Roberto Formigoni, who this month resigned as the governor of Lombardy after the arrest of his deputy, with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) in 2010 (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
The wave of corruption scandals that is engulfing Italy prompts me to ask if we are witnessing a “1992 moment” – that is to say, the start of an unstoppable process that will sweep away much of the political establishment.
The question has two answers. The first is that the Italian upheaval of 20 years ago, though it destroyed the old political party system, promised more fundamental change than it ultimately delivered. So do not raise your expectations too high today.
Some optimistic political commentators thought it safe in the 1990s to suggest that Italy’s corrupt post-1945 First Republic, dominated by the Christian Democrats and their allies, was giving way to a cleaner, more responsible Second Republic. But these hopes turned out to be misplaced.
Secretive networks of influence and self-indulgence at the expense of taxpayers continued, and continue, to shape the activities of the political classes. The mafia, rampant in the 1980s and early 1990s, shrank to some extent into the shadows, but it has never loosened its connections to politics, business and state administration. Read more
Greece is usually labelled the eurozone’s most reform-resistant economy, but perhaps that’s because Cyprus slips under most people’s radars, writes Tony Barber. Read more
If Greek citizens aren’t angry enough at the condescending and ignorant manner in which northern Europeans discuss their plight, I invite them to inspect the opinions of Jürgen Ligi, Estonia’s finance minister.
An interview with Mr Ligi appeared on Monday on the extremely handy European affairs blog that is published by the London School of Economics.
In answer to the question “Do you think that austerity measures in countries like Greece have gone far enough?”, here’s what the Estonian minister said:
“I honestly haven’t seen any austerity in Greece. It’s a rich country with a high level of consumption, and the present situation in Greece is far better than what we experienced in Estonia in the early 1990s. They are spending a lot – much more than they earn – so it can’t be called austerity.”
Let’s think about that.
Greece is projected next year to endure its sixth consecutive year of deep recession. By then, economic output will be 25 per cent below the peak of the boom years that marked Greece’s initial experience of eurozone membership. Read more
Add Poland to the list of European Union countries turned off by the incoherent, self-isolating policies of Britain’s Conservative-led government towards Europe.
First there was Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel restricts her visits to the UK these days to the barest minimum. She has been lukewarm about David Cameron, the UK prime minister, ever since he pulled the Conservative party out of the pan-European centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), of which her Christian Democrats are a leading light.
Next came France. President François Hollande hasn’t forgotten how Cameron refused to meet him when he visited London on an election campaign trip earlier this year. Hollande is not inclined to do Cameron any favours on crucial issues such as the protection of British interests in a more deeply integrated Europe. Read more
Will the Spanish government request a European bailout? Will Catalonia secede from Spain? These are burning questions, but on Tuesday morning a different political topic is on the minds of many madrileños.
Esperanza Aguirre, the head of the Madrid regional government and one of the most influential figures in the Partido Popular, Spain’s ruling centre-right party, abruptly resigned from her post on Monday. She said she was withdrawing from the front line of politics “for personal reasons”. Read more
An anti-ACTA activist in Berlin. (Adam Berry/Getty Images)
With all eyes on the eurozone crisis (and Barclays), it is easy to overlook other events in Europe which, in their own way, are just as important. I have in mind yesterday’s vote by the European parliament to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta), an international accord aimed at cracking down on copyright theft.
From all sorts of angles this was a landmark vote. It was the first time that the European Union’s legislature had exercised its right, granted under the EU’s 2009 Lisbon treaty, to block ratification of an international agreement negotiated by the European Commission and approved by EU governments.
Some might call the vote an excellent illustration of why EU policy makers should never have given this blocking power to the European parliament in the first place.
Others, however, will see the vote as a welcome expansion of democratic control over the EU executive and national governments. This seems to be the sense of a statement issued by France’s ruling Socialist party, which hailed “a new inter-institutional balance of power” in Europe and “the active participation of citizens in the European debate”. Read more
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Italy stands on the front line of the eurozone’s battle for survival – but you’d never guess it from the latest available data on Italian public finances.
The cumulative budget deficit fell in the first half of this year to €29.1bn from €43.9bn in the same period of 2011, according to the finance ministry. If you exclude its debt servicing costs, Italy is running a central government surplus of more than 3 per cent of gross domestic product. This is fiscal virtue unmatched elsewhere in southern Europe – or in much of northern Europe, for that matter. Read more
It was as if a magician’s wand had waved away the crisis. Shortly after
midnight, central Athens erupted in joy. Car horns blared and strangers
embraced in the darkness. Over the past 24 months of debt-driven
disaster, I’ve never seen Greeks so happy.
At the Euro 2012 football tournament, Greece had just defied the odds and
beaten Russia 1-0 in Warsaw’s national stadium. Amazingly, they’ve made
it to the quarter-finals and the nation is celebrating. Read more
Lucas Papademos – should we have said 'au revoir', not 'goodbye', when he left office? Photo Reuters
Perhaps the blazing sun is affecting my mental faculties, but here in Athens I am forming the impression that people in other European capitals are misreading the political tide ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election in Greece.
There has been much loose talk, for instance, to the effect that the Greek armed forces, which seized power in a 1967 coup and ruled for seven years, might once again step in because of the failure of the nation’s traditional political classes and the apparent radicalisation of the electorate.
Here is what one minister in Greece’s interim government, formed after the inconclusive May 6 election, told me: “There is zero possibility of a military coup. The lesson was learnt from the military dictatorship.” Read more
Cypriot and EU flags in the city of Nicosia. Patrick Baz /AFP/GettyImages
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Greek crisis is not just financial in nature. It has geopolitical implications that extend beyond whether or not Greece remains in the eurozone.
There is, for example, the potential impact on one of Europe’s longest-running territorial disputes: Cyprus. Whatever events unfold in Greece after next Sunday’s election, the Greek Cypriot-controlled state of Cyprus will continue to be vulnerable because of its financial system’s massive exposure to Greece and because of its decision last year to turn to Russia for a €2.5bn loan. Read more