention to the polls I would have not accepted the challenge to give this legislature a future by imposing a path of reforms in which nobody any longer believed.
If I had paid attention to the polls I would not have embarked on the challenge of the European elections in 2014. And yet we won. Hands down.
If we had listened to the polls we would have not centered our policies on the topic of migrations, starting with the missions in Africa: from Tunisia to Ghana, from Nigeria to Senegal, from Congo
to Angola. And yet that is the right thing to do.

I think that a party’s task is not that of following the polls. One becomes a leader if he or she has the strength to change what the polls say. If he or she can convince the citizens.

Italy is not arguing with Europe because it has an issue of internal consensus. We will vote here after the elections in England, after Spain has given itself a new government, after the elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. We are, and this might seem like a paradox, the most stable country in Europe. So we don’t have issues about that.
What we care about is Europe.

At the same time we, Italians, must change too. On the one hand there are the demagogues. Those who would like to quit the euro: the Lega and the Cinque Stelle. On the other, there are those who are convinced that whatever Brussels says it is always the truth, regardless. And that all we need to do is obey to some decisions that are taken elsewhere. They are both wrong.

We Italians must be aware of the fact that Europe represents our roots and our future. And that if Italy does not make its voice heard it’s bad for everybody. So, when some of us in Brussels ask that more attention gets focused on social issues, growth, European civil service, digital innovation, bureaucratic simplification, they are not being critical for the sake of it.

Italy has suggested, and will keep suggesting, some specific proposals about single issues. A few working groups coordinated by Pier Carlo Padoan are tackling as we speak a few such issues. The main point though is: will Europe be able to re-find the path of politics, in the face of the representative crisis that is causing distress within the traditional parties?

I am talking about a global strategy towards immigration – based on international cooperation more than barbed wire.
I am talking about a shared vision of the financial system, particularly the great turbulence that has affected some German banks, too.
I am talking about establishing some common rules about the selection of the candidates who are to lead Europe, starting with the primaries for the presidency of the Commission.

A few days ago I visited an iconic place: the island of Ventotene. There, I was made painfully aware of how years of neglect have turned the Santo Stefano jail into ruins. The very place where the fathers of our country, the champions of the Resistence suffered. I visited the cell of Sandro Pertini, and the settings where Spinelli, Rossi and Colorni (might I add Ursula Hirshman, too?) used to exchange ideas. Together with minister Franceschini and president Zingaretti, I have decided to launch a great project for Europe. A project that will educate our youth and form our politicians. Ventotene will be the starting point of the European dream. A dream that as of now seems doomed to crash on the rocks of selfishness and the barriers of fear. Let’s turn our sight towards the ideals, the horizon, the vision. The Italian government will host some programs targeted at forming a new generation of European leaders. Because the only way to make memories alive is to pass them along.

From growth to primaries, from the moulding of new European leaders to a new direction of the economic politics, from social Europe to the battle against national selfishness and fear, Italy is ready. We are on the front line, ready to do our part, day after day. On the front line, without being bashful, made strong by our ideas. On the front line for the power — allow me — of our cultural and economical identity.
On the front line, not for a handful of extra ballots, but to give our children a future. And at the end of the day this is what really matters.

* The author of the letter is the Italian Prime Minister

(traduzione di Marzia Porta) / larepubblica

Siamo la redazione. Sembra un account astratto ma possiamo assicurarvi che è sempre un umano a scrivere questi articoli, anzi più di uno ed è per questo usiamo questo account. Per conoscere la nostra Redazione visita la pagina "Redazione" sopra nel menù, o in fondo..Buona lettura!



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