The EU’s crowning achievement

As relief from the gloom this weekend, it struck me recently that there was literally nothing that would shock me about Silvio Berlusconi. Really, I couldn’t imagine a revelation that I hadn’t already mentally priced-in. And then, I realised that this is one of the achievements of the European Union, NATO, and the post-war settlement of Europe. Possibly the most important one. Someone like him has been the leader of a significant power, a country that owns its own reconnaissance satellites and builds aircraft carriers and Eurofighters, for years on end, and what has he managed to do? What evil has he done that will last beyond him? Of course, in many ways he’s been lucky, but then that’s rather my point. The system was stronger than the man, as Kevin Drum put it. You could say the same about Italy.

10 thoughts on “The EU’s crowning achievement

  1. It also helps that his primary goals seem to be self-enrichment (a goal largely complete before he became PM) and chasing underaged women. If he had an inkling to do actual harm, I’m not so sanguine that there is any inherent structure either in Italian democracy (chortle) or the EU that would have actually stopped him.

  2. I disagree, Doc: with the exception of being nasty to Roma and/or migrating Maghrebis, I’m not sure there’s much evil you can do if you’re only starting with Italy. It’s not like he’d have been able to invade Somalia or something.

  3. I disagree: during Berlusconi’s reign, italian electoral law was changed in various ways.
    Now, we (italians) have something like a two party presidential sistem, where voters cannot vote separately the premier and parliament senate (the premier is automatically the leader of the winning party), and the deputati (congressmen) are chosen by the party’s hyerarchies, not the voters.
    It is a system that is very risky and could very easily became autoritarian.

  4. It is wrong to say that the “Union” has saved Italy, as Harrowell does here.

    Had Europe only followed British common sense, and not developed into a political Union, then Club Med and Ireland wouldn’t have borrowed so much, because it was the supposed safety of the eurozone that made investors shovel so much money their way.

    That means that the scenario that Harrowell dreads is more likely to happen now BECAUSE of the Union. But anyway we have NATO and the US — which has bases in Italy — to take care of our security – rendering Harrowels thoughts even more out of tune with reality.

    (now lets see how long it last. If it burst, then the likelyhood of Harrowels dreaded scenario is greater than if the community had developed no further than

  5. I am Italian myself, and anti-Berlusconi at that.

    I am glad every time Berlusconi is defeated. He is a curse on Italy and is place is in jail, not in the government.

    But I do have an issue with timing.

    Over the last 15 years Berlusconi has broken every law. From traffic tickets to mass murder, from plain courtesy to the Constitution, he has torn to pieces every single rule of a peaceful society. He has done it all, and we have accepted it. Our so-called “opposition” parties never raised the subject that we are, in fact, led by a member of the mafia with a twisted personality.

    And now, in the middle of the sovereign debt crisis, when following the rules means losing sovereignty over one’s own country, he is finally under attack.

    I have no doubt that Berlusconi has cooked the books for the past few years, so that Italy is “miracolously” spared the ires of bond investors. I am sure credit rating agencies were generously compensated for keeping their mouth shut about Italy’s gigantic public debt, and I am sure more than one pundit and journalist was “encouraged” to avoid the topic. I know my country, I know my Prime Minister.

    But if the alternative means becoming a German protectorate, like Greece and now Ireland, fuelling German imbalances, and transferring money from the welfare state to their dämliche bankers, well, then I kind of have an issue with it.

    Berlusconi will not be allowed to break the only rule that should be broken. As for corruption, money-laundering, drug trafficking, mass murder, exploitment of prostitution and membership of the mafia – hey, no one is a saint, right?

  6. It is a bit tiring to hear that “the Club Med and Ireland borrowed so much”. Sorry but it is not a matter of borrowing but on the contrary of lending, or of investing. There is so much investment in Ireland because investments brought good returns. Is not a matter of Ireland borrowing but a matter of other countries investing their funds where they could make a better profit. Of course there is more investment in Chile than in … I don’t know… Bolivia… or there is more investment in Taiwan than in Sierra Leona… because there is more return in economies that function, grow, produce,… Does this mean that Chilean or Taiwanise economies are worst than Bolivian or Sierra Leona’s. By no means.

  7. Presumably “British common sense” led them into the economic mess that they are currently in? Ken, you are letting your europhobia dull your ability to argue sensibly.

  8. “Presumably “British common sense” led them into the economic mess that they are currently in?”

    Um, that would be the mess that involves growing faster than the EU with significantly lower unemployment?

  9. “You could say the same about Italy.”

    I’m not sure if you can say that. Italy’s GDP/head has