In the aftermath of the Italian referendum held on the last 4th of December, the European Union must take into account the obvious direction European politics is leading to.
This has revealed to be a common evolution among European countries (we might introduce US in the list, as well), reshaping parties-systems and the political discourse. Certainly recent electoral events have injured the traditional idea of European politics, its values and criteria. In all of these countries, traditional and mainstream parties have lost ground to populist movements and parties, many of which belonging to the far-right wing of the political exchequer. Though we do have to remark an important exception to this. Austrian voters put an end to Norbert Hofer’s presidential race, a right-wing populist who campaigned on reducing immigration and re-establishing national borders: in other words, in Austria the Green party leader Alexander Van der Bellen prevailed with more than 53% of the vote.
Let us come back to Italy, then. After Sunday’s ballot, the true winner was the 5 Star Movement, the second political force in Italy after the ruling Democratic Party. The Movement claims for a nonbinding referendum on Italy’s membership to the Eurozone, the end of the EU-coordinated plan for the Government spending and its constraints, and income guarantees for all citizens. In the end, though his political career likely it will not be over yet, Mr. Renzi, the former Italian premier, joins at least other three renowned colleagues who have fallen in the western backlash of people against the establishment: David Cameron, thrown by the Brexit vote; Hillary Clinton, set aside by Mr. Trump election; and Mr. Hollande who recently announced its decision to not run for next French presidential race. This is a kind of misery at the heart of European – and American – politics today: a substantial resistance to change among voters is leading to anti-establishment choices at the ballot box. This kind of resistance against establishment desires and the low economic performance, these are two main aspects of the turn Italy gave to European politics. Both parts have been made much harder by the surge of political populism and economic nationalism throughout Europe that, for sure, had a concrete impact on Sunday’s ballot outcome.
Anyway, Italy’s turn will not affect from the very Day-1 the EU power and its possibilities to exit this political impasse. Italy, the third-largest economy within the EU, has played along with other Member States towards greater integration on social, political, economic, (and more recently) military dossiers. Even if it is true and crystal-clear the feeling of “europeism” pervading Italy’s establishment, in recent years it has also known rough time. Most of all from the economic perspective, Italy proceeded an increasing disconnection from the European Union without sacrificing harsh words to Brussels’ “German-managed grey bureaucracy”. This progressive disconnection finds its logic result in the Sunday’s vote, and if we cannot consider it will exert a strong influence in the short term, it would so in long run, for sure.
Italy’s foreign policy has always played on four different spheres, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, – I would introduce the Russian one to the list -, and the European – divergent and overlapping one another. Lower efforts in the European sphere would consist of less efficient EU international power. The Italian Republic is a strong and fundamental partner for European Member States aiming at managing difficulties and challenges to the EU, arising within the international arena.