Italy’s Populists Come to Terms with Reality

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte attends a meeting with Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, August 15
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte attends a meeting with Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, August 15 (Governo Italiano)

Italy’s ruling Five Star Movement and League have shelved proposals for a universal basic income and flat tax, La Stampa reports.

Implementing either policy, let alone both, would have blown a hole in Italy’s public finances and broken the EU’s 3-percent deficit ceiling. Read more

When America First Meets Italy First

American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12
American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12 (NATO)

My latest post for the Atlantic Council’s New Atlanticist blog previews next week’s meeting between American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte.

Although the leaders got along well at the recent G7 and NATO summits, and share views on immigration, international relations and trade, I wouldn’t be surprised if the meeting turned out to be a disappointment.

On both military spending and trade — Trump’s pet peeves when it comes to Europe — Conte’s government opposes the American president. Read more

Populists Overturn Labor Reforms in Italy

Italian labor minister and Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio eyes Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a news conference in Rome, July 3
Italian labor minister and Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio eyes Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a news conference in Rome, July 3 (Governo Italiano)

Italy’s ruling populists claim to have made good on their campaign promise to overturn the previous government’s labor reforms.

A decree:

  • Reduces the maximum length of temporary work contracts from 36 to 24 months;
  • Reduces the times such contracts can be renewed from five to four; and
  • Introduces a requirement for employers to prove a temporary contract is still warranted after one year.

Italy’s National Institute for Social Security estimates that 8,000 temp workers could lose their jobs as a result of the changes, but the Five Star Movement and League have dismissed these figures as “unscientific” and “disputable”.

In the last year, Italy has added close to 460,000 jobs, 95 percent of which are on temporary contracts. Read more

Far-Right League Gains Most from Governing in Italy

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015 (European Parliament)

Italy’s far-right League is benefiting the most from the government deal it struck with the populist Five Star Movement earlier this month.

  • In municipal elections on Sunday, the League captured the former left-wing strongholds of Massa, Pisa and Siena in the region of Tuscany.
  • Nationally, the League is tied with the Five Star Movement in the polls. Both get 27-29 percent support. In the last election, the Five Stars got 33 percent support against 17 percent for the League. Read more

Italy Joins Trump in Resisting Canadian Trade

Prime Ministers Giuseppe Conte of Italy and Justin Trudeau of Canada meet at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, June 8
Prime Ministers Giuseppe Conte of Italy and Justin Trudeau of Canada meet at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, June 8 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Italy has learned from Donald Trump that Canada is now the enemy of the West.

In an interview with the newspaper La Stampa, the country’s new agriculture minister, Gian Marco Centinaio of the far-right League, said he would ask parliament not to ratify the trade agreement the EU negotiated with Canada in 2016.

Without ratification by all 28 member states, the treaty cannot go into effect for the entire European Union. Read more

Italy Has Become Two Countries

View from the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy
View from the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy (Unsplash/Patrick Schneider)

In my latest story for the Diplomatic Courier, I argue that Italy’s economic north-south divide has become political.

The far-right League, which Matteo Salvini has transformed into Italy’s version of the National Front, is the biggest party in the north, where incomes are 10-14 percent above the European average. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement is the biggest party in the south, including on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, where incomes are barely above the level in Greece.

These two parties now rule Italy in a coalition government. Read more

Technology Could Help Mend Italy’s North-South Divide

View from Arcevia, a town in the central Italian region of Marche, December 24, 2013
View from Arcevia, a town in the central Italian region of Marche, December 24, 2013 (Giorgio Rodano)

The results of the 2018 election in Italy reflected two main economic realities: the economic struggles in Italy relative to northern Europe and the economic struggles in southern Italy relative to northern Italy. The former helped anti-establishment parties to gain a large share of the country’s vote. The latter resulted in Lega Nord and center-right parties performing well throughout much of the north of Italy and the Five Star Movement performing well in the south of Italy.

In geopolitics — the school of thought that argues that geography is the most significant or fundamental element in politics — these two economic realities have the same obvious source: mountains. Italy and southern Europe are much more mountainous than northern Europe and southern Italy is much more mountainous than northern Italy.

Mountainous regions tend to be much poorer than non-mountainous regions. Italy is no exception. Read more