1. Republican Italy has always been the North’s south and the West’s east. Nowadays, while the historical chasm between the northern and southern regions widens, we risk declining to become the South’s north and the East’s west. We thereby diverge from the weakened European barycentre to expose ourselves to unstable and belligerent winds blowing from the “fourth shore” to the Middle East, from the Balkans to the Russian borders.
By travelling along this slope we distance ourselves from the magnetic pull of the American empire, currently experiencing a phase of introversion, while also taking leave of the Europeanist myth, that imaginary tutor to whom our fathers and grandfathers had entrusted this immature country so it would correct our incorrect posture, the atavistic deficit of statehood.
The result is that according to the most recent Eurobarometer, only the Croatians and the Czechs appreciate affiliation to the European Union less than we do.
Deprecating ourselves as implicit in passive Europeanism is, on the contrary, a contributory cause of the current political-institutional drift. The crisis exploded on May 27th with the (temporary?) liquidation in extremis of the League–Five Star Movement government, which, sensitive to pressure coming from the markets and from European “partners” – not only Germans – the President of the Republic judged as being incompatible with remaining in the Eurozone. Just a postponement, certainly not the solution. The trojka’s ghost is visible at the end of the tunnel. Is Italy just like Greece? Or even worse; a superpower in chaos, capable of sparking a global financial storm?
In this festival of Italian hysteria, which nails us to a permanent election campaign and hence to a loss of lucidity as well as of political and geopolitical incisiveness, we also lose sight of Italy’s importance, of the asymmetry of the Atlantic bond and the threatening consequences of the brawl in the increasingly heteroclitous communitarian “family”.
We are worth a great deal more than we think we are, certainly more than we would like to be worth and certainly even more so than the Eurozone states would like. And yet the very idea of power is a distant one as far as we are concerned. Hence our awkwardness in taking action where we should; in the rest of the world in which those observing us remain suspended amidst incredulity, derision and apprehension.
Hence the alarm experienced in European and allied chancelleries, following the March 4th elections won by formations – The League and the Five Star Movement – not in keeping with Atlantic-Europeanist etiquette, uneducated as far as the customs and guile of international diplomacy are concerned, as well as compliant towards Putin and the Visegrád sovereignists.
In Berlin and Paris, as well as among Eurocrats in Brussels, it is feared that if we do not very quickly make a course correction, we will end up destroying the euro and with it the European Union, thereby destabilising the entire Euro-Atlantic order. Hence affecting the global equation of power with an unpredictable but certainly systemic outcome, because Italy is in its own way systemic, or at least perceived as such by those who share its currency.
The economic, demographic, symbolic and cultural aspects, as well as its geographical positioning and Peter’s throne, founded in the centre of Rome – which makes our capital universal rather than national – mark the interdependency there is between Italy, the Eurozone (the “useful” EU) and the world. The final crisis of the state in Italy would not therefore affect just us, reduced to being the not-too-happy inhabitants of a terra nullius, but also our partners, chained to a euro that official rhetoric is no longer pretending to consider irreversible.
Some regret having admitted us to the club. When violating the Maastricht criteria – and going against the opinions expressed by the various condottieri of the First Republic who would have willingly waited for the “second wave” to join the new currency – they instantly agreed to associate themselves to this adventure, they could not have imagined that a country accustomed to silent obedience would have turned out to be an out of control meteorite. The Germans, the Dutch and even the Luxembourgers were under the illusion they could convert us to their own virtues, relying on the desperately xenophile impulses that are the trademark of Italian managerial classes.
Prisoners of an economicist interpretation of the most ill-advised geopolitical operation attempted on the continent of the losers after World War II – inventing through a currency a European subject within the global competition – Europeanist extremists, among them a number of Italians ashamed of assuming such a position, lost sight of the operation’s substance by drowning themselves in the commas of treaties and statistics.
They lost themselves in the clashing historical and cultural tonalities of the people called upon to handle the same currency, a spiritual entity rather than an accounting unit. In its purest and therefore unrealistic form, the euro was meant to be a cultural rather than a geopolitical revolution. It was imposed by the mint rather than on the blade of bayonets in order to raise “ants” to the status of “cicadas”; to turn the defeated of the 20th century into leading players in the 21st and in the meantime stop the clock of history. Whether or not this was a noble objective, why be surprised that is it not working? And why should we Italians nowadays be surprised of the excited, coarse, not too discreetly racist rediscovery of our “national temperament” supposedly threatening both the communitarian good and the Atlantic bond?
