Hell or Hallelujah

Posted by Giuseppe Luca Moliterni on 26/02/13

Finally the Italian farce of political elections is over and it is now time to make some analysis. Yesterday I had the guts to spend my evening watching some political talk shows. Not an easy task, but it has been a good exercise to understand the final status of Italian politics and politicians. I have listened many different versions of the outcome of the elections and no one of them was satisfying in providing a clear definition of the poor status of the Italian State.

Let’s start with PD (Democratic Party). Apparently, or at least with what they expected, they were supposed to win the elections and it was not the first time they expected such a result which did not occur. There are a set of reasons which are important to analyze. First of all they have not understood the difference between primary elections and the real ones. This is an important element because, despite the participation at the primary elections, voters do have a preference to make their final considerations when the real elections occurs. Hence, a political party like PD has to consider how to maximize this situation in order to attract a higher number of voters instead of nominate a candidate which represents the old establishment of the former Communist Party and its successors. In this case primary elections have been a tool to lose. At the end of the day, PD has not the ability to renovate itself. On these basis, it will keep on losing.

What about PDL and Berlusconi? Too many politicians from other parties were too sure about its defeat. Instead this defeat did not occur; it is also true the opposite, they PDL has not won the elections. But they are still there, representing 30% of the voters. Berlusconi however did not understood when it was the right time to leave the party, causing a drain of votes which, despite being right oriented, would have not voted for Berlusconi anymore. PDL result, with its 30% of votes, shows us the poor credibility of polls and political predictions because most of the PDL voters prefer not to clearly express their preference in public. It is now really urgent to put Berlusconi aside and to start building again the party on new basis, getting rid of the old establishment made of people from Alleanza Nazionale (AN), PSI (socialist party) etc.

There are also a good amount of new kids on the block, i.e. those from the M5S (5 stars movement). Is this an anomaly within the Italian system? I have to be honest: I do abhor this movement because of its populism, because of its lack of a clear hierarchy and structure, because of the impossibility to dissent from what its leader says, because I do not believe that people elected from this movement have the skills to act in a proper political way, especially when it comes to the international arena. Anyway they have been clever enough to grasp the dissatisfaction of different kind of voters: young voters, easily gullible from the perspective of change a system; dissatisfied people left oriented, which did not support Bersani (the PD candidate), people who do not usually exercise their right to vote and which have decided to show how the current system disgusts them. However, when I has the chance to speak to some of them they have relay poor arguments when it comes to their position towards the EU, about the measures to implement to improve Italian economy and so on and so forth. M5S really needs to rethink its way to act, becoming more proactive and not basing its actions only on the adversary basis.

Last but not least Mario Monti. He has made several mistakes: first of all to make a political alliance with Pierferdinando Casini (UDC) and Gianfranco Fini (Futuro e Libertà). It has been a mistake because for two reasons: the first one is that Casini likes to act as the indicator needle, making a different for different coalitions. In The long run this attitude does not pay. Fini, on the contrary, has changed his views and political orientation too many times, starting from extreme right oriented positions to become a moderate. Monti should have preferred not to make a coalition with this kind of people. Second mistake, the lack of a clear position since the beginning on his willing to take part at the political elections. Third mistake, the lack of a clear communication strategy with the electors, which have not understood the importance of keep on going with the recovery of the Italian state from a financial point of view.

Hell: now we have to face a really unclear political scenario because of the impossibility to create a government. Moreover it is not possible to vote again because we are within the “with semester” (i.e. the last six months of presidency of Giorgio Napolitano, where it is not possible to announce new elections. This means that for the next few months we will have to face a high level of speculation on the financial markets, the impossibility to act on the real economy with the right laws and tools, with the lack of a strong representation on the international arena.

Hallelujah: Hopefully political parties like PD and PDL will understand the necessity to change their structure and to get rid of the old establishment. Electors should also understand the importance to maximize the votes, and to avoid a polarization and fragmentation of the political scenario, combined with a higher degree of participation, remembering that populism leads to authoritarianism.

