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Among the many ways to hurt yourself, Mes’s seems to be a school case. It is already available at an interest rate close to zero, lower than that of the European Recovery Fund, and this would be enough to make the controversy incomprehensible. What makes it lunar is the issue of conditionalities, which in the case of the Mes only require that the funds be allocated to health and school interventions, a priority on which the Italian government has undertaken to intervene immediately.
On the ERF, on the other hand, the conditionalities are more onerous than what was announced in a riot of enthusiasm. The Commission will have the ultimate decision-making responsibility on the plan presented by Italy, but will have to go through the approval of the Council and it is easy to predict that the examination will leave little room for tricks and subterfuge. The “emergency brake”, for which Rutte fought, will give the possibility of a further passage with the European Council, extending the procedure and putting in the hands of “frugal”, and not only, a bazooka of unpredictable scope.
When Paolo Gentiloni says he does not understand the motivations of the Italian government, he only emphasizes the obvious: the Mes is available immediately; for the Fund it will take, if all goes well, at least a year.
We fought to get the approval of the Council by qualified majority, and not unanimously, in the unspoken belief that it will be the pick through which to set more “political” reasoning, with which to reach one of the many compromises that mark community life. All right, but the key will be in the credibility of our proposals. And here, in the run-up between who, Bicamerali, Palazzo Chigi, technicians, parties, will have the snitch of control, is likely to fall the donkey. Mind you, the Fund will be approved and the billions will come, but the brawl on the Mes and the flood of declarations on carpet tax breaks, subsidies, quota 100 and so on, will make life unnecessarily difficult.
The opposition to the Mes is based on ideological assumptions tetragoni to the truth of the facts. Wrapped in the memory of the tragedy of Greece, of the troika and its impositions, never again – say his detractors – will we be able to tolerate resurrecting a perverse mechanism that would place our sovereignty in the hands of a technocracy which is looked at and devoid of democratic legitimacy. It is a ghost, but it is hard to die and, precisely because it is emotional and irrational, impervious to reality. It does not matter that the macroeconomic context is very different, that there are practically no conditionalities, that we no longer speak of troika: it is a flag and, like all, we love it, defend it and do not discuss it. Perhaps it is true that if the Mes had been given another name, things would have been easier; now it is late and it is only to be hoped that the budgetary urgencies, and the specter of a dramatic autumn, will finally give reason to the facts.
That said, Brussels was far from the “rip-off” denounced on opposite sides by Salvini and Varoufakis. Funds essential for its survival will reach Italy; the 27 managed to catch the idea of shared solidarity by their hair; there are no Eurobonds, but the possibility for the Commission to go into debt on the market is a step towards an autonomous financial capacity. These are important results, but we are not in front of the “Hamilton moment” evoked too hastily by some.
Alexander Hamilton was able to transfer the debt of the States to the Union budget because there was a shared will to give the nascent United States a federal character. There is no such will in the EU and conflicting visions of its future remain within it. The ERF is a one-off operation, which does not foreshadow the completion of the monetary union with the missing economic and fiscal leg. The 2021-27 multi-year budget has brought significant cuts to the most important community programs, from Erasmus to research, which the European Parliament is preparing to combat. The intergovernmental drift of EU decision-making mechanisms has increased, to the detriment of the autonomy of the Commission. And yet, without an additional rate of community integration, talking about a Eurozone that evolves into a true economic union does not make sense, just as the idea of giving a structural character to the concept of shared solidarity transcolors.
Europe has been able to react to a dramatic challenge, but the moment in which it will have to decide whether to become politically more integrated – with those who are there – or to continue on the path of a government-controlled market rationalization, cannot be avoided indefinitely. Macron’s conference on the future of Europe is like a karst river that appears and disappears, but it is the right place to start doing it. The crisis has shown how much the community dimension is fundamental for Italy, beyond the sovereign obedient; asking a government divided over everything to be an active part of a reflection that affects us directly would be too much, but serious listening should be possible.