EU must heed Italy’s election result, says Minister

European Union – Italy – Interview given by Mme Nathalie Loiseau, Minister for European Affairs, to the daily newspaper La Croix (excerpts)

Paris, 1 June 2018

Q. – Could Italy, a founding country of the European Union and member of the Euro Area, turn its back on Europe?

THE MINISTER – Italy’s election on 4 March should be taken very seriously. Voters sent signals which must be listened to. You have to ask why they voted for anti-establishment parties using very strong protest language.

First of all, the traditional parties have collapsed. There’s a thirst for political renewal. In France too we saw this being expressed, but there was a progressive offer which doesn’t exist in Italy.

And then the Italians have felt abandoned by the Europeans: abandoned since the financial crisis, when the people suffered, with a high rate of youth unemployment; abandoned again during the migrant crisis, when Italy found itself alone because of its geography and with no genuine solidarity, particularly from Eastern European countries.

So the Italians aren’t saying they don’t want Europe any more, but that they would have liked more Europe. If we don’t listen, if we don’t reform the EU on the basis of these signals, then we’ve got grounds to be worried, for Italy and for the other European countries.

Q. – The soundbite attributed to the European Budget Commissioner maintaining that the financial markets were going to teach the Italians how to vote isn’t the best way of encouraging the Eurosceptics, is it?

THE MINISTER – Let’s say this clearly: Mr Günther Oettinger missed a good opportunity to keep quiet. Remember General de Gaulle, who said: “policy isn’t conducted on the trading floor”, referring to the [Paris] Stock Exchange and France’s economic policy. Let’s respect Italy’s democratic process!

Q. – Should the European cohesion funds be rebalanced in favour of Italy and to the detriment of the Eastern European countries, as the European Commission is proposing?

THE MINISTER – The money must go to those shouldering the effort. In return, Italy is expected to honour its past commitments (economic and financial ones, and those on its debt) and European values. Europe isn’t one big market or a chequebook; it comprises countries which have come together because they believe in the same values. (…)./.

Published on 04/06/2018

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