The coronavirus epidemic has once again shown the true face of the European Union, just as the euro crisis in 2011 and the subsequent treatment of Greece showed. There are the beautiful slogans and proclaims of common values, solidarity and prosperity – and there is the hard, brutal and cold reality.
Before this latest crisis, Italy had been in economic stagnation for more than 10 years. Hundreds of thousands of young people are forced to leave Italy every year in search for a job – sometimes any job. One of the fundamental reasons for this crisis has undoubtedly been one of the things the EU takes most pride in, the single currency. Never after the war, Italy had suffered as much as in the past 10 years. The fact that the euro represents a problem rather than an advantage for many countries has been maintained by important economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
It is not possible and does not make sense to impose constraints on money supply and emission and to impose centralized mechanisms, if one is not willing to share public debts too. For a country like Italy, which for decades had always played on the possibility of increasing its competitiveness by depreciating its currency, these constraints have proved fatal. In this situation it is more than natural for discontent to arise. One can of course assume that the resurgence of what has been dismissively called “populism” has been fueled exclusively by a large number of troglodytes who don’t understand what is good for them and their country and are not ready for the challenges of a global era, but even these people have, in theory, to right to be represented. It is worrying that in modern political discourse, entire categories of people can be disqualified so ruthlessly.
On the other hand, putting the economy aside, the latter crisis has again highlighted that the rift between Northern and Southern Europe is simply irremediable. There are too many cultural and historical differences. It must be really extremely annoying and deeply offensive for most Italians to hear all those people who never tire of talking about solidarity, European values and a lot of many other sweet words of this kind, and then an entire country is labelled as a nation of slackers and mafiosi. The union of the European peoples as a single family is an idea that in situations of need appears empty, hypocritical, contrived, cloying and full of a really cheap rhetoric.
Despite all this, I believe and, as far as I am concerned I can honestly say I am afraid, that the EU could emerge stronger and victorious from this crisis: I expect greater centralization, with a further transfer of sovereignty away from the nation states, a more pervasive control of information and a consequent flattening of this, a more systematic stigma of anti-unionist opinions and movements (although a great deal of work has already been done in this respect, considering the systematic effort with which any dissent is almost inevitably traced back to Russian demonic propaganda and the money of the diabolical Kremlin). Some countries like Italy, Spain and France, for which the consequences of the financial crisis that will come are likely to be devastating, will suffer, and will suffer a lot, but it will not matter, because they will be sacrificed at the altar of the noble union! Northern Europe may perhaps briefly enjoy and feel proud to be spared in the short term by the most serious financial consequences, – although history teaches that the fortunes of countries and peoples are something that can be very fleeting.
Stefano Di Lorenzo