On Sunday 4 March 2018, Italians will get out and vote. According to the polls, discontent with Europe seems to be on the rise, with eurosceptic parties such as the Lega and Five Star Movement doing well. Is Italy falling out of love with Europe? Could we see one of the founding members of the EU heading for the exit?
It’s easy to see why so many are frustrated. Italians feel their country has been abandoned by other EU members in the face of the refugee and migrant crisis. The economy is growing again, but Italy was particularly hard-hit during the Eurozone crisis. Youth unemployment, in particular, has remained at eye-watering levels for years now.
On the other hand, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which had previously called for a referendum on Italian membership of the euro, has said that now is not the time for Italy to consider leaving the Eurozone. The Lega would like to see Italy abandon the Single Currency, but their coalition partner, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, is against such a move.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Ivan, who believes that the EU should be worried about a possible “Italexit”. Is he right? We asked Lara Comi, an MEP with Forza Italia, to respond. What would she say?
The sense of ‘European belonging’ is deeply-rooted in the Italian people. Italy is one of the founding countries of the European Union and it is aware how Europe has guaranteed peace and development for everyone since the beginning.
Today, there aren’t any [Italian] political forces that want [Italy] to exit from the EU. What is really desired is to reduce the red tape of the European Institutions, giving more attention to the real needs of citizens: greater safety, support for ‘Made in’ [Italy], and more help to enterprises.
For another perspective, we also spoke to journalist Bill Emmott, former Editor-in-Chief of The Economist. He has published a number of books and articles about Italian politics over the years (and, in particular, has been highly critical of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi). Did he think “Italexit” was a serious possibility?
Finally we put Ivan’s question to the Italian journalist Marco Zatterin, Deputy Editor of the newspaper La Stampa. What would he say?
I’m sorry, but I do not agree with what Ivan says. There is no risk that Italy is going to have an ‘Italexit’. The majority of the citizens in Italy are very much pro-Europe now, because they are completely aware of the positive things that the European Union means for Italy. Most of the parties are pro-European: PD, Forza Italia, and, of course, Emma Bonino; even the Five Star Movement are in favour of European integration, though they ask for some reforms. Only Lega Nord are against the EU. So, I do not think that we are running the risk of having an Italexit. I do not think that there will be an anti-European Italy in the near future.
Will the Italian elections lead to “Italexit”? Or are the majority of Italian citizens too pro-Europe for it to even be a possibility? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!