Trying to answer these questions implies analysing them in order. Why and to what extent is the atmosphere changing over the years regards to the reference partners of the Euro-Atlantic archipelago? How is the Italian crisis evolving? One must establish what the original traits conditioning its future might be, to then conclude with strategies aimed at containing the damage caused by the current drift.
2. After the end of the Cold War, Washington was under the illusion it could run Old Europe (also manipulating the “New” one) on a semi-automatic pilot; pulling on the reins when the Germans or the French degenerated, confining the Russians to their never-too-reduced canonical area, underestimating the Chinese penetration of Eurafrica via the Mediterranean, and not only to an unrealistic exercise.
As far as we Italians are concerned, we made available everything they needed free of charge to the United States; military bases, depots for atomic weapons and intelligence networks. These were all useful in the direct or indirect (for them) low-intensity wars, hence the deconstruction of our nearby abroad (for us), from Yugoslavia to Ukraine, from the Near East to Libya. These were feats in which Italian governments, diplomacies and armed forces bravely participated, contributing to undermining our trade (even using direct sanctions against us) as well as our residual international credibility. The Italian Republic without a shadow of doubt holds the world record for the use of its own resources against its own interests.
In Washington, nowadays, there are some – a few among the very few who study imperial strategies – wondering whether perhaps it is instead worth observing our country with a little more attention, since the automatic pilot no longer works. Washington would not remain inactive were Italy attracted by the Russian magnet to a greater extent than is considered acceptable, or were excessively penetrated by the Chinese thanks to the new silk roads, or were the north, from the Brenner Pass to Bologna, to become a colony of what influential American pundits call the “third German Empire” (sic), dividing into two, or, even worse, fragmenting the peninsula so as to merge it with the ruins of Libya (1). Above all, what worries the American establishment is Italy’s possible abandonment of the euro area, a currency that the lords of the dollar have never been enthusiastic about.
This also because it may preventively lead to the Neuro (euro of the North) based around Germany and its geo-economic (pseudo)empire in central-northern Europe, violating the founding principles of American geopolitics, opposed to German power in every possible shape or form.
The United States’ relative return to paying attention to us becomes paranoia among our European “partners”, many of whom believe that Italy’s bankruptcy, and hence that of the Eurozone, is at the gates.
When the great borrower goes broke, he also drags down the great creditor. The dead grasp the living. The greatest creditor in the euro-system is Germany and German politicians and economists are therefore studying a Plan B and publicly speak of the need for this.
The idea is to urgently modify the treaties or reinterpret them on their own authority so as to allow a Eurozone state to abandon the common currency following strict rules. This is all aimed at forcing the deserter to stay in the single market and customs union, the collapse of which would be intolerable for German exports. Utopias, probably. The shock caused by an Italexit would be ungovernable, at least over the short term.
And should Plan B’s subtext mean that abandoning the sinking ship would be the responsibility – with disregard for seafaring customs – of the German captain, plus a few trusted officers enrolled in Northern Europe, wishing the best of luck to all other passengers (Germanexit), it would still be a leap into murky waters.
No one in Berlin has forgotten that the euro was a tax imposed on the Germans by the French and the Italians for having dared reunify Germany; out with the mark, the de facto European currency, and then the de facto European central bank Bundesbank’s submission to the ECB. From Kohl to Merkel, Federal Germany has successfully fought to turn an anti-Germanic weapon into a national resource. A weapon aimed at those who expected to use it against the Germans.
Thanks to the power of its economy and the “virtuous” rules that from the Maastricht criteria to the Fiscal compact intended to insure the Germans against Transferunion, hence the risk of having to pay the debts of “immoral” euro-southerners, the Federal Republic does not intend to allow itself to be crushed by what its radars have identified as current Italian-populist madness.
