Dan­ger­ous dance of an un­likely dou­ble act

Italy’s coali­tion govern­ment has con­founded ex­pec­ta­tions by last­ing so long. But its am­bi­tious spend­ing plans are send­ing the coun­try into un­charted ter­ri­tory

The New European - - Agenda - Com­piled by Si­mon Pick­stone, English ed­i­tor, Voxeu­rop, a web­site cov­er­ing Euro­pean news and com­ment which pub­lishes in 10 dif­fer­ent lan­guages. Find out more at www.voxeu­rop.eu/en

TURIN: As the drama of seal­ing a Brexit deal with the UK rum­bles on, EU of­fi­cials have big­ger fish to fry. Italy’s coali­tion govern­ment, headed by far-right leader Mat­teo Salvini and the pop­ulist Luigi Di Maio, is push­ing its re­la­tion­ship with Brus­sels to break­ing point. Euro­zone of­fi­cials see Italy’s 2019 spend­ing plans as fis­cally ir­re­spon­si­ble. But Salvini and Di Maio are re­fus­ing to back down.

The pair are hardly on the best of terms, how­ever. As An­drea Malaguti ob­served in La Stampa, the as­ton­ish­ing thing is that the coali­tion govern­ment has sur­vived as long as it has. De­spite broadly in­com­pat­i­ble po­lit­i­cal agen­das, Salvini and Di Maio have de­vel­oped a sur­pris­ing co-de­pen­dence, each re­ly­ing on the other to se­cure their po­si­tion, Malaguti ar­gued.

“What unites them is the all-con­sum­ing de­sire to stay in power, sup­ported by op­pressed peo­ple who to­day haunt them with de­mands for a cit­i­zens’ in­come, against the so-called ‘in­va­sion of for­eign­ers’ and for the dream of early re­tire­ment,” he said.

In this re­spect the two lead­ers per­form mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing roles. “Salvini re­as­sures Ital­ians by swear­ing he will de­fend them once and for all from the dan­ger com­ing from Africa, Asia or Brus­sels; Di Maia from poverty. But for all his epic and slightly child­ish rev­o­lu­tion­ary nar­ra­tive, Salvini knows well that the fall of his col­league would in­stantly lead to the end of his own lead­er­ship-in-all-but-name.”

The League, Salvini’s far-right party, does not boast enough sup­port to gov­ern alone, Malaguti re­minded read­ers. “That’s why the League’s leader is will­ing to pro­voke his deputy primem­i­nis­ter [Di Maio]... but not to re­nounce him.”

Greens against the bar­bar­ians

BER­LIN: Europe’s po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors, weary of end­lessly dis­cussing the rise of the far-right, now have a new phe­nom­e­non to un­pack: a surge in sup­port for the Greens across the con­ti­nent. The party came sec­ond in Bavaria’s re­cent re­gional elec­tions, in­flict­ing hu­mil­i­a­tion on the once dom­i­nant Chris­tian Democrats. And it’s ex­pected to do well in Hesse’s elec­tion this week.

While it seems the party has picked up many mod­er­ate vot­ers sick of the Ger­many’s so­cial­ists and Chris­tian Democrats, the ma­jor forces in the coun­try’s post-war po­lit­i­cal land­scape, many peo­ple are left won­der­ing what ex­actly the Greens stand for. In Die Tageszeitung, Adrian Schulz cast a satir­i­cal eye on their val­ues.

“They are not at all the old Greens – the ones with all the eco-clichés,” he said. Nor are they like the Greens tainted by their time in a coali­tion govern­ment with so­cial­ist chan­cel­lor Ger­hard Schröder at the turn of the mil­len­nium. In­stead they are “beige­coloured sus­tain­able neo-lib­eral-flex­i­ble mod­er­a­tion ma­chines”.

They have “some­thing to do with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism, sus­tain­abil­ity, te­dium,” Schulz added. “While the so­cial­ists lost all their dig­nity drink­ing cham­pagne in broth­els… the neo-greens – who aren’t even ex­cep­tion­ally av­er­age – don’t even sip a cheeky or­ange juice.”

But the party seems to have found its mo­ment, Schulz ob­served, as the main­stream par­ties col­lapse and the neo-fas­cists gain mo­men­tum. With baby­boomers go­ing to­tally off the rails, vot­ing for the far-right AFD party in ev­er­greater num­bers, “in a post-merkel Ger­many, we’ll have to make a choice: Greenism or bar­barism?”

Drown­ing in tourists

PORTO: When it comes to tourism, Por­tu­gal has be­come the vic­tim of its own suc­cess. Lis­bon’s trans­for­ma­tion through the pop­u­lar­ity of Airbnb and week­end mini-breaks has long been doc­u­mented. But Ana Bar­beiro, an ac­tivist, shone a light last week on how Porto is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same phe­nom­e­non.

