How will Italy’s election affect its relationship with the EU?

Ahead of the Italian elections on 4 March, opinion polls suggest an increasingly fragmented political scenario, with a hung parliament and likely difficulties in having a parliamentary majority in support of a new government. But what will the vote mean for Italy’s relations with the EU? Lorenzo Codogno discusses the three most important themes in the Italy-EU relationship.

Credit: Giorgio Montersino (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The outcome of the Italian elections remains highly uncertain. It will be a fight among three major forces, which individually are unlikely to command an outright majority of seats in parliament.

Detailed plans to enhance Italy’s lacklustre growth and reduce the worryingly high debt-to-GDP ratio are shockingly absent from the electoral debate. How will this electoral event affect the relationship between Italy and the EU ahead of important talks about the future of European governance?

A hung parliament would lead to a lengthy and challenging discussion on some form of broad or narrow grand coalition that would bring together the mainstream parties. There is also a small but not negligible probability that anti-euro, anti-establishment parties will manage to get a better-than-expected result and then team up together to support a new government.

How did Italy get to this point of political fragmentation and growing anti-European sentiment? A decade ago, Italy was among the most pro-euro countries in Europe, with a long history of being one of the staunchest advocates for further integration. In the most recent Eurobarometer survey, only 59 Italians out of 100 were in favour of a European economic and monetary union with one single currency, the euro. It was the most Eurosceptic outcome among the countries participating in monetary union.

This significant shift in attitude could be attributed to the three most problematic points in Italy’s relationship with Europe: fiscal policy, immigration and the banks.

The prolonged and deep recession led Italy’s real GDP to contract by almost 10% between the pre-crisis peaks of the first quarter of 2008 to the trough of the first quarter of 2013. Since then the economy has recovered, although it was still 5.7% below pre-crisis levels in the fourth quarter of 2017. Since the first quarter of 2008, the performance gap versus the Eurozone has widened to 13 percentage points. Unemployment moved from 5.7% in April 2007 to 13.0% in November 2014. Since then it has declined to 10.8%.

The popular narrative is that Brussels contributed to deepening the crisis by forcing Italy to implement tight fiscal policies or so-called austerity. Under the pressure of financial markets during the European sovereign debt crisis, Italy increased the structural (cyclically-adjusted and net of one-offs) primary balance, which is the best measure of fiscal stance, from 0.6% in 2009 to 4.0% in 2013, with an almost 2.5 percentage point tightening in 2012 alone. However, since 2013 there has been a moderately expansionary policy, which has brought this metric down to 1.7% in 2017, according to European Commission data.

Even after the elections, no matter which party or coalition wins, the Italian government is unlikely to tackle the issue of the high debt-to-GDP ratio forcefully and decidedly. The Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) is mostly pro-European, although with some populist and anti-austerity flourishes (former PM Renzi repeatedly tried to increase the deficit leeway), and mostly pro-reform, although the positive momentum has declined sharply.

Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is mostly pro-European as well, although with a Eurosceptic spin. The introduction of a parallel currency (Am-lire) was mainly Berlusconi’s idea, not his party’s. Plans to sharply reduce taxation and partly unwind the pension reform are in contradiction with the stated objective of a 4% primary surplus (against an estimated 1.5% in 2017). Its overall stance towards the EU remains constructive, however, and there are no plans for Italexit.

A Northern League-led government would make the stance towards the EU and the euro more problematic. Italexit has been toned down, but not entirely, and the introduction of a parallel currency (mini-bot) has not been dismissed. The Five Star Movement appears to have put aside the idea of a referendum on the euro and the proposal for a parallel currency, but they could resurface at a later stage. The fight against fiscal rules and the so-called European straightjacket would mount.

Immigration is another major topic of the electoral campaign, possibly the most important one, especially following the shooting of Africans by a neo-Nazi in Macerata. Italy does not have a long tradition of welcoming foreign immigrants, despite all humanitarian efforts to save them in the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. Foreign ‘regular’ residents accounted for only 8.3% of the population in 2016. However, that percentage goes up to 14.1% when looking at the 18-39 year age group, with a high concentration in Northern Italy and major cities.

With a fertility rate of just 1.35% and the natality rate at 0.8%, Italy’s population is ageing fast. Meanwhile, in 2016, 115,000 Italians moved abroad, a number which has steadily increased over the past few years – giving rise to concerns about a brain drain. Italy will desperately need skilled migrants as its population continues to shrink.

The massive demographic shift and the socio-political implications that follow, makes the immigration issue all the more delicate. Until recently, neither Italian nor European authorities have been able to provide adequate policies to tackle these difficult issues. Anti-establishment parties are calling for a massive change in policies. The Five Star Movement and far-right parties would seek to pull Italy out of the European Union if Brussels refuses to re-negotiate fiscal and immigration rules. Any such government would be off to a rocky start in the relationship with Brussels.

