Magazine article The Nation

Italian Anxieties

Magazine article The Nation

Italian Anxieties

Article excerpt

Italy is often described as the sick man of Western Europe. But its crisis could also be seen as a byproduct of European integration--the first of many to come.

It was the Maastricht treaty with its stiff criteria--like other countries, Italy had to effect drastic cuts in its rate of inflation, in the budget deficit and in the public debt to remain in the monetary union--that convinced Italy's economic establishment that the political regime had to be changed. A stronger government was needed to impose such belt tightening. Yet at the same time, European deregulation is weakening the hold of individual governments on their countries.

If, as now seems almost certain, Italy's next elections are staged not under proportional representation but under some system based on majority rule (perhaps the Anglo-Saxon first-past-the-post system in a single race), the odds are that the country will be split into three parts: Christian Democrats clinging to the South; the Party of the Democratic Left, remnant of the C.P., gaining the upper hand in the Center; and the right-wing regionalist Lombard League conquering the North. If the last of these keeps contending that without Roman corruption and the burden of southern "peasants" the North could fit nicely into Europe, the breakup of Italy-whose 132-year unity differs in nature from that of France or Britain--cannot be ruled out.

Confronted every day with new examples of political corruption, the Italians, naturally enough, dream of a clean slate, of a new risorgimento. …

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