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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Two Visions of Europe

For John, BLUFThe trouble with Britain is not the only trouble the European Union faces.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Quartz, by Professor Simon Toubeau, 12 February 2019.

Here is the lede plus six:

France and Italy are in a diplomatic crisis, provoked by a recent meeting between Italy’s deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, and representatives of the French Gilets Jaunes protest movement.

Di Maio has expressed his support for the Gilets Jaunes as they prepare to stand candidates in the European Parliament elections this year.  This has caused so much trouble for the French president, Emmanuel Macron, that the French government has pulled its ambassador out of Rome, accusing the Italian government of making verbal attacks “without precedent since World War II.”

Di Maio’s gesture was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Tensions between the two governments—over corporate takeovers, policy towards Libya, and an exhibition Leonardo Da Vinci’s works—have been mounting since a new populist “government of change” came to power in Italy last June.  This latest conflict has soured relations to an unprecedented point.  It’s difficult to see how they can improve in the near term.

It is exceptional for two of the founding members of the European Union to have such an open conflict.  But it is also exceptional for Italy to have a government that is so openly hostile to the EU.  This reveals that behind this crisis lies a deeper rift over Europe.

Macron’s La Republique En Marche movement is a newcomer on the French political scene, but it nevertheless represents the mainstream, pro-European liberal center.  Macron poached people from across the moderate left and right to form his new government.  In France, the forces of the populist left (the France Insoumise movement) and right (the far-right party Rassemblement National) are in opposition.  But in Italy, the equivalent forces—the Five Star movement and the League—are in government.  There, it is the mainstream pro-European center that is in opposition.

So the French and Italian governments now have very different visions for the EU.  Macron has ambitions for deeper cooperation in foreign, military, and economic affairs.  In contrast, the League and the Five Star movement have been aligning themselves with fellow populist governments in Austria, Poland, and Hungary, all of which are either promoting eurosceptic views or are in open conflict with Brussels.

These two parvenus governments need to give some credibility to their contrasting visions because elections to the European Parliament are now in sight.

My sense is that the author favors France in this fracas.  The is, sadly, putting one's head in the sand.  Pundits are still learning the wrong lessons from Mr Donald Trump, and others.  Mr Trump represents a shift in the thinking of the People.  The same thing is going on in Europe.  Not everyone, but enough to change election outcomes.

Regards  —  Cliff

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