When America First Meets Italy First

Donald Trump Giuseppe Conte
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 “When America First Meets Italy First”

Populists Overturn Labor Reforms in Italy

Milan Italy
Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Italy, November 24, 2009 (Bjørn Giesenbauer)

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 “Populists Overturn Labor Reforms in Italy”

Far-Right League Gains Most from Governing in Italy

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 “Far-Right League Gains Most from Governing in Italy”

Italy Joins Trump in Resisting Canadian Trade

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 Joins Trump in Resisting Canadian Trade”

Italy Has Become Two Countries

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 “Italy Has Become Two Countries”

Technology Could Help Mend Italy’s North-South Divide

Castelfalfi Italy
View of the Tuscany countryside from Castelfalfi, Italy (Moira e Raffaella)

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 “Technology Could Help Mend Italy’s North-South Divide”

Spain Isn’t Italy

Madrid Spain
Downtown Madrid, Spain at night, January 5 (Shutterstock/Vivvi Smak)

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.

In Spain, though, the change in government could work out in Europe’s favor, as I explain in my latest contribution to the Atlantic Council’s New Atlanticist blog. Read more “Spain Isn’t Italy”

Five Star, League Reach Deal to Form Government in Italy After All

The leaders of Italy’s Five Star Movement and League have reached a deal to stave off early elections.

Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini still want Giuseppe Conte, an academic, as prime minister. But they are willing to relent on the selection of finance minister.

Paolo Savona, whose nomination sparked a constitutional crisis, would still join the cabinet, but as European affairs — not finance — minister. That post would go to Giovanni Tria, an economics lecturer. Read more “Five Star, League Reach Deal to Form Government in Italy After All”

Italy in Crisis After President Blocks Anti-EU Government

Saint Peter's Basilica Rome Italy
Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy at night (Unsplash/Matthias Mullie)