Seventy years after relative European integration, structurally turned into disintegration, ranging from the Germanophobe adventure of a euro currency with no sovereign and Germany’s inevitable reaction, the communitarian bicycle is slipping backwards, deleting all original federalist or confederal dreams. Translated into geopolitics: dreams of creating a third European power to stand between the United States and Russia (initially the USSR), nowadays eventually a fourth power between Washington, Moscow and Beijing. As if power could be created by treaties.
The European Union is neither heaven nor hell. It is only a metaphor for the flight from history of those who a century ago were its masters, expressed using warped constructions built in violation of every possible scientific construction law. It is a baroque machine that cannot be led by a tired Germany, on the verge of one its periodical nervous breakdowns.
It could be sunk by Italy, whose not only political-institutional crisis emerged to make the headlines of late-globalist media elites, which, in our country, understand little as they were under the illusion they could simply not give a damn. Thus the Financial Times announced “Rome opens it gates to the modern barbarians” (2), discovering that “the tragedy of the Eurozone is that Italy is too big to save and too big to fail” (3), while Bloomberg observed that “Brexit isn’t going to bring the structure down. Italy just might.” (4) As far as the French and German media are concerned, not to mention the Scandinavians and the Dutch, the anthology of Italophobic invectives and warnings to our local “populists” would require a separate book. Are we really so dangerous?
3. Yes we are. A danger to ourselves and to the Eurozone, of which we are the inflection point. And consequently we are a danger to the Euro-Atlantic ensemble, vaguely led by the Americans. With this we do not establish a destiny; we take stock of an inertia, fuelled not only by the acute Italian crisis, but by the excessively at length tabooed and always neglected original defect of our monetary area with no political sovereign, as well as by the Number One’s lack of hegemony in the quite non-cohesive Atlantic context.
Rather than indulging in the main principle of the Italian code, according to which responsibility always falls on others, it would be best to concentrate on the problems afflicting us, well-aware that it is up to Italy to address them. If possible, with a little help from our “friends”, on which we admit we do not rely, since many of them trust that should the common roof collapse, thanks to a ballistic miracle it would fall only on our heads.
In order of importance, our nation has five structural problems: a deficit of the state and therefore of a managerial and not only political class; demographic decline and the relative aging of the population; modest or deadlocked economic growth with serious asymmetric consequences for employment, within the rapidly increasing permanent South/North rivalry; the absence of strategies in addressing migratory flows, with quality leaving the country and far less entering; the slackening of territorial and social bonds, the result of ancient particularisms, of more or less unrealistic separatisms and the aggressive expansion of mafias throughout the peninsula.
These must be combined with as many often underestimated points of strength, such as our geophysical position at the centre of the Mediterranean, an ideal logistics platform along evolving trade routes between two of the three largest markets on the planet, the Asian and European, as well as the outpost for military projections towards contended areas between North Africa and the Levant; a relative ethnic and linguistic homogeneity – albeit threatened by the difficult management of migrants and the even more improbable integration of their children and grandchildren – unlike important Euro-Atlantic states whose mixité exposes them to secessionisms, from Spain (Catalonia) to the United Kingdom (Scotland), to a certain extent even Germany (Bavaria); a respectable economy, the third largest in the Eurozone in terms of volume, eighth or ninth at a global level, still having sought-after niches of technological excellence; a decline of violence, also due to the lack of those who usually inflict it – the young – although the heated political climate could incite some to resort to it; adaptability to emergencies, an experimented antidote to the uncertainty of rights and of duties.
In the doubles match set out here, what stands out is the qualitative difference between negative and positive factors. Criticalities are a given, hard to address over the short term and reversible over the medium term. Opportunities are potential or provisional. In order to make them operational it is necessary to attack the main issue: the state’s lack of legitimacy and efficiency, a condition that is insufficient but indispensable for mitigating the Italian nation’s other constitutive weaknesses. This is necessary so as to not lose contact with the historical settings of our European and Western civilisation, in order to continue to be of worth, not only as a loose cannon, but as a subject active in euromediterranean geopolitics.
Unlike France and Germany, but also Portugal, the Czech Republic and Luxembourg, Italy has no allies within the EU. Depending on the occasions, it is obliged to invent artful and volatile convergences, useless or negative as far as the next issue on the agenda is concerned.