Writ­ing in Público, Bar­beiro said the city has seen huge change over the past four years thanks to the “ex­po­nen­tial growth of tourism”. Its streets are now full to burst­ing, while houses are rapidly be­ing con­verted into high-end tourist apart­ments. “Around here, it seems that pretty much ev­ery­one is on hol­i­day. Un­less you lis­ten out for the hus­tle and bus­tle of peo­ple work­ing in con­struc­tion, clean­ing, sales, trans­port, de­liv­ery, or hos­pi­tal­ity.”

The trans­for­ma­tion is very dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous waves of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion that Porto has un­der­gone, Bar­beiro ob­served. “Touris­ti­fi­ca­tion fur­ther seg­ments ur­ban space and in­creases the spe­cial­i­sa­tion of par­tic­u­lar zones serv­ing a sin­gle mar­ket: tourism. Tra­di­tional in­hab­i­tants are re­placed by tran­si­tory in­hab­i­tants, peo­ple who suc­ces­sively oc­cupy and leave the city with­out truly dwelling in it. At the same time, as true in­hab­i­tants be­come scarce, the struc­tures and ser­vices de­signed for them dis­ap­pear, while those for tourists in­crease.”

Bar­beiro urged the peo­ple of Porto to take ac­tion. “Around the world, there are dif­fer­ent mod­els for reg­u­lat­ing tourist ac­com­mo­da­tion in a whole range of cities. Porto needs and de­serves a model that, by set­ting out im­me­di­ate and longer-term struc­tural mea­sures, safe­guards the city for its res­i­dents.”

Best of fren­e­mies

WASH­ING­TON: Saudi Ara­bia has sparked global out­rage over its ad­mis­sion that jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi was killed in its con­sulate in Is­tan­bul – and ridicule for its ex­pla­na­tion of what hap­pened. It has also prompted the in­ter­na­tional me­dia to ex­am­ine whether Turk­ish pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan sees the af­fair as an op­por­tu­nity for Turkey to al­ter the po­lit­i­cal land­scape of the Mid­dle East.

But in Turkey it­self, news­pa­pers were largely fo­cused on the de­tails of

Khashoggi’s death, leav­ing it to Turks writ­ing from abroad to dis­cuss its geopo­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions. Gönül Tol, from the Wash­ing­ton-based Mid­dle East In­sti­tute, eval­u­ated the how it might af­fect bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween Turkey and Saudi Ara­bia.

“Eco­nomic con­sid­er­a­tions play an im­por­tant role in Er­do­gan’s re­luc­tance to es­ca­late ten­sions with Riyadh,” Tol wrote. “Turkey is at the cen­tre of an eco­nomic storm and has very few friends to turn to for help. Ankara-wash­ing­ton re­la­tions are at an all-time low. Turkey-rus­sia re­la­tions are vul­ner­a­ble and re­la­tions with Eu­ro­peans are com­pli­cated. To avoid fur­ther prob­lems, Turkey has been try­ing hard not to fur­ther strain ties with Saudi Ara­bia.”

She noted that the two coun­tries have clashed over Turkey’s sup­port for the Mus­lim Brother­hood, which Saudi Ara­bia con­sid­ers a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion, Turkey sid­ing with Qatar af­ter Gulf states cut ties with the coun­try, and its co­op­er­a­tion with Iran in Syria. Mean­while, Saudi Ara­bia has pro­vided mil­lions of dol­lars in fi­nance for ‘sta­bil­i­sa­tion projects’ in parts of Syria held by the Kur­dish-led Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces, Turkey’s arch-en­emy.

But the steady stream of leaks from Turk­ish of­fi­cials re­gard­ing Khashoggi’s death in­di­cate Turkey is play­ing a del­i­cate game. It has, Tol ob­served, “be­come in­creas­ingly un­com­fort­able with Saudi crown prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man. Ankara sees the crown prince as a US pawn and the Us-is­rael-saudi axis as a threat against its re­gional clout… How Er­do­gan will nav­i­gate this mine­field re­mains to be seen.”

Tak­ing down the trolls

TALLINN: Es­to­nian ac­tress Marika Korolev won a land­mark court case this week against five in­ter­net trolls who had posted dis­parag­ing re­marks about her anony­mously in 2015.

Priit Hõbe­mägi, a jour­nal­ist at Eesti Ek­s­press, asked why it is the in­ter­net seems to strip peo­ple of ba­sic de­cency. Our “in­ter­net-per­sona gives voice to our dark, pri­mal and an­ti­so­cial im­pulses, to the as­pects of our per­son­al­ity that have his­tor­i­cally been con­trolled by cul­ture and so­cial ex­pec­ta­tions.”

He added: “The so-called trolls are not a spe­cial kind of peo­ple pos­sessed by some ex­cep­tional mal­ice, but they are com­pletely or­di­nary peo­ple. Like me. Or you. And many of us. But of course not you specif­i­cally, my dear read­ers!”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.