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Internal Struggles Ravage Southern Europe

Here’s an interesting fact: The Italian government employs 27,000 people to manage the small island’s wooded areas—more than Canada employs for British Columbia’s endless forests. This is only one item off a long list of government waste, corruption and nepotism in the Mediterranean described in this article by the German magazine Der Spiegel:

 . . . politicians have proven particularly adept at finding public service jobs for their friends. Today, some 144,000 Sicilians get their salary from the state, and one in eight of them is the head of something or other. Many administrative offices are full of people who have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing.

The end-result of all this waste is painfully predictable for anyone following the news out of Southern Europe these days: looming bankruptcy, increasing regional and international tension, and the possible disintegration of the Eurozone.

Much has been made of the cultural and economic tensions between northern and southern Eurozone members. On top of this, however, there are often strong regional differences within countries themselves that inhibit reforms:

Alarmed at the €21 billion in debts Sicily has accumulated, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti wants to dispatch a controller and has demanded that the president of Sicily, Raffaele Lombardo, step down. The Sicilian government has retorted that Rome should pay up and stay out of it, or face a ‘civil war.’

There are similar internal divisions in Spain, with its various autonomous regions, and in Portugal’s municipalities.

If even the Italians can’t reform Italy, how can the Germans expect to do better?

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  • John Hasley

    Didn’t Otto I try to do this about a thousand years ago? How did that turn out?

  • Kris

    Ah, so this is what they meant by “European Union”!

  • Kenny

    “If even the Italians can’t reform Italy, how can the Germans expect to do better?”

    1. The Italians haven’t even tried to reform their country because reform means the parasites have to be kicked off the dole and there are many of them.

    2. Germans have a shot at reforming the Italians because the Germans can a) withhold the money Italian society needs and 2) the Italians don’t vote in German elections.

  • Anna Q Campbell

    The Germans caved with the Greek bailout. But there will come a time when they’ll have to say enough is enough. Then we’ll see if the US comes to the rescue.

  • Jim.

    @John Hasley-

    Five hundred years ago, Charles V tried, too.

    Luther had better luck. Splitting up was the only real option.

  • dearieme

    The main lesson is that Garibaldi was wrong.

  • Eurydice

    German politicians think that if they keep loudly obsessing about the Greeks, their people won’t notice what’s going on in Spain and Italy.

  • lhf

    I guess culture matters. With respect to the Palestinians, 6 were arrested recently for eating in public during Ramadan. One got a month in prison. Prison time seriously disrupts one’s ability to earn a living.

  • Michael K

    “The Sicilian government has retorted that Rome should pay up and stay out of it, or face a ‘civil war.’”

    I bet most of Lombardy would be glad to let Sicily go and get rid of that parasite.

  • Eurydice

    It’s not that Italy can’t reform itself – it’s that Italy hasn’t started to do so yet. The political class needs to feel personally and universally endangered before it will agree to work for a common goal, and Italy hasn’t gone through that painful process yet.

    Greece, which is 6 times smaller, has only just gotten to the point where once implacable rivals now realize they have to work together, and that was after 5 years of deep recession and international humiliation.

  • Dean Jackson

    It is not exclusively southern Europe. Belgium went over 500 days without a government because of differences that might be characterized as Flems vs. Walloons. And even if you look to Germany cracks are starting to appear as Bavaria and other states are tiring of funding the poorer regions.

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