While it can instead rely on pre-constituted hostility, ranging from the classical Nordic “ants” with their surplus of moralism to be bestowed upon we who are poor of spirit, to our French “cousins”, especially regards to industrial and migratory issues or incidents on the African pré carré. Nothing strange about that; how can one get along with those not supporting their own interests, or believing this can be replaced by occasionally banging fists on the table, which frightens no one?
Hence the appearance of the vanity of the “external constraints”, a star that is fixed on our horizon. This envisages the non-existence of a national interest. Strictly speaking, the futility of the state. Those who theoretically should incarnate high public office in Italy, the noblesse d’État – of which Guido Carli is the eponym hero – are the greatest supporters of the need to allow others to guide us, because we (not them of course, just all other Italians) are supposedly incapable of doing so. State aristocracy indeed. Mere snobbism.
This passion for external constraints is what induced us to sign treaties we could not respect, from Maastricht to the fiscal compact.
There are four alternatives. Either those signing them and having them ratified by parliamentarians with no knowledge of the subject had, at that point, introjected their own externality to share the pedagogic benevolence of those Germans who hoped to “northernise us” with so many treaties written in Gothic; or they were convinced they had no choice, having taken excessively seriously the rhetoric of those demanding respect for the rules, while being quick to violate them when necessary (the “European” bailout of German and French banks over-exposed in Greece and the consequent wiping out of Athens so Rome would get the message, was a perfect example); or even because they considered themselves so clever they could bypass – “Italian style”, as those who do not respect us would say – these self-imposed constraints, since pacta non sunt servanda.
Finally, it is possible that shame of being discovered respecting the law may have prevailed over reasons of state – a concept that is also of Italian origin although we have unlearnt Machiavelli’s lessons.
4. In 1846 in Paris the Revue Nouvelle published an essay signed by the man who, fifteen years later, was to found a united Italy; Count Camillo Benso di Cavour. It was of course published in French, a language that, unlike Italian, he spoke perfectly. The title, “About Railways in Italy,” was misleading. (5)
In this essay, the young representative of moderate liberalism, the helmsman of the Risorgimento traced the path towards “the conquest of national independence.” He perceived this as “the necessary consequence of the progress made by Christian civilisation, by the development of the enlightened” as well as the “union of efforts made by all its children” in modernising the country (6). This because “then history of all times proves that no population can achieve a high level of intelligence and morality without having a strongly developed sense of its nationality.” (7)
Cavour identified railways as the economic-geopolitical bearers of national unity, which would have soon merged the ten pre-unity states and statelets around Piedmont. Without the development sparked by the recent invention of the steam engine, it would have been impossible to overcome internal barriers and achieve “the political influence that has been exercised among us by foreigners for centuries,” facilitated by “internal divisions, rivalries and I would say almost the dislikes that pit the different factions of the great Italian family against one another.” (8)
His European training, nurtured in London, Paris, Geneva and Brussels, inclined him to seize the strategic importance of railways, conceived by the leading states of the industrial revolution as a means of connecting the national territory and of defence from enemy invasion. This is what originally took place and traces of that still nowadays persist in the difference of gauges and the absence of a lingua franca in communications between railway authorities, originally prevented for national security reasons.
Cavour interpreted the peninsula’s geography in a dual manner. “Italy can be divided into two large sections. To the north the Po Valley, connected to the plains of Romagna and the Marche all the way to Ancona and Loreto. To the south, all the lands separated by the Apennines and that the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas surround on three sides.” (9). Road links were few and far between, especially along the east-west axis.
Railroad development would have initially linked the first section crossing the Po Valley, connecting Sardinian routes to Lombard-Venetian ones, to then develop along the entire peninsula, linking ports to domestic and international markets.
