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Italy to Brussels: Give Us More Money


Newly elected Italian PM Enrico Letta is getting bolder and more assertive by the minute, judging by his remarks at a recent Berlin press conference. According to the FT, Letta said that a single European currency doesn’t do enough to promote economic growth in member countries. He stated that more political union is needed to help European economies thrive:

 “Now we have to make up for lost time. That time was lost because too many countries have looked at the next elections and by doing this they have made it harder to explain to citizens that they had to concede sovereignty,” Mr Letta said in a speech to the Italian senate.

“Our destiny as Europeans is common, otherwise it will be made up of individual countries that will slowly decline . . . in a world where the powers of countries with populations in their billions will prevail,” Mr Letta said.

In short, Letta is telling Berlin: all your money belongs to us. We earlier noted that Letta’s first speech to parliament pointed to an Italy ready to take a harder line with Europe. Many smart Italians think Germany has way overplayed its hand and that it will ultimately be forced to fold on austerity issues just as it was forced to fold on the ECB policy of accommodating the needs of debtor countries. The alternatives are just too expensive and dangerous. Given that belief, they think Italy has a strong hand and should play a more aggressive game.

It looks like Letta agrees, and he’s getting clearer and clearer about what he wants European policy to look like.

[Italian PM Enrico Letta, photo courtesy Getty Images]

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  • Jim Luebke

    Has a historic power ever emerged, basing its rise on innate weakness rather than innate strength?

    Letta’s attempt at logic makes my head hurt.

    • Corlyss Drinkard

      Well, the US managed to capitalize on its inherent weaknesses vis-à-vis lusty-eyed European colonial powers, 1781-1860.

      • Marty Keller

        Jim’s query was about a power’s “innate weakness.” The federalists’ Constitution and Hamilton’s policies turned weakness of the Confederation government into a strong national state, whose republican basis made it stronger than any of the European colonial powers except Great Britain–arguably not a “European” power at all.

        • Corlyss Drinkard

          I believe you are judging decades of uncertainty in light of later events, not to mention anticipating a strong national state long before it was actually manifest. It wasn’t until the advent of administrative gurus like T. Roosevelt and W. Wilson that the US national government began to take on the coloring of a “strong national state.” The British no doubt were waiting for the US assume it’s role on the international stage somewhere around the Civil War, but we didn’t actually “step out” of the shadows until the Spanish-American War, and some would even say WW1.

      • Jim Luebke

        The young US was just strong enough to expel the British, and by a stroke of luck we were spared a French invasion during Napoleon’s time.

        But even then, we had vast innate (though potential) strength — a growing technologically advanced and ambitious population, a whole continent whose previous inhabitants were mostly dead or dying of unfamiliar diseases, and a rough ocean to complicate enemies’ logistics.

        Italy has none of those things — just weakness. Granted, the weak Ottomans parlayed the British fear of Russian southward expansion into an effective alliance in the Crimean War. However, that only postponed their inevitable collapse, instead of supporting a new rise.

        Italy — and the EU in general, really — is more like the Ottomans than the US.

        • Corlyss Drinkard

          If the British hadn’t been busy elsewhere, it would have been a different story. Why do you think the French were so eager to help us out in the Revolution? In the War of 1812, the British were preoccupied with Napoleon. We were more than happy to hide behind the British Navy’s skirts for the first 80 years of our existence.

  • rheddles

    Italy’s situation is a lot like that of any borrower, it’s fun to spend other people’s money. Until they can’t or won’t give you any more. Then you have to make the painful readjustment of living within your means. And the longer you live on other people’s money, the more painful the readjustment when it finally arrives. This won’t end well, but no one knows when it will end. Reminds me of .com.

  • Corlyss Drinkard

    I’m still betting on war. The unification crackpots tried very hard to snuff out patriotic feelings people have for their countries. As long as nothing seriously challenged the fiction of a United States of Europe, the people didn’t have to put the lie to the propaganda. Well, push has come to shove over money, and nationalism is on the rise. Good job, Germany! You were the centerpiece of the unification schemes. Much of it was for your benefit. And you seem to have blown it. Not that I’m unhappy about that. I’ve always thought it was a misbegotten notion from the beginning.

  • Alexander Scipio

    If Germany had working brain cells, THEY’d leave the euro. Better for the entire continent. German exports would languish a bit, costing them some jobs & money, but so is propping-up the failed euro. In the end everyone will be better off.

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