Italy’s Democrats Split, EU Victory for Macron, Doubts About Syria Strikes

Italy’s Democrats debate whether to negotiate with the Five Star Movement. Experts caution against an attack on Syria.

Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini answers questions from reporters in Rome, April 29, 2016
Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini answers questions from reporters in Rome, April 29, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s Democrats are split on whether to negotiate with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

At a party meeting on Tuesday, former ministers Dario Franceschini and Andrea Orlando argued for coalition talks.

The alternative, a Five Star government with the xenophobic (Northern) League, would make Italy look “like Hungary,” Franceschini said.

However, centrists loyal to the outgoing leader, Matteo Renzi, reject a deal.

Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio has said it is time to “bury the hatchet”. His talks with the League have not been going well. But the Five Stars still call for overturning Renzi’s signature labor reforms, which made it easier for firms to fire and hire workers.

EU labor victory for Macron

EU countries have agreed to rein in employers’ ability to hire low-wage, so-called “posted” workers from Eastern Europe in what is a symbolic victory for France’s Emmanuel Macron.

Macron convinced other European leaders last year to reform the Posted Workers Directive, which allows companies to temporarily “post” workers to another member state without abiding by its labor laws.

In future, such postings will be limited to twelve months rather than 24, with a possible six-month extension. Companies will also have to meet local labor standards.

The Posted Workers Directive affects less than 1 percent of the European labor force: around two million workers were posted in other EU counties in 2014. The biggest group works in construction.

But it has become a symbol for those who feel left behind by European integration.

Strikes in search of a strategy

Experts caution that another round of air or cruise-missile strikes on Syria will accomplish little if it isn’t accomplished by a revised Western strategy.

  • Julien Barnes-Dacey: Russians troops in Syria risk being caught up in the attacks… The inherent unpredictability of war — and of the US and Russian leaders — makes for a risky situation. Any attacks also guarantee a further poisoning of the relationship with Russia, whose participation is ultimately still critical to any hope of resolving the core conflict.
  • Frederic C. Hof: The objective here, narrowly, has to do with deterring future chemical use and perhaps more broadly deterring mass homicide, but it all depends on the follow-up. If Assad sees this as he saw the incident one year ago, as a one-time, one-off event, then it will accomplish precisely nothing.
  • Fred Kaplan: The Pentagon’s war planners are probably trying to develop options that inflict enough damage to stun Assad into altering his behavior — but not enough damage to draw us into a deeper and wider war. That’s a tight wire to walk.