Europe Should Start Taking Italy Seriously

Those who live abroad, especially in large international centers such as Brussels or London, already know it. During the last few years, we have been overwhelmed by debates about the Brexit, the growth of the Front National and the rise of Trump. All these events that are rightly considered historical turning points, but that, in handsight, will hardly represent an existential shift for Europe and its diverse society.

Italy instead, has always been seen as the negligible political ugly duckling of Europe, a surreal place to laugh at, where the notorious adaptability of its people solves more or less anything, except the recent football trauma. However, for many different reasons, this country represents an entropy social laboratory that, for better or for worse, is as usual anticipating the trends of western European politics.

Fascism was born here and the world, while mocking us about Silvio Berlusconi, found out that such dangerous political jokes could very easily backfire and become a concrete reality anywhere. Maybe, this is the reason why my foreign friends and colleagues changed their tune and are careful not to comment sarcastically the rise of a comedian to the top of Italian politics.

However, there’s more. The Five Star Movement and the Northern League already went where Farage, Le Pen and Trump would not dare. Indeed, they are breaking the social pact holding an EU founding member together, creating an institutional and perhaps social crisis the likes of which haven’t been seen for years in this area of the world.

Let’s face the bitter reality. In the United Kingdom, United States, France, and all over Europe in general, radicalism and intolerace are growing dangers, but in none of these countries (with the partial exception of Spain, maybe) the authority of the state was called so explicitly into question.

Instead, from yesterday, Italy is de facto divided between those who regard as a more serious matter a Head of State who gives the winners the green light to form a government, albeit arguably vetoing a minister (and making a mistake, in my opinion), and those who consider a more serious matter two majority political forces that, for mere and clear poltical reasons, are willing to dictate law up over the constitution, to call for the impeachment of the President without any legal basis and to speak on behalf of all Italian people by divine right.

Therefore, the now certain next elections will not be political, as they have been suddenly turned into a referendum about the legitimacy of the institutions by people who think that the best way to take back sovereignty is to bring home the troika and send heart emojis to anyone East of the Danube.

In conclusion, be careful. One huge mistake has already been done with Greece and we have seen the results over the years. I am not going to say that Rome is not Athens, as Greece should be by right the first European country of a Union that goes beyond a mere set of economic agreements. But what is certain, I tell you now, is that Di Maio, Salvini and Di Battista (google him) are not Tsipras and Varoufakis, two patriots in their own way.

If Germany, France and the other member states want the European Union to survive, they have to think that what is happening here is the prelude to the worst, and finally start taking Italy seriously.