The Dutch government is criticized in the international media for resisting EU grants (it prefers loans conditions on reforms) to help pay for the economic recovery in coronavirus-struck Southern Europe. But the critics are oddly incurious about the Netherlands’ motives.
An editorial in Monday’s Financial Times is typical. It accuses Prime Minister Mark Rutte of singlehandedly putting the EU economy at risk, but it resorts to stereotype and innuendo to explain why he’s unwilling to sign off on a €750 billion recovery fund: the Dutch are stingy and Rutte is worried about losing voters to the Euroskeptic right. (He’s never been more popular.)
Mr Rutte pays lip service to the idea of a stronger, geopolitical Europe but is unwilling to accept the price tag that comes with it, especially with national elections looming next year.
I single out the Financial Times because it should know better. There have been worse opinion columns in the Italian and Spanish press.
At least the Financial Times hints at the need for “productivity-enhancing reforms” in Italy and Spain, which have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. But it doesn’t say which reforms or why.
It’s been a bad few months for Italy’s populist right-wing leader, Matteo Salvini.
First his erstwhile governing partner, the Five Star Movement, and the opposition Democrats outmaneuvered him by teaming up to avoid snap elections which polls predicted Salvini’s League would win.
Now his antics in reaction to the government’s coronavirus policy are falling flat.
Salvini and his party “occupied” parliament (refusing to leave the chamber) to demonstrate against the COVID-19 quarantine. He has tweeted out disinformation about the disease, claiming it was created in a Chinese lab. Few Italians care.
Alberto Mingardi of the libertarian Bruno Leoni Institute in Milan argues in Politico that the “deep roots” of Italy’s coalition chaos lie in an electoral system that makes it hard for any one party to govern.
Italy’s most popular politician appears to have made a huge mistake.
Matteo Salvini, the country’s hardline interior minister, brought down his far-right League’s government with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement on Tuesday, hoping to trigger early elections that polls suggest his party would win.
30 percent of Italians between the ages of 15 and 24 are out of work, more or less the same rate as in Spain but almost double the eurozone average.
Of those in work, the majority are on temporary contracts.
Nearly eight out of ten young Italians are in part-time work and unable to find full-time employment, the highest rate by far among large European economies. In France and Spain, it’s about 50 percent.
Italy spends far less on tertiary education that its neighbors. The result: only 27 percent of Italians in their thirties have a university degree, the second-lowest rate in the EU, where the average is 40 percent. Italy does especially poorly in educating migrants: just 13 percent of its foreign-born population has completed university against 36 percent in the EU as a whole.
Average real incomes are roughly at the level they were in 1995. In France, Germany and Spain, they have grown about 25 percent.
The leaders of Italy’s ruling populist parties have backed down from a fight with the European Commission over their 2019 budget.
Luigi Di Maio, the labor minister and leader of the Five Star Movement, and Matteo Salvini, the interior minister and leader of the far-right League, said after a meeting on Sunday that they had given their blessing to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s revised spending plan, which reduces next year’s shortfall from 2.4 to 2 percent of GDP. Read more “Italy Backs Down from Budget Fight with EU”