The Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, is playing it today and tomorrow in Parliament. After the two ministers of Matteo Renzi’s party resigned last week, thus leaving the Government in a minority, Conte goes to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate to try to add new support and overcome a motion of confidence whose result seems craving agonizing in the Upper House. Senator for life Mario Monti, who led the technical executive that saved Italy from bankruptcy in 2011 after spending a decade as European commissioner, will decide his vote based on the speech Conte offers.
– In the ‘Corriere della Sera’ you wondered if Italy is a “normal” country. Does its endemic political instability make it not?
– During the normal phases, when the EU asked to contain the deficit, many in Italy considered that this was austerity. It is true that there have been times when Brussels has gone too far with austerity, but what I am talking about is the normal rules of good conduct on the accounts. In extraordinary circumstances, as now with the pandemic, the EU instead provides great resources, from which nations such as Italy and Spain in particular benefit. Faced with this, the country should be more united and cohesive, since it is an extraordinary opportunity, but Italy, on the other hand, is suffering a crisis whose reasons are not clear.
– Renzi may be right in some of his criticisms of the Government. Have you done well to put the Executive on the brink of the abyss?
– Some of the points made by Renzi were valid in substance, but there could be other ways to push the coalition and the Government without opening a crisis. This moment looks a lot like a war over the emergency situation of the pandemic. Probably at the bottom of the question is the personality of Renzi, as he has already shown some other time.
– Will the Government pass the vote of confidence?
– Numerically the situation is problematic. I will be present in the Senate at the session. My vote will depend a lot on what Conte says. We still have two years ahead of the current legislature and, if Conte continues as prime minister after this crisis, he will have to give a clear indication of the direction he intends to give the government’s policy. It is not very easy to foresee it, since he has presided over two very different cabinets and in some radically opposite aspects.
The worst hit sectors
– What are the priorities?
–We are in a very difficult situation due to the pandemic, with also economic consequences, which justifies strong support for companies. But if we look to the future we must bear in mind at least two things. The first is that sooner or later the attitude of Brussels will change and it will return to deficit and debt regulation. I hope it will be done in a more modern and efficient way, without penetrating public investments. I would like Conte to make it clear that after a period of subsidies a policy of reducing and containing the deficit and the debt is necessary.
– And what is the second aspect?
–During the last 20 years, Italy has grown less than other countries in the Eurozone. A reflection is required on how to manage aid. It is necessary to deal with socially the most affected sectors, but it is also necessary to give the economy the possibility to develop. You don’t have to put in public resources just to prevent a renewal. Another serious problem, little present in these years, is inequality, which requires great reflection.
– You, like Conte, were not part of a party before being prime minister, although later you founded a political force. Would you recommend the Prime Minister to do the same?
– What you have to ask yourself is if that would suit the country. When I agreed to promote a party, although I did not need it as a senator for life, I did so because I saw that it was useful to have a movement in Parliament with a European and reformist spirit that prevented any of the possible coalitions from prevailing, one oriented to the right and another to the left, with antipathies towards Europe and budgetary discipline. I asked the country for many sacrifices and I saw that the difficulties were increasing and that the other forces were not prepared for the reforms that Italy needed.
– Do you regret having formed a party?
“That decision was against my own personal interests.” If I had stayed calm, it is possible that I would have been elected President of the Republic to succeed Giorgio Napolitano. At least that’s what they told me. But, frankly, my contribution was more positive for the country by avoiding with that party, Elección Cívica, a populist and sovereignist drift. It only hurt me personally.
“I made unpopular decisions”
– Is Italy’s image in Europe bad for this crisis?
–It is surely a damage to our image, which already suffered from the delay and lack of certainty when preparing the action program for the European Recovery Plan.
– What is better for Italy, to continue this government or to open a new political experience?
– Frankly I do not know what is now the best. It depends on the will of the prime minister to risk making unpopular decisions. It was my turn to take them to prevent us from ending up like Greece. Despite this, the political movement that we organized in about 50 days without financial means obtained 10% of the votes. Some could expect more, but today there are many games that are below. That result showed that in the country there are a number of people willing to understand that Italy’s future interest is not in following this or that pressure group.
– Does it distort seeing the country from the Chigi Palace, the seat of the prime minister?
-It’s possible. It is a position of great importance, of command. But it would be necessary for public opinion to be concerned not only with Conte, but with the interests of Italians.