Matteo Renzi, Italy and the EU game
A few reasons why Italian credibility is strictly related to economic reforms
Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey (Canergie Europe) on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe's role in the world. This week her strategic column focused on Italy, an in particular on whether Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's Italy is back in the EU game.
According to Federiga Bindi, Senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, "Italy's influence in EU decisionmaking is that of a medium-sized power, not of a big country. This has been the case for years, and it will take several Matteo Renzis and a serious revolution in the country's domestic institutions to change the status quo. [...] If being back in the game means having Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini named as the EU's foreign policy chief, then the question is what price Italy will pay for the appointment, which was unconventional by the normal standards of EU horse-trading. It is also unclear whether Mogherini will really be able to influence the decisions that matter?"that is, economic policies. Incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker seems to have clear ideas about who is boss".
Silvia Francescon, the head of the Rome office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, believes that "Matteo Renzi certainly appears to be back in the EU game, [...] but it is one thing to be visible, another to be influential and play a leadership role. [...] Italy has lost much of its influence in recent years due to many factors, especially the country's weak economic performance. Renzi's real task is to place Italy at the forefront of the EU. That means implementing reforms at home, something in which both Mario Monti and Enrico Letta?"Renzi's predecessors?"failed. The answer to the question of whether Italy is back in the EU game will become clear only after Rome implements wide-ranging reforms and takes concrete steps to fight tax evasion and corruption. This has all yet to come".
Finally, Gianni Riotta, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, highlights that "acutely aware of the raging populist waves, Renzi has raised the ante against European antigrowth rules. He has then mobilized his own base in Italy while garnering support from across the Old Continent.Will this be enough to mollify German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Not at all; Renzi needs to build a credible dialogue with French President François Hollande, an early lame duck, while maintaining a viable relationship with postcrisis leaders in Spain and Greece. By engaging in conversation with Poland and the Baltics, Rome has a chance to swap its old economic sympathies for fresh geopolitical worries".