Rome’s controversial spending plans will become “a recipe” for reviving European growth and that the continent is ready to abandon austerity and embrace the deficit-busting approach of US president Donald Trump.
Current US growth at around 4% is unheard of in the Eurozone and so he – not unreasonably – concludes that electoral support for austerity is unlikely to continue (if indeed, we might wonder, it was actually ever there).
Italy’s budget submitted to the European commission has of course included extra ‘social’ expenditure and Di Maio is convinced Italy can “strengthen the European Union and the eurozone to do good from the point of view of social rights”. Di Maio is now aged just 32, and was once a steward at Napoli football club and so well acquainted with the areas 60% youth unemployment. He goes on, “Between 2007 and 2013, we were totally ignored as a political reality ….[and Italians’ social] “rights were sacrificed on the altar of debt, but while they were sacrificed the debt grew.” He continues, “If today we have 6m poor Italians in Italy, this is causing a social tension that also creates tensions with foreigners. This is inevitable.” He considers that austerity policies were pursued by a section of the European political class which certain individual countries have repeatedly broken. (Before Macron’s arrival France was a regular).
All this is, in my opinion, spot on. Even more so if he had added that the 3% limit on the budget deficit was purely arbitrary and not based on economics at all, though it was based on religion, which, all too ironically, it has actually become. It was originally a French idea based on the Catholic Trinity, with which it was felt the French at the time would be familiar, designed to give support to President Mitterand, who felt he needed a way to refuse ministers who kept asking for more.
In order to progress these ideas Five Star are hoping to establish a new anti-austerity grouping in the EU Parliament for the next elections – interestingly not together with their League coalition partners – although he does suggest that they still intend to be in their Italian coalition for the full term. He concludes “Our new group will keep at its centre expansive policies for work, income, welfare, and the environment. These are the principles on which we want to create the new Europe.”
These ideas are progressive and hopeful. Yet, although he does not mention it, I suspect he still needs a plan B in case the election doesn’t go as anticipated – and the European Commission return to him, full of excessive, Catholic, 3% fervour.
That fortunately, is a group of Milanese Italians promoting ‘Fiscal Money’, so there is, in fact, one of those too and I just hope that by not talking about it, it doesn’t mean he won’t use it, because I fear he may need to.