The Rome – Brussels divide


The climate between Italy and the EU has become unbreathable.

Tensions between Rome and Brussels heated up on January the 15th as the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi rejected calls by the head of the bloc’s executive to tone down his criticism of EU policies on migration, banking and the budget.

Since September the Italian Prime Minister raised pressures on the Commission on many fronts.From banking policy to energy, Renzi has not hidden his disappointment about the work of the Commission, accused to be “remote-controlled” by Berlin. Renzi had already attacked the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, due to her reluctance to complete the so-called “third leg” of the banking union, a deposit guarantee scheme in the eurozone. Similarly, Renzi objected that the involvement of German companies in a new pipeline with Russia risks to create a double-standard in energy policies at a time when the EU extended sanctions against Moscow.

Renzi has frequently criticised the European Union, saying it is too focused on budget austerity and dominated by bureaucrats and does not give enough importance to promoting growth and employment. The Italian Prime Minister feels that the EU is either applying its rules too rigidly, or is adopting double standards that often benefit Germany to the detriment of Italy, as he declared to the Financial Times.

Rome asks for more flexibility, but, from this perspective, worries can raise that the italian attitude could invite Europe to retaliation. Indeed, the European Commission still has to deliver its final verdict on Renzi’s budget for this year, which is more focused on tax cuts and less of spending discipline than Brussels would like.

When it comes to migration, Italy is worried about the possibility for Northern Europe countries to block the Schengen area, making it difficult for migrants to go towards North Europe. Once again the Italian biggest demand is to renegotiate the EU rules concerning asylum, which currently require asylum to be sought in the first country of entry. So far, Brussels has ignored this demand and Berlin accused Italy of failing to process migrants who arrive on its soil, instead hurrying them on to other EU states.

As founder of the European Union, Italians used to be among the biggest supporters of European integration.This is the reason why Italy believes that these  fundamental issues for the future of Europe should be delivered and reforms should be implemented where necessary.

On February, European leaders will meet in Rome for celebrating the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty in Rome. This meeting will provide the opportunity to “think outside the box” on the future of the European Union.

“For Europe, which is finally exiting the most acute phase of the crisis, it is crucial to decide whether to encourage signs of recovery or to keep yanking on the parking brake,” said the Italian Minister  of Foreign Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni.

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