Finally, banks have been a tough issue to manage, putting much strain on Italy’s relationship with Brussels. Finding a solution to address the undercapitalised banking system burdened by a mountain of Non-Performing Loans, has not been an easy task. In no other country in Europe have savers, and thus voters, been exposed to bank bonds in the same way as in Italy. It is thus no surprise that banking issues have become political. Finding a solution to address the undercapitalised banking system, burdened by a mountain of NPLs, was not an easy task.

Though the situation has improved, it remains a weak spot in the relationship with the EU. Nevertheless, any mainstream government would be strongly supportive of a swift completion of the Banking Union. In the risk reduction-risk mutualisation equation, Italy can now put on the table an already achieved reduction in banks’ risk. It would probably be willing to compromise on a gradual and moderate reduction of the position in government bonds in the portfolio of banks, therefore opening up a possible compromise with Germany on the European Deposit Insurance Scheme.

Italy’s long tradition of supporting pro-European policies and economic integration will likely be continued by any mainstream government, albeit with slightly different sensitivities and approaches. However, anti-establishment parties have pledged to fight for more sovereignty, which would put the country on a collision course with an idea of a more integrated Europe.

Much ado about nothing? We will find out soon.

Note: A shorter version of this article first appeared on the website of Europe’s World, the policy journal of Friends of Europe. The article gives the views of the author, not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy or the London School of Economics.


About the author

Lorenzo Codogno – LSE, European Institute
Lorenzo Codogno is Visiting Professor in Practice at the LSE’s European Institute and founder and chief economist of his own consulting vehicle, LC Macro Advisors Ltd. Prior to joining LSE, Lorenzo Codogno was chief economist and director general at the Treasury Department of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance (May 2006-February 2015). Throughout this period, he was head of the Italian delegation at the Economic Policy Committee of the European Union, which he chaired from Jan 2010 to Dec 2011, thus attending Ecofin/Eurogroup meetings with Ministers. He joined the Ministry from Bank of America where he had worked over the previous 11 years. He was managing director, senior economist and co-head of European Economics based in London. Before that we worked at the research department of Unicredit in Milan.

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Tammuriddara – Assummata di lu corpu di la tunnara – Navaii (medieval sicilian music)

The multiple influences that Sicily has undergone during the course of the centuries have left their imprint in the various traditions of the island. We are here discussing music, but in other fields of artistic and scientific endeavour these influences are also evident. Merely walking through some of the Sicilian villages will bring this home. For this reason, the present recording presents us with a wide range of these musical influences in medieval works. From traditions linked to the sphere of Muslim influence (it is not by chance that the CD begins and ends with a muezzin’s call to prayer) to carnival songs in the purest Mediterranean tradition. Here, perhaps, in these songs springing from the very deepest oral roots, is the most interesting part of the recording. Counterpoint is represented by a series of conductus and tropes from a manuscript copied on the island in the 12th century, preserved today in the National Library of Madrid (Ms. 19421), known as the Troparium of Catania, an interesting source which also transmits some liturgical dramas. The songs taken from this liturgical manuscript contrast stylistically with the other pieces. The instruments accompany discreetly and efficiently, but the voices almost always sound forced. In the pieces from popular tradition (such as, for example, A la viddanisca, with its incipient cantus planus binatim, a kind of simple polyphony) this timbre works well, but in the liturgical repertoire it sits strangely. On the other hand, the addition of attractive instrumental pieces and the inclusion of a jaw’s harp accord a special colour to the recording.

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In Loving Memory JOANN ARPIANI

Joann Arpiani baptized into the hope of Christ’s resurrection, Thurs., Feb. 22, 2018. Beloved wife of the late Derio Arpiani, daughter of the late Stephen and Anna Gambaro; dear sister of Ben Gambaro and the late Pasquale “Lino”, Steve, Frank and John Gambaro; dear sister-in-law of Gloria and Dottie Gambaro and the late Helen and Shirley Gambaro; dear aunt of Annamarie, Joann, Frank and Carol, Eugene, Steve and Ginger, Sandra and David, Mimi and Joe, Derio and Linda, Chris and Diane, Jeff and Sharon, Greg, John and Barbara; dear great-aunt and great-great-aunt to many and ‘Aunt Nini’ to all. Joann was devoted to family and friends, and to her beloved Missouri Bakery. She will be greatly missed. In lieu of flowers, donations to The Sick and Elderly Program of the Hill. Mass will be at St. Ambrose Church, 5130 Wilson Ave at 9 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 26. Interment Resurrection Cemetery.


In Memory of Joann Gambaro Arpiani


Who turned 100 years this pat June 2017

by Marianne Peri-Sack

JoAnn Gambaro Arpiani and Derio Gambaro

JoAnn Gambaro Arpiani, the matriarch of the Gambaro family and Hill icon, turned a beautiful 100 years old on June 27. The Italians are fond of the phrase “Cent’ Anni” wishing someone to live for one hundred years and you can almost always hear the phrase at a Baptism or at a birthday party. Most people do not reach this stage in their lives but this classy lady did with much style and a great deal of grace. She has been a zealous activist in the Italian Community and is the only woman Cavaliere in St. Louis. It Italian government honored her with this title for her years of work in the Italian community and the title is the equivalent of being knighted by the Italian government.

