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