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.
Italy’s ruling populists claim to have made good on their campaign promise to overturn the previous government’s labor reforms.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Given the timing over the political turmoil in Italy and Spain, it’s tempting to lump the two together and see one big threat to Europe’s political stability emanating from the south. (One example here.)
That’s not the wrong interpretation for Italy. The new government, of the populist Five Star Movement and far-right League, really is opposed to EU principles of liberal democracy and shared sovereignty.