I confess to a certain surprise at the way that Massimo D’Alema is climbing up the list of candidates for the post of European Union foreign policy chief. At first sight the former Italian prime minister and foreign minister ticks far too few boxes to get the job. But there are, in truth, some straightforward reasons for his ascent – none of which reflects well on the EU.
First, the unticked boxes. 1) His communist past. This is usually condensed into: “He’s a former communist and therefore unacceptable to Poland and other EU countries, which suffered under Soviet domination while the Italian communist party was gorging itself on covert funds from Moscow.” In fairness, D’Alema abandoned communism 20 years ago. I spent five years in Rome covering Italian politics, and he never struck me as an extremist or a hardliner. Quite the opposite: he was highly pragmatic, in a shifty kind of way. Read more