Arpiani has been involved in many organizations and a multitude of fund-raising and cultural events. She was the first woman to be allowed to join the Italian Club and she established a scholarship in her brother, Lino Gambaro’s, memory at the Professional Businessmen of the Hill (PBM). Lino was a founding member of that organization and deeply involved in the scholarship program.

JoAnn’s family founded the Missouri Gambaro Bakery in 1923 as a wholesale outlet for her family’s restaurant on Grand called Garavelli’s. The bakery was located on the Hill and as the wonderful, mouth-watering aroma wafted through the neighborhood, people began to knock on the door and inquire if they could purchase some of the bread, etc. Thus one of Missouri’s most famous retail bakeries was born.

JoAnn worked with her brothers for many years and the current owners are her niece, Mimi Gambaro Lordo, and nephew, Chris Gambaro. JoAnn proudly states, “We did no advertising. It was all word of the mouth which is your best advertisement.” On Thursday, July 27, her large circle of friends and family members kept visiting to congratulate JoAnn and the doorbell kept ringing with florists arriving to deliver gorgeous flowers of every kind and color.

The Gambaros were gathering from all over the country. Stephen Gambaro was arriving at the airport at 2:00 in the afternoon. Sandy Gambaro arrived the day before from Chicago and took her Aunt Nini to the Chase Park Plaza with some other family members. Derio Gambaro was picking up longtime friend of the family, Monsignor Sal “Turiddu” Polizzi. That evening her close-knit family and some friends converged on her home to spend the balance of the special day with her. We all know that it is a small world, so through a Gambaro cousin who works for, Mario Batali’s cousin, Batali heard about Aunt Nini and was impressed. The cook and author extraordinaire sent her one of his autographed cook books along with a note. It read: Dear Aunt Nini, Buon Compleanno. I hope you have a fantastic celebration of 100 years with your family. I often think about the fantastic cannoli from your bakery, and I wish you another century of homemade deliciousness.

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‘Tuscanyness’ Film Explores the Detachment of Modern Italian Architecture and the Fight to Restore Faith in Design


 Following the evolution of architecture in Tuscany, this documentary maps out the decline of the region in the shadow of Brunelleschi and Alberti. From the 14th century onwards, Italy underwent a cultural rebirth that changed the entire world, bearing the architectural mastery of the Renaissance. However now, there appears to be a detachment within modern architecture and little work for the many architects who are being forced to emigrate.

Courtesy of 120g

Courtesy of 120g

Tuscanyness presents a dramatic portrayal of the abandonment and neglect that the region’s architecture has fallen into over the last 60 years, exploring the root causes of the problem. Interviewing a range of forward-thinking Italian architects, 120g’s documentary shares their perseverance to establish a vision of the future to recreate the spirit of the Renaissance and form a dialogue with the heritage of the country. The film covers the topic of identity, landscape, and beauty associated Tuscany’s classical and modern architecture as discussed by the architects.

Courtesy of 120g

Courtesy of 120g

Having premiered late last year, Tuscanyness has traveled around Europe and has recently been released online for the public to learn from the experiences of working in a region overshadowed by its past and the fight to restore faith in Tuscany’s contemporary architecture. The Pisa-based cultural association, 120g, has also been involved in many other projects concerning architecture both in Italyand abroad to promote interdisciplinary and transversal cultural activities between architecture, the visual arts, and engineering.

Courtesy of 120g

Courtesy of 120g

News via: 120g.


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Salvatore Scarpitta in front of #59 race car, Hagerstown Speedway, Maryland, 1987. Image courtesy Luigi Sansone.

6:00 PM

Free. Please register here.

Salvatore Scarpitta: Racing Cars follows the thirty-year trajectory of an American original, from object-maker to performance artist, from gallery to race track. This major reexamination of a seminal postwar American artist focuses on his racing-themed artwork, including his race cars—both replicas and fully functional—the largest collection ever assembled in a museum in the U.S.

Scarpitta led a remarkable life. From Hollywood High to the Accademia di Belle Arte in Rome to the Italian resistance during WWII to Leo Castelli’s gallery in New York, he’s worthy of a biopic. In the midst of it all, he helped transform American art. Lisa Melandri discusses the artist and his impact on visual culture. This event is free and open to the public.

Lisa Melandri, Director of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

Lisa Melandri, Director of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM) talks about her background, vision for the museum, and the ability of art to change lives.

Video interview by Jorie Jacobi of STL Curator.

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Winter Opera L’elisir d’amore, is almost here!

Our final opera of the season,
L’elisir d’amore, is almost here!

The talented chorus members have been hard at work
preparing, and out of town artists arrive today with
rehearsals kicking off tomorrow.

L’elisir d’amore, Donizetti’s most performed opera, is a
comedic opera about the desperately in love, Nemorino
and the beautiful, wealthy landowner Adina. In an attempt to
win her affection, Nemorino buys a love potion from
a traveling salesman.

Will the elixir be enough to gain Adina’s love?
Or will someone else win Adina’s heart?

Join us March 9 & 11 as we watch this love story unfold!


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