Friday

21st Jul 2017

Interview

Italy needs time to recover from decline, says former leader

  • Matteo Renzi's term was "not so brilliant" and the Five Star Movement is "unable" to run the country, says Massimo D'Alema, a social-democratic prime minister in the 1990s. (Photo: DR)

Italy "needs time" to recover from its "decline" amid an "unpredictable" domestic political situation, said former prime minister Massimo D'Alema.

"It's difficult for Italy to come back to the 90s," when the country was "influential" and "unexpectedly" joined the euro, he told EUobserver in a recent interview.

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.

"The former centre-left represented the most respected kind of [Italian] leadership in the last 30 years," he said, citing former prime ministers Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and Romano Prodi. D'Alema himself was the head of government from 1998 until 2000.

He said that with the election of conservative politician Silvio Berlusconi, Italy entered an "economic, social and cultural decline," which it still has to exit.

D'Alema said that Matteo Renzi, who resigned as prime minister in December, is also responsible for the current situation. Until recently, D'Alema was a member of Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

"Italy is the last to benefit from the EU recovery," he noted, pointing to the country's high unemployment, especially for young people. Youth unemployment is now around 38 percent, following a peak level of 42 percent in 2014.

"Renzi's story started with great success and expectations," D'Alema said, referring to Renzi's rise to power in February 2014. But "progressively, the PD has been losing ground, losing power, losing the confidence of citizens."

"If we take stock of the so-called Renzi reforms, the final outcome is not so brilliant," he said.

In addition to the failed constitutional reform, which led to Renzi's resignation after it was rejected in a referendum, he said that Renzi's school reforms where "not accepted" and that the so-called job acts created inequalities between young and older workers.

Now, ahead of a general election that could take place in February next year, the former Italian leader said that the political situation is "fragile" and public opinion is "uncertain".

In June, local elections were marked by a low turnout and good results for right-wing parties at the expense of the PD and the populist Five Star Movement (M5S).

Despite its good performance, "the right is recovering, but is still divided" between the far-right Northern League and Berlusconi's Forza Italia," D'Alema noted.

The M5S, led by former comedian Beppe Grillo, performed badly in the local vote because of some scandals involving its mayors, like in Rome. But it is still first or second in opinion polls.

"Its better to be careful. Grillo's movement is not finished," D'Alema said.

'M5S is unable to deliver'

"They are very strong in collecting discontent, but they seem to be unable to deliver," he said, warning that M5S is "unable to run the country, which is a big problem for Italy."

He said that their programme is "partially unrealistic".

"It's a mix of issues and ideas close to the left, and other close to the right. It's very difficult to classify," he said. "It is very ambiguous and contradictory."

Grillo's party, which runs on an anti-establishment platform, has suggested holding a referendum on Italy's membership of the euro, but has taken no clear position on the issue.

"It is a political move. They hope to have the support of the Northern League," D'Alema said.

"The League's support could be a decisive support for M5S in order to run the country," he added. "Alone they can't [govern], but with the Northern League, they could."

"It's a possibility – it would be a disaster," he said.

On 1 July, D'Alema participated in a meeting in Rome organised by Milan's former mayor, Giuliano Pisapia, to launch a new movement in the left of the PD.

"We are working to build a new political force on the left of the party," he said. "There is probably a space to be a strong enough political party."

He said that despite Renzi being re-elected party leader in May, there is a "still strong and very active" opposition within the party.

'More free to give my contribution'

Until the end of June, D'Alema was the president of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), an association of think-tanks and foundations linked to social-democratic parties in Europe.

He was beaten by Portuguese MEP Maria Joao Rodrigues in a FEPS internal election, which he told EUobserver was "brutal and arrogant".

He said it was "in the style of a political leader" – a clear reference to Renzi, who he said put pressure on the FEPS to put him aside.

But now, he added: "[I am] more free to give my contribution, my experience, my work" to the new anti-Renzi movement.

"If they think that my contribution is needed, I am ready to give it," he said, suggesting he would try to run in the next elections.

This article said that Massimo D'Alema is a member of the Democratic Party, when in fact he left it recently. It was corrected on 11 July.

Italy reaches EU deal on failing bank

After months of negotiations, the European Commission and Italy agreed on the terms of rescue for Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank, including job cuts, salary caps and private sector involvement in the bailout.

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