Monday, December 29, 2003
Most European of Nations

Italy was always the country that looked towards Europe for good government as an alternative to the arbitrary stagnation of their own politics. With the end of the Cold War, there was a sense of renewal during the "clean hands" campaign but the underlying lack of checks and balances in their political system reappeared under the abuses of Berlusconi. (There is a similar story for Britain under Blair.)

Now that Romano Prodi is retiring from the European Commission, he is returning to the fray of Italian politics in order to challenge Berlusconi for Italy's political leadership. His bias, seemingly influenced by the BBC, was already clear during Italy's presidency of the European Union:

Prodi launched a broadside in November against his right-wing rival's coalition government, arguing that it has caused anguish to Italy. That earned the rebuke of European conservative leaders, one of whom argued, "This is improper conduct for someone who holds an office which should guarantee neutrality for everybody."

There are few other countries in the EU where the Commission is viewed as atraining ground for the top job rather than the graveyard for political elephants. it also repeats a point that bears repeating. The one-way gravy train of Europe is still influenced by elections and a possible Prodi victory bears this out. He would steer Italy into the Franco-German camp of integrating counterweight, a possibly irreversible step.

France and germany may well bide their time until a government more sympathetic to their aims is returned in Italy. Once three of the original six line up, will not the final retiring member, Holland, conform?

(22.56, 29th December 2003)


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