In today’s newspaper, we have a piece on presumptive Italian prime minister Mario Monti as viewed from Brussels, with special attention to comments and writings he’s made as one of the most prominent members of the Brussels think tank circuit.
As we pointed out in the story, his views on what ails Europe have been there for all to see for some time, but Brussels Blog wanted to draw specific attention to a symposium he spoke at just a few weeks ago sponsored by the Polish presidency and the Bureau of European Policy Advisors, the European Commission’s in-house think tank.
At the conference, Monti gives a pretty thorough analysis of what ails Italy and the need for cross-party political pain. But he also goes out of his way to lavish praise on the US Congress’s so-called “super committee” that is currently just a week away from a self-imposed deadline to come up with a bipartisan budget-overhaul plan.
Because we did not have enough space in the newspaper to delve into Monti’s comments more fully, some extended excerpts after the jump.
The super committee idea clearly is one that was at the front of Monti’s thinking in the days running up to becoming Italy’s technocratic leader:
By the way, in the US – a country which, of course, has a degree of lack of [ability] to arrive at concrete solutions, relative to which the European Union recently is a relatively smooth decision-making machine – you know, this recent invention of the supercommittee in Congress I find fascinating, because they are trying to create, in that hugely bipolar context some premises for a bipartisan agreement.
The tough work of getting consensus amidst polarised political debates is a topic he comes back to time and again at the October symposium, and as we point out in the newspaper story, cutting pensions (a sacred cow for the centre-left) while raising taxes on the wealthy (a show-stopper for the centre-right) was specifically mentioned as a potential “package deal” for Italy.
The more you have a bipolar system which exacerbates conflict, you will have a fight because the opposition will raise the level of pressure from the lobbies and the corporatism that is against structural reforms, making life more difficult for the majority, if ever it wants to introduce structural reforms.
One last note, particularly given today’s expected announcement from Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner in charge of financial regulation on new rules for credit rating agencies. At the same conference, Monti is actually rather forgiving of the rating agencies, arguing they have highlighted the kinds of regulatory changes and economic reforms that Italy must implement to get growth restarted.
If I take the case of Italy, and if I take the pronouncements taken on Italy by the rating agencies since July, I think this is the first time when considerations about the long-term lack of growth [is considered]. They are animals of the financial markets. They should care and do care about short-term prospects. But even they now give increasing emphasis to whether a country brings with it a promise of growth or not. I think this is a new situation.