Monday

24th Jul 2017

Italy earthquake is test for Renzi

  • Rescuers in Amatrice. The town has become the symbol of the disaster that killed at least 247 people (Photo: reuters)

"It looks like a war-torn place," Angelo Schiavoni, a resident of Arquata del Tronto told EUobserver on the phone.

The small town is located in central Italy, just a few kilometres away from Pescara del Tronto, a village which was flattened by the 6.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Italy early Wednesday (24 August).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Prime minister Renzi's reaction has so far been considered as appropriate (Photo: Italian PM office)

The disaster has claimed at least 267 lives and could be a political challenge for Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, both domestically and in his relations with the EU.

Beside shock, there is anger.

"This tragedy is also the fault of decades of incompetent and corrupt local and national administrations," an official from Rieti, 30 kilometres away from the epicentre, told this website. As he works in the public administration, he asked to remain anonymous.

The official is not the only one who is furious. On Italian news websites and blogs one can read insults against the Italian ruling class, such as "jackals" or "vultures", and harsh criticism of politicians.

“The responsibility lies with the current and past governments. Not only they don’t care, but they even exploit reconstruction efforts to make money," said one comment posted on a blog close to the Five Star Movement, the party founded by Beppe Grillo that is leading in opinion polls.

Yet, in the most damaged towns, people have praised the efficiency of the rescuers, especially of the Civil Protection office, the national agency dealing with emergencies. "They arrived straight away," Schiavoni said.

"We have civil protection and carabinieri [police] helping us, they are always available and we have anything we need. They are very efficient. I just hope the help won’t finish in a couple of weeks."

The town of Norcia is just a few kilometers from Pescara del Tronto but suffered much less damage.

After it experienced severe earthquakes in 1979 and 1997, the town undertook important anti-seismic measures.

"It is all right here, we are working to send food and help the hardest-hit towns such as Amatrice and Accumoli," Norcia resident Roberto Giommi told EUobserver.

"We were lucky not to suffer any damage, so now we must help those in trouble," he said on the phone.

It is difficult to find an Italian who has never experienced a quake, a wildfire or a flood. Italy is one of the European countries most exposed to seismic activity. Many buildings are old and very expensive to modernise.

In 2009, a previous earthquake killed 309 people in L’Aquila, about 50 kilometers from Wednesday's earthquake.

At that time, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was much criticised for his reaction to the disaster.

In one ill-advised stunt, he paid for bottles of champagne to be placed in containerised homes for people made homeless by the tremor.

So far, the current government’s reaction has been considered appropriate.

Renzi seems determined. A few hours after the quake he went with the minister of infrastructure to Amatrice, the devastated town that has become the symbol of the tragedy.

"By going to Amatrice and Rieti to preside over emergency meetings with minister Delrio and the presidents of the hit regions, Renzi has shown much more responsiveness than Berlusconi after L’Aquila," Giulio Sapelli, professor of economic history at the University of Milan, told this website.

"Now we need to reconstruct, but that costs money, and there are the limits of the fiscal compact prescribed by Brussels," he said referring to the EU budget rules.

Sapelli said that the government should increase the public debt to cover the cost of reconstruction.

"That will be very hard and will take a long time," he said.

The academic added that although Renzi’s popularity is increasing after months of declining support, "it will drop again should he not manage to get new fiscal concessions from Brussels".

Renzi has been trying for many months to get more budget flexibility from the EU, and in Italy many see the EU as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

"In Europe they are more concerned about energy savings than about the safety of our homes," Armando Zambrano, the chairman of the National council of Engineers, told Il Fatto daily on Wednesday.

"The Italian government needs more fiscal flexibility to act in the destroyed areas,” political scientist Gianfranco Pasquino told EUobserver.

"Everybody in Brussels knows that disasters like this one imply European solidarity," said Pasquino, who is professor of the Bologna Centre of the School of Advanced International Studies of the John Hopkins University.

"Rome has to ask the EU more fiscal space," he said. "But it will only succeed by showing to have a clear and concrete plan."

Analysis

Renzi plots EU collision course

Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi has stepped up his fiery anti-EU rhetoric. This may boost his support at home, but it may eventually backfire.

Analysis

Renzi's EU attacks are survival strategy

Faced with a difficult referendum campaign, the Italian prime minister is playing the antiestablishment card, including verbal attacks on the EU and Germany.

Italy referendum spooks eurozone

Prime minister Matteo Renzi's resignation, followed by a crushing rejection of his reforms, has sent the euro plunging against the dollar and put the country's fragile banking system at risk.

Cyprus talks up in the air

A week after the failure of negotiations to reunite the islands, Greek Cypriots are calling on Turkish Cypriots to reaffirm their commitment to the process.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

Investigation

Free movement of organised crime in Europe

The mafia is often seen as being a traditionally Italian concern, but evidence shows that it might be much closer to home than many Europeans think.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  2. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  3. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  5. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  6. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  7. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  8. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  9. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices
  11. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  12. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law