 

Reinventing the steel

Posted by Giuseppe Luca Moliterni on 27/11/12

Despite what the title of this post might sound like, I am not going to write about Pantera’s album having the same title (Pantera was a preeminent hard and heavy band), but of what it is going on in Italy with the ILVA in Taranto.  As it is widely known, the management has decided to shut down the Taranto plant. I have been writing in another blog until last week (before moving to blogactiv) and this is what I wrote on the same topic: “in December the production might stop – and it most likely to happen if a solution won’t be found”. Well, unfortunately I was not wrong.

In order to understand the overall process that has led to this dramatic solution, it is necessary to understand what has not been done in Italy, and what I am going to write it is applicable to the entire country. Long story short, we have been lucking of a serious environmental policy for the last 30 years at least, since the creation of CIPA (the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Environment), established in 1979.

Despite the first instances for the protection of the environment date back to the 60s, these have been characterized mainly from their conservative peculiarities. It is not a matter of innovation then,  but of conservation. This approach has created a wide gap between us and Northern European countries, where the instances have been treated with an innovative approach, looking at the future.

The situation has not changed in the last decades, for some simple reasons: lack of coordination, lack of preparation of the decision makers, and because of the widely accepted practices of favoritism. Actually it is not a secret that Italian domestic politics has been based on the last element, and the first relevant politological work on this issue has been made in 1964 thanks to Joseph LaPalombara efforts.

I have deliberately avoided to go on with the list as I want to focus only on some elements. Because of them, a first organic organization of the environmental policy in Italy has been only in 1991, but relevant topics related to the links between Industry and Environment has not been fully accomplished.  The ILVA case is a clear example of this. For several decades the industrial plant has polluted surrounding areas and, of course, not only those because dioxin and other dangerous elements have been spread who knows how far.

In the approval process of the IPPC directive of the EU (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) several effort have been done from the Italian side in order to undermine the weight of the directive and its impact. Taranto, its inhabitants, the industrial sector and surrounding areas are paying the consequences now. Why? Because of the lack of strength of the Italian governments in clearly define a national strategy for the environment and in getting rid of “conservative” logics and patronage systems.

No easy solution can be found and made, and for sure the last appropriate one is the judicial way only, but in order to make an attempt in finding one, it will be important to clearly combine several instruments at policy level, at financial level, at environmental level, at politics level and, finally, considering one of the three pillars,on which political science is based: the polity one, from which politics and policy strictly depends. Without this combination, we will only assist to 20,000 more people losing their jobs. Who has the guts to take on this responsibility?

 

Broken heroes: UK – EU relations – Part 2: EU

Posted by Giuseppe Luca Moliterni on 26/11/12

After having dealt with UK positions towards the European Union, it is necessary to understand EU position towards United Kingdom.

As already stated yesterday, UK a member of the back in time ECC in 1973. Before that, anyway, UK applied for membership in 1961 and 1967. So what was the problem? One country: France. De Gaulle vetoed UK application for a set of simple reasons, which right now it is possible to define as anachronistic. First reasons I would underline is that De Gaulle felt France was denied equal status compared to other allies during WW 2 summits. Moreover, France did not support UK special relations with United States.

Of course this is a simplification of reality, and it is not possible to deny the support Germany gave to France positions.  Of course this attitude did exacerbate UK population feelings an EEC membership and, in addition to this, also government position.

As a matter of fact the European Economic Community and then the European Union has always been seen and acted as a “normative power” using soft power instead of hard power in the system of world politics (I always prefer to use a systematic approach, treating the macro sectors of world politics instead of focusing on single States).

It is then possible to stress and important difference between UK and ECC (EU): a different approach on the definition of power and its utilization. Moreover, most of the Member States have never agreed on a Community with a kind of hard power, first of all because of US position, then because of NATO (the two go together) and thirdly because of too many different national interests and strategic views in the field of foreign policy, mainly of UK.

