Italy to play as “bridge” between Trump and Europe? June 5th 2017

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement provoked strong reactions in Europe and Italy. In a bold official declaration, written with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni acknowledged, “with regret the decision by the U.S. to withdraw from the universal agreement on climate change” and  affirmed “the distance that intercurs between European states and the U.S. after the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement”. The three leaders also re-confirmed the irreversibility of the agreement and added that they firmly believe it cannot be renegotiated, which Donald Trump suggested in his remarks.However, in contrast to France and Germany, whose leaders, in addition to a general declaration, also personally commented on their distance from Trump, Italy’s relationship with the U.S. remains more friendly and open to dialogue. Underlining the strong relationship between the two countries, despite recent disagreement over climate policy, on June 2nd, on the occasion of the Italian celebration of the declaration of the Italian Republic following World War II in 1946, the White House unexpectedly organized a reception, inviting the Italian Ambassador and numerous Italian-American personalities, suggesting how close the relationship remains and also the strategic role that Italy could play as “bridge” between European countries and the U.S.

Over the weekend the main news concerned a tragedy in which a bomb scare triggered a stampede among Juventus soccer fans watching the match against Spain’s Real Madrid soccer team in Turin’s Piazza San Carlo. What actually happened is still under investigation  by policy authorities, but it seems that the panic was triggered by fireworks being set off and one or more people shouting that a bomb had exploded. The crowd quickly rushed towards exit points and started to fall over each other. According to local authorities, over 1,000 people were injured including at least three in serious condition.

Turning to politics, the Italian parliament is moving towards finalizing the draft for a new electoral law, and the political landscape is responding. The proportional representation guaranteed by the new law, in which each political party receives the number of seats in parliament in proportion to the number of votes it earns in the election, is  pushing political factions to put forward candidates independently, and to splinter from the main political constellations, instead of combining forces with other parties and maintaining unity in order to increase their chances of winning under the previous ‘winner take all’ majoritarian system. On the left, former mayor of Milan Giuliano Pisapia announced his willingness to lead a new party that would draw on the leftist factions outside PD (and and possibly even the leftist faction inside the PD) to run alone and eventually form a government coalition with PD.

At the political center, the Christian Democrats are trying to re-compose after a fragmentation beginning in 1992 in the wake of the “Mani Pulite” corruption scandal  that broke the party apart. This is the goal of a conference organized on June 9th by former Italian Prime Minister and Christian Democratic leader Ciriaco De Mita, which all the main centrists political figures will participate in. At the same time, on the right, Silvio Berlusconi is trying to renovate his own party, Forza Italia. This is the objective behind the creation of the Animalist Movement (Movimento Animalista), which tries to widen Forza Italia’s potential electorate, as well as the vast recruitment operation among young local administrators such as mayors and city councillors recently announced.

Movimento 5 Stelle, instead, is busy trying to look more “institutional”, after having been labeled a “populist” party by several national and international media. M5S Congress Vice-President Luigi Di Maio presented the Movement’s economic plan  in a long interview in Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy’s main economic newspaper). The plan is a mix of liberal proposals (the liberalization of certain sectors and lower taxes on enterprises) and Keynesian solutions, such as large scale public investments. He also spoke at an event hosted by Harvard University on direct democracy, sharing M5S’s philosophy, its evolution through time, and what can be expected in case of victory at the elections.

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