It is here that Cavour’s dissertation is astonishingly modern. It almost outlines an ante litteram scenario for Italy with new silk roads twenty-three years before the Suez Canal was opened. “It is positioned at the centre of the Mediterranean where, like an immense promontory, it seems destined to connect Europe to Africa, and once railways cover its entire length this will make the country indisputably the briefest and most convenient route from the East to the West. As soon as it will be possible to embark in Taranto or Brindisi, the maritime distance needed nowadays to travel from England, France and Germany to Africa or Asia, will be halved. (…) Italy will also become the fastest route for travelling from England to the Indies and China.” (10)
In anticipating Italy’s current aspiration to balance the dominion of the Northern Range ports by developing the national Southern Range, the Count points out that thanks to the rail-ship combinations, “Italy’s ports will become capable of sharing with those of the Ocean and the North Sea the provision of exotic commodities to central Europe.” (11)
The re-visitation of Cavour’s manifesto illustrates the effects of the long term on Italian history. A century and a half later, the Risorgimento’s fundamental objective of creating the state for the Italians remains incomplete. Overcoming the North-South dualism, without which Italy is not fully complete, has not occurred. The “two sections” argued by Cavour are still with us, certainly within the context of a developed country that between 1861 and today has seen the average income of its inhabitants increase thirteen fold. It is a pity that in the course of these 150 years the per capita GDP has multiplied by 15 in the North and only by 9 in the South. (12)
The idealistic fervour of the country’s fathers – the concern of northern and southern cultured classes, from Turin to Naples and from Milan to Palermo – based on the sentiment of belonging to one people speaking the same language, in spite of the “one hundred cities” and the geo-historical and dialectal declinations – turned out to be a necessary but insufficient premise for the construction of a robust state. The idea of Italy originally clashes with the material foundations of the “two sections”, scarcely connected with one another but far more (especially the North) with nearby foreign countries.
In 1861 the economic gap between the “two sections” – two worlds from an institutional, civic and cultural perspective – was rather contained as far as manufacturing and per capita average income were concerned. Some were later to use this to corroborate the thesis of a colonial plundering suffered by the South and inflicted by a predatory Piedmont, nurturing the myth of the Two Sicilies and foster neo-Bourbon movements that cannot be reduced to mere folklore.
The North’s contiguity to Europe’s more developed areas incentivised its development. The South was left behind and over time became the North’s main market. However, if in spite of the immense progress made (born witness to by the historical maps at the end of the book) Cavour’s rail and port projects remain partly unfulfilled, the quality of these same railroads and other material and immaterial connections bear witness to the persistence of a North-South divide, which exists even between the East and the West due to the Apennine range, how can this not be reflected on the mending of “internal divisions” and the containment of “foreign political influence”?
The infamous “southern issue” has never become a national one. There has been no managerial class prepared to make it a priority, as logic would dictate. Italy is not Europe’s only dualistic economy. Think of the United Kingdom, always less so (Ulster has something to do with this), with England itself divided between London and the deep interior as emphasised by the Brexit vote. Consider Germany, in various ways still double, in fact multiple, in spite of monstre transfers of money – our own too – to the former (?) Democratic Republic, because Transferunion is a positive thing when national and evil if communitarian.
The difference is that we seem to be resigned to coexist with that and even to accept its exacerbation as all indicators seem to show. As far as legendary “Europe” is concerned, it is not worried about this. On the contrary. As observed by the president of Svimez, Adriano Giannola, “the EU’s so-called cohesion policy is in reality bitter competition between territories” that “systematically puts our regions out of the running.” (13)
The more germanico austerity affects the South, where state investments have dried up and people are nostalgic for the unrepeatable Cassa per il Mezzogiorno [Translator’s note: a public effort by the Italian government to stimulate economic growth and development in the less developed South]. This happens far more than in the North, which does however tend to bask in the “made in Italy” and coddle itself as the second manufacturer in Europe, almost as if such realities were eternal. Nor does this only apply to the economy.
A demographic dualism is also emerging with the serious overall decline of the Italian population; Lombards, for example, have increased (+2.1 per thousand) by the exact same amount as the inhabitants of Campania have decreased, not to mention the collapse in the Molise region (-6.1 per thousand).
As far as “politics” are concerned – the need to use inverted commas seems compulsory – the March 4th electoral results reflect Cavour’s “two sections”. The centre-right led by the League triumphed in the North thanks to key words such as anti-immigration, anti- a German EU and pro flat tax. The Five Star Movement was a success in the South promising guaranteed minimum income for all, hence tips.
