Italy is emerging from the EU elections as a key player in the European Union, says former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. Although Eurosceptic populists’ proposed solutions are systematically wrong, a ‘bone of truth’ lies within the populists’ criticisms of of Europe .
Mario Monti served as Italian Prime Minister from 2011 to 2013, and as Italy’s European Commissioner from 1995 to 2004. He spoke with EurActiv Germany’s Marta Latini in Berlin.
How do you rate the success of Eurosceptics in the European elections?
We have witnessed the remarkable success of several populist movements in many countries. This was expected. It is not so surprising in times of economic and social crisis, with many national governments themselves putting this blame – to a great extent – on Europe. Public opinion sees a relationship between this difficult moment and Europe.
How will Eurosceptics influence the European agenda in the coming years?
The populists’ criticisms of Europe do have a bone of truth in each of them. For example, it is unquestionable that there is too much youth unemployment, that the issues about migration have not been handled sufficiently well.
The problem is that their solutions are, in my view, systematically wrong because they are simplistic, whereas the management of these problems requires integration, more of the European Union, or at least the willingness to strengthen the European Union.
In Italy, Renzi’s Partito Democratico (PD) triumphed in the elections and the Five Star Movement lost ground. Is Italy more Europhile than Eurosceptic?
In the case of Italy, Eurocritical populism exists in several parties. Obviously within the Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo, but also in the North League, and more recently to a large extent in Forza Italia and Fratelli d´Italia. Particularly in the case of the Five Star Movement, the result has not been at the level of expectations, but nevertheless very remarkable. Indeed, Prime Minister Renzi has had a resounding success.
All in all, Italy is coming out of these elections as a rather mature citizen of the European Union. What comes out is that Italy and the Italian government do want some changes in the governance of Europe, and will now be in a better relative position to be one of the key players in pursuing this. I find this very encouraging. This is a continuation and culmination of the re-establishment of Italy as a credible member of the European Union.
Is Renzi’s charisma the reason for PD’s triumph?
I see in Renzi´s great success a combination of a very visible and bold leadership, a courageous young politician, and a willingness to engage in the reforms, which happen also to be the reforms necessary for Italy to reinforce its competitive position and its credibility within the European Union.
How do you explain the outcome of the elections for the Scelta Civica party, which you founded?
For me, Scelta Civica was a “start-up” and I am very happy to have created it. It achieved a good result in fifty days: 3 million votes, starting from zero. Renzi’s great success is that he went up 2.7 million. Then, once in place, I left the presidency to others, and I did not have any role in Scelta Civica’s strategy. I had other ideas for the European elections.
What should the priorities of Italy’s six-month EU presidency be?
The Italian government has sketched out these priorities and they coincide largely with what the Commission has been proposing recently: an economic policy more conducive to growth. A more cohesive handling of migration issues, and of course the Ukraine, will be the key priorities.