03:56 GMT23 June 2021
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    The European Commission launched an attack on Italy's government this week, expressing its "serious concern" over Rome's spending plans and claiming they violate EU fiscal rules. Speaking to Sputnik, lawyer and Eurexit Association president Francesca Donato explained why the latent conflict between Rome and Brussels is likely to escalate.

    Italian economy minister Giovanni Tria confirmed Thursday that Rome would start bringing its budget deficit down from 2.4 percent after 2020, backing down on plans to run deficits for three years in a row in an effort to fulfill election promises of a 'citizens income' plan, tax cuts and pension reform.

    Tria's statement followed harsh criticism by EU economy commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who accused Italians of having "chosen a resolutely Eurosceptic and xenophobic government that, on migration and budget questions, is trying to escape European obligations."

    The comments are part of a growing back and forth battle between Brussels and Rome on Italy's right to pursue an independent social and economic policy, with Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini recently accusing EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker of trying to "bring Italy to its knees to buy up the healthy companies that remain."

    Speaking to Sputnik Italia about this political jostling, Francesca Donato, an Italian lawyer and president of Eurexit — an organization campaigning for Italy to abandon the euro zone, explained what it is about Rome's plans that triggers such a harsh reaction from Brussels.

    Euro Exit

    Last month, Italian Parliamentary Budget Committee chief Claudio Borghi told Sputnik Italia that the euro "doesn't work," and that he hopes the currency "falls apart," sparking controversy in Rome and a slide in the currency's value.

    Commenting on the prospects of Italy abandoning the euro and restoring its own currency, Donato argued that the fact that the currency could slide as it has based on the statement of a single politician was an indication of a "very shaky foundation."

    "There is nothing in the current government program about abandoning the euro, because the Lega did not win the elections alone. The Five Star Movement was in favor of preserving the euro. But the choice which will ultimately lead us to clash with the EU will be very simple: either we will bend to Brussels' dictate, like [Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras, and condemn our country to stagnation or economic recession, or defend our interests," Donato said.

    "If the EU decides to exclude Italy from the Euro zone, this will be a liberation for us, and certainly not a punishment. This, as I have long believed, is the only way to free our hands to conduct our own economic policy and not be bound by the interests of others," the activist emphasized.

    Donato pointed out that unlike Greece, Rome does not have substantial debts to foreign banking interests, a much stronger, export-oriented economy, and would be considered solvent by international markets it were to return to having its own currency. Accordingly, "it would be much easier for us to organize an exit from the euro. Whether or not the 'European Troika' and the European Commission like this, if we leave the Eurozone, we will be more solvent than we are today," the activist said.

    Austerity Doesn't Work

    Commenting on the conflict between Rome and Brussels over deficit spending, Donato argued that this fight comes down to the EU's "fears that the Italian government will succeed in fulfilling its obligations before its citizens by implementing a reform plan aimed at economic growth and investment."

    If that happened, she noted, "the Italian economy would start to grow, and this would become irrefutable proof that the austerity policies and budgetary restrictions set out in the Maastricht Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact are harmful to EU countries. For other countries, such a scenario would become an incentive not to follow EU rules and to rid themselves of the control of the European Commission and the European Central Bank."

    Today, Donato noted, the ECB essentially "dictates" to EU countries on the kind of economic policy they must have, thus limiting their ability for independent political decision-making. "EU member countries are highly dependent on those in whose hands the real power in the EU and the euro zone lies – that is, in Germany. The Bundesbank has the highest percent of the holdings, and therefore has the greatest influence on the ECB's economic policies."

    Xenophobia and Racism Claims 'Unfounded'

    As for the political attacks accompanying the economic criticisms, including Commissioner Moscovici's remark about the Italian government's so-called "xenophobia," Donato argued that the coalition government's growing popularity (with recent polling showing that support for Lega and the Five Star Movement has risen to over 60 percent) is the real issue.

    Brussels understands that this level of support provides the government with room for maneuver in case of a conflict with Brussels, Donato said. As for the charges of xenophobia and racism, these "are completely unfounded and simply used as a tool to influence public opinion," she noted, pointing, for example, to "the number of selfies that legal migrants do with Salvini every day," and to the fact that Toni Iwobi, Italy's first black senator, is a Lega politician. 

    Legal migrants understand that the uninterrupted and unregulated flow of migration, which benefits only human smugglers, is detrimental to them as well, Donato stressed. "Therefore, the Salvini government is actually acting to protect legal migrants, as paradoxical as that may sound."

    Fearmongering by Transnationals

    Commenting on the media attacks against Italy which have accompanied the criticism of European politicians, including claims that Italy could drag Europe into another Greece-style economic crisis, Donato stressed that such foreign media criticism is understandable, since they "have always been on the side of the elites and of international corporations which control them financially."

    "It doesn't surprise me that the newspapers are sounding the alarm and taking turns attacking their enemy, which today is the Italian government. It was the same after the Brexit referendum in the UK, and after the US election. Each time, the media predicted tragedies and catastrophes, but nothing like that happened. Obviously, the goal of such horrific scenarios has been to influence public opinion and to prevent consensus on policies which contradict the interests of the multinationals," Donato concluded.

    The views expressed by Francesca Donato do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    Eurexit, disagreement, policy, conflict, euro, Lega Party, Five Star Movement, Europe, Italy
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