This bi-partitioning must however be relativized. Both parties were significantly successful also in areas distant from their respective bases. However, while Salvini’s national League – which must beware of Zaia’s Venetians whose region holds the primacy for League voters – is a real, well-established and organised political party, Grillo’s former followers are still in a gaseous state. In view of the next elections and whether or not their improbable contractual relationship will stand the test, members of the League and the Five Star Movement are promising they will find room for manoeuvring in fiscal policies obstructed by current austerity (“rigour” is the economically correct term). Seeing the markets’ reaction to their success on March 4th, this does not exclude we will end up expelled from the Eurozone should this “populist” victory be confirmed or perhaps increased in the next elections.
There is only one environment in which this dualism is spontaneously tending to vanish and that is the national distribution of the mafias.
From the mother regions of Sicily, Calabria and Campania, organised crime has travelled up the peninsula, invaded the capital city and infiltrated various areas of the urban Centre and North, including Milan, attracted by the promiscuity between a legal and illegal economy. Criminal profits do not violate market laws and the state does not seem as interested in fighting the phenomenon as it is in including these profits in the GDP, in accordance with virtuous European budgetary constraints.
5. A few years ago, a highly intelligent Italian foreign minister opened an internal seminar aimed at investigating Italy’s strategic prospects as follows, “Gentlemen, let us pretend we exist.”
We could consider this the unwritten preamble to the Italian Republic’s geopolitical constitution; the humiliating 1947 Peace Treaty that, going against all illusions and depictions – from “co-belligerence” to the glorious Resistance – sanctioned the end of the dreams of greatness that had animated the young Kingdom of Italy from the Risorgimento to the catastrophe of the Fascist war. Unfortunately the majority of Italians are not even aware of the existence of that text and the maps that complete it, which together with the 1948 constitution should be compulsory reading in all state schools.
It is not rare for students to complete their high school diplomas persuaded that Italy won or at least drew World War II.
With rare exceptions, even academic historiography prefers to skip that diktat imposed on us by the winners, almost as if it were an accident, not the sinoper of the fresco illustrating our position in the world. (14)
In spite of everything, we do exist. And for as long as we exist we will be responsible above all to ourselves for how we behave in the world. Our world – one in which we exercise a not remotely negligible role simply by being here – is hinged on NATO’s European side, within which we find the European Union and the far more cogent Eurozone.
Our world extends to surrounding lands, from Russia to Turkey, from the Near East to the Gulf – the go-between for the strategic oceans on which the Sino-American match is played – all the way to North Africa and the Sahel. We are the shoreline of a Northwest that is relatively orderly, well-off and at peace, against which the waves of the South and the East break.
The immense Chaoslandia, a region of hand-to-hand combat, unspeakable poverty side by side with extravagant wealth, a reserve of resentment and upheaval in which the pathetic interventionists of Ordolandia are bogged down.
If not our intelligence, out survival instincts should drive us to seize the need to keep both feet, and possibly also our heads, well within the canonical European and Mediterranean camps.
We must do this by participating in the management of its convulsions for whatever we are worth (a great deal) and contributing to the extent that it is possible (a little) to absorb the waves of crises surrounding us.
There are three urgent issues to be addressed.
First: our contribution as co-stars to the rewriting of the Eurozone’s rules that have been suffocating our economy well beyond its structural limits and threatening social peace as well as institutional stability. Perhaps even threatening national unity.
Even in Germany there are some who feel that this management of the euro area does not even work for its guiding state. Those in Berlin who imagine that, in an emergency, they will get by with a solitary getaway or with a Nordic shared currency family, are deluded. The chain reaction would in all events be uncontrollable, with incalculable consequences for the German export machine.
Is it possible to recreate a Eurozone less harnessed by the German surplus, the result of our deficits? Perhaps not. But it is Italy’s duty, when it has a new government legitimised by voters, to propose its own project instead of waiting for others to (not) propose one.
There is one premise. However one organises it, the current EU, as well as the Eurozone, is too vast and heterogeneous to work. A Euronucleus is inevitable. It already exists informally, although it is rather mono-nuclear; Germany leads. The strategic objective is a small European Directoire of which Italy must be a co-founder and shareholder.
In this way, Italy could use its economic weight by turning it into geopolitical power. Second: establishing a migratory strategy that will overturn the current paradox according to which we forbid ourselves from selecting a substantial quota of South-East flows, sentencing those trying to enter Italy to illegality, while encouraging brilliant young Italians educated at the taxpayer’s expense to go abroad.