When analyzing UK-EU relations, most of the time the foreign “policy factor” is not deeply considered but, in my opinion, if one of the key factors in understanding their weakness. ECC and EU have never been in the position to create a real common foreign policy, because of a lack of imposing attitude, deriving also from the weakness of those Member States willing to create an appropriate framework to operate in this policy domain. United Kingdom has always been a strong and powerful actor in this field and, of course, has always tried to retain its power and position. A stronger integration in this field would have for sure out some constraints on UK position and also it might have created a framework for a redefinition of UK position towards the Union.  In synthesis, a first reason for the lack of stronger relations between UK and EU is the lack of a strong position of the institutions of the latter in the field of foreign policy, which has not put enough constraints on the action of the first. It is not possible to positively include hard power sustainers in a normative power framework, unless the normative power (soft one) undertakes a redefinition process (priorities and prerogatives).

What about the economic side of the membership? UK has never been a full user of EU funds because of its productive structure (UK is a service based economy), because of its agriculture (compared to France quota of CAP payments UK do not receive much), but also and mainly because EU has always designed a budget structure to satisfy France and Germany needs, especially after Germany reunification and nowadays it should be a surprise if UK asks for a serious cut of EU budget for the period 2014-2020. As from the EU budget depends most of the other policies, EU has failed once again in developing an attractive framework for UK related to funds utilization. For example, talking about R&D, Germany takes around 50% of the total budget. Why then UK should contribute to the budget? Talking about the CAP, why to contribute if receiving only 9% of the funds (Greece receive 6%) compared to 22% of France? And there would be many more examples to analyze. It is then necessary an appropriate redefinition of EU policies and funds allocation in order to make EU attractive for United Kingdom, but too many old cognitive paradigms are applied to EU policies development. Two questions need to be answered: how to redefine the role of EU external relations? How to redefine EU policies according to present opportunities and constraints? How to make EU an attractive actor in world politics?

 

Broken heroes: UK – EU Relations – Part 1: UK

Posted by Giuseppe Luca Moliterni on 26/11/12

Well over half of British voters now want to leave the European Union, according to an opinion poll that shows anti-EU sentiment is sweeping through all three main political parties.

The Opinium/Observer survey finds that 56% of people would probably or definitely vote for the UK to go it alone if they were offered the choice in a referendum. About 68% of Conservative voters want to leave the EU, against 24% who want to remain; 44% of Labour voters would probably choose to get out, against 39% who would back staying in, while some 39% of Liberal Democrats would probably or definitely vote to get out, compared with 47% who would prefer to remain in the EU (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/nov/17/eu-referendum-poll).

It is not a secret that UK-EU relations have always been very difficult and that United Kingdom has never been a pro EU country. I don’t think that it is necessary to speak about something that is already well known and of public domain, but I want to stress some factors which have led to such a failure in the relations between the European Union and United Kingdom.

A good starting point is the lack of contribution from the UK government in developing a pro European feeling within the country. Moreover, European institutions and most of the Member States have never believed in the importance of having UK as an active member of the European Union, because of the initial position of the country, and here I clearly refer to the country’s position toward the European Coal and Steel Community, despite what Winston Churchill stated in 1946 when he called for the establishment of a United States of Europe (a federalist approach, strictly in line with the thought of Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi). This position was not conceivable, especially after the end of WW II, where the privileged partner for UK was identified in the United States.

Because of this special relations, UK adopted a stand by strategy until 1961, when the country applied for membership, which was granted in 1973, after some opposition from the France government. Two years after the entrance a renegotiation of the terms of British membership was undertaken, followed by a referendum which anyway stated the willing of the population in being part of the European Community. This should have been a pillar in developing an educative path toward the population, in order to help people in understanding the importance of the EU, the possibility for UK to have an active role, benefits of the membership but also constraints.

Now, despite the opportunity for the governments to clearly develop a pro Community approach, they have always preferred and put into first place the special relations with the US.  In 1988 Margaret Thatcher made a speech, a very famous one, at College of Europe, in which she underlined the limits of UK position toward the EEC. She stated: “Working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy”. Moreover, she also stressed the importance of different identities within Europe and the importance of having special links with the US.

