SAM If EU bul­lies will kick Italy they’ll cer­tainly kick us

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

DUBLIN is a dirty word in Italy. The Irish cap­i­tal gives its name to a diplo­matic agree­ment that in­sists asy­lum seek­ers re­main in the EU state where they first land. And the ar­rival of 600,000 asy­lum seek­ers in Italy over the past four years, cour­tesy of the Dublin Pro­to­col, has trig­gered an an­gry po­lit­i­cal back­lash there.

Last month, fall­out from the im­mi­gra­tion and eco­nomic cri­sis led to the elec­tion of a coali­tion of po­lar op­po­site par­ties, the na­tion­al­ist North­ern League and left­ist Five Star Move­ment.

De­spair­ing na­tives say it is a shot­gun mar­riage of big­otry and in­com­pe­tence, but Marine Le Pen of France’s Na­tional Front and for­mer Trump ad­viser Steve Ban­non wel­comed the pop­ulist al­liance. But take heed: the deep­en­ing cri­sis in Italy threat­ens the euro and the EU’s most vul­ner­a­ble mem­ber in the global econ­omy, Ire­land.

Man­darins in Brus­sels who once boasted that Italy was too big to fail now ad­mit Italy is too big to save.

The Irish gave medals to our brave sailors res­cu­ing asy­lum seek­ers from the Mediter­ranean but like other EU states we left the Ital­ians to cope with 600,000 mostly African asy­lum seek­ers.

BE­FORE join­ing the euro in 2002, Italy was a star of the EU: Ital­ian in­dus­try, man­u­fac­tur­ing and eq­ui­ties reg­u­larly out­per­formed those in Ger­many. Pre-euro, Ital­ian gov­ern­ments would de­value the lira to keep the Ital­ian econ­omy com­pet­i­tive. But when Ber­lin pressed Brus­sels to con­trol the cur­rency, the Ital­ian fi­nan­cial sys­tem tanked. Pro­duc­tion in Italy is now 26% be­low its peak in 2007; one in five man­u­fac­tur­ing firms shut down be­tween 2009 and 2012.

Un­em­ploy­ment for un­der-30s is 35%, dou­ble the EU av­er­age, and seven out of 10 Ital­ians un­der 36 years of age live with their par­ents.

But young Ital­ians vot­ing with their feet make a big­ger splash than cold sta­tis­tics on a page. Last year some 100,000 young Ital­ians ed­u­cated to third level left to work abroad, with Lon­don a pre­ferred des­ti­na­tion for that brain drain.

The EU failed Italy, aban­don­ing prom­ises to share the bur­den of refugees and leav­ing Ital­ians to cope with an ex­tra­or­di­nary 60% of mi­grants to the EU.

Chastis­ing them af­ter their re­cent elec­tion, Jean Claude Juncker, the Pres­i­dent of the EU Com­mis­sion, de­scribed Ital­ians as ‘corrupt, un­se­ri­ous and lazy’.

EU apol­o­gists said Juncker’s in­sult­ing re­marks were ‘post­pran­dial’ – af­ter a boozy lunch.

This un­elected pres­i­dent of the EU com­mis­sion swag­gers around the EU like five-star gen­eral in­spect­ing the en­listed states. Then France’s Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron added in­jury to the in­sult by wel­com­ing the ve­to­ing of a Eu­roscep­tic who had been nom­i­nated to the Ital­ian cab­i­net.

The Ger­man EU com­mis­sioner joined in and crit­i­cised how the Ital­ian elec­torate had voted.

No one in Ire­land should for­get how the EU’s un­elected elite treated us with con­tempt and dis­dain through our bank­ing cri­sis.

Beware of Pres­i­dent Macron and his cronies in the per­ma­nent civil ser­vice of mem­ber states dream­ing of a fed­eral United States of Europe.

There is a way to con­tain the con­ta­gion of Brexit and the pop­ulism that is threat­en­ing to de­stroy the euro and the EU. Re­mem­ber this: EU com­mis­sion­ers are not com­mis­sars, they are ser­vants of the cit­i­zens of EU mem­ber states – and the EU is an or­gan­i­sa­tion of self-govern­ing and sep­a­rate sov­er­eign states.

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