This implies abolishing the Bossi-Fini Law, because it effectively makes legal migration impossible, while obliging us to negotiate in European circles with cold resoluteness a revision of the Dublin Regulation on the basis of the principle of solidarity between EU states as well as the reinstatement of Schengen. All this while putting on the table the blackmailing capability we have as the country of first entry for migrants (Erdoğan docet). The barriers in Ventimiglia or at the Brenner Pass are a threat to national security and as such must be treated.
Third: Locking onto the new silk roads in order not to totally disperse the revenue arising from our position in the Mediterranean, while well-aware that the size of our ports and their hinterlands in Genova and Trieste do not allow for reckless competition with Rotterdam or Hamburg, but only a Leonine division.
Our slice of the cake will be a small one, but better than nothing. The Americans won’t be pleased as they deplore our rather sterile Russophilia. But they won’t go to war over this, as they are well aware that our respective national interests do not coincide to the extent they did during the prodigious Cold War season. Mature states do not appreciate the cunning of their servants as these may hide unpleasant surprises. They prefer to play with their cards on the table, knowing that when the stakes are high they will always prevail. In our case, let us hope not in exchange for nothing.
If we were equipped with a decent state that in its deep structures pursued the nation’s interests in a semi-automatic mode, we could immediately address such emergencies and seize opportunities. But we do not have a decent state. In these weeks the walls of the Quirinale Palace transpire atmospheres similar to those of September 8th, and we cannot tell whether they are more tragic of farcical.
In the meantime, the external context is regressing, especially in the European context, with the decline of German power where the gap between the robust economic body and the tired strategic brain remains unfilled. This while Munich applies pressure on Berlin, ensuring that the most recent-version Merkel does not allow herself to be seduced by Macron or leave the Mediterraneans on a long leash.
The Free State of Bavaria, in turn driven by neo-nationalism originating in the new Länder, sets itself as the central European barycentre of a revived continental East – Russophobe, Islamophobe, ultra anti-migrants – along the Trimarium and Visegrád Group axis, to which Sebastian Kurz’s Austria has become glued. Seen from Munich, the Alto Adige, widened to include Trento and Trieste, through Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, belongs to the Bavarian sphere of influence.
In Rome there are some who remain laid back, while awaiting for the inevitable turn for the better, having introjected the Europeanist theology that celebrates crises as guaranteeing progress. Waiting for help that never comes. Giuseppe Prezzolini, self-described as a “useless Italian”, established almost one hundred years ago that, “Considering to what extent it is wasted, time is what is most abundant in Italy.” (15) It is up to all of us to prove him wrong. Let us try and exist.
(translated by Francesca Simmons)
- DOUTHAT, “The Fall of the German Empire”, The New York Times, 16.5.2018.
- “Rome opens its gates to the modern barbarians”, editorial, Financial Times, 15.5.2018.
- W. MÜNCHAU, “Financial markets fail to reflect the Eurozone time-bomb in Italy”, Financial Times, 25.3.2018.
- C. CROOK, “Europe’s Italian Problem Is Bigger Than Brexit”, Bloomberg.com, 21.5.2018.
- C. de CAVOUR, “Des chemins de fer en Italie”, Revue Nouvelle, 1.5.1846. The importance of this essay is analysed by R. ROMEO, Vita di Cavour, Rome-Bari 1998, pp. 137-139.
- C. de CAVOUR, op. cit., p. 33.
- Ivi, pp. 29-30.
- Ivi, p. 29.
- Ivi, p. 28
- Cfr. V. DANIELE – P. MALANIMA, Il divario Nord-Sud in Italia, 1861-2011, Soveria Mannelli 2011, Rubbettino, p. 49.
- A. GIANNOLA, “Relazione”, in Quaderno Svimez no. 57, 2018, p. 52.
- For a recent summary see, S. LORENZINI, L’Italia e il trattato di pace del 1947, Bologna 2007, il Mulino.
- G. PREZZOLINI, Codice della vita italiana, Rome 1993, Biblioteca del Vascello, p. 36. The original edition was published in 1921.