A good question is whether what she was stating represented population’s thoughts and position toward the European Community. In 1997 Tony Blair began a path of normalization in the relations between the two actors, but it was not successful because of foreign policy issues and because of the support that UK provided to the US (i.e. from Kosovo onwards). Once again the relations were put under serious stress and UK failed in developing a pro EU approach.

Main UK problems regarding the European Union can be then summarized as follows: UK still believes to be an empire and to have that kind of power; UK still believes to be the privileged partner of the United States; UK still believes to have a say in foreign policy especially in the European Union because of Catherine Ashton position. As the three elements concur in understanding the failure of UK in adapting its position in a more complex world , they also do create a single framework to understand why UK is a broken hero: it is not possible to live in the past!

 

EU Budget 2014-2020: a new challenge?

Posted by Giuseppe Luca Moliterni on 22/11/12

One of the next big challenges for the European Union will be on the effectiveness of its new budget for the next seven years (2014-2020). The reason why it will be a challenge is given for a set of simple reasons. First of all, it s important to notice that in a period of structural crisis, it is important to “design” a budget which can effectively provide some answers to major problems which have been created by national policies and politics. The European Union is still an hybrid, despite the fact that nowadays most of the national policies are decided in Brussels. The problem is then to question why at national level these policies have not been fully applied. Yes, I am not questioning the quality of the policies but on the level of their application at national level. When talking about Europe 2020 Strategy, for example, it is obvious that not a lot has been done,  especially when considering Mediterranean Countries, despite the fact that the EU has provided both policy and financial instruments to reach the foreseen results. The problem is then the level of application of EU policies and also on the ability of “politics” to obtain those results, overcoming particular interests. That is the reason why the EU Budget has to put some serious constraints on national “politics”, maybe with a process of centralization of the entire management of the different form and way of funding.

Secondly, it will be important to overcome national differences while considering the nature and scope of the budget itself. Soon the EU will be made of 28 different States. Without considering each one of them,  it is possible to rationalize them creating different blocs we have Mediterranean countries, Central European ones, a Northern European bloc, a Southern-Eastern bloc and, finally, Eastern European countries. Each one of these blocs has different internal problems and, mainly, a different vision on the role of the European Union. In order to achieve some relevant results, it will be important then to design an appropriate budget which can accommodate different visions, needs and constraints. One of the most important question that needs to be answered is on the management structure of the budget: which one is the most appropriate form? A centralized one or a decentralized one where each country takes care of its own part of the budget? I do believe that with a rationalization of the blocs it is possible to create a centralized management structure which can provide structural answers to the various needs.

Last but not least, the problem of the allocation of budgetary resources. Unit now we have experienced a budget which has been designed mainly keeping in mind the CAP. Despite the fact that the agricultural policy has to remain one of the pillars of the EU, it is important to design a new strategy for the allocation of resources to farmers. It is not a dogma that the CAP has not given the expected results. EU farmers are no more competitive, our products are not sufficient for the internal market and we do depend from non EU products. The new CAP has to provide an answer to these problems. Moreover, RDI policies have to be  linked to all the others form of funding. So far we have not experienced effective solutions to the lack of links between the productive sector and the academic/research one. That is the reason why our level of competiveness when considering different economic sectors has dramatically fallen. About structural funds and cohesion policy: I do support the idea of the necessity to get rid of the GDP as main ratio for the allocation of funds for the regions. It is important to reconsider long term objectives, regional differences and vocations, population and so on. Moreover, a national/regional management of the funds provided by the EU has not given major results because of the administrative burden and because of the lack of serious constraints for the management structures. Because of this, it is important to create a centralized EU structure which can effectively manage these funds and link them to a multi level policy approach. Before thinking about Smart Specialization, we have to create a Smart Management Structure and create strong connection also with different ETC and CBC programme.

Of course this is only a list of the challenges in the definition of the European Union budget for the next programming period and many more considerations can be done. The next few months will be strategically important for the future of the EU in its entirety.

 

Hello world!

Posted by on 22/11/12

Welcome to Blogactiv.eu. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Note: this is the “Start Post” referred to in Step 3 of “How do I Get Started?”, available at: http://support.blogactiv.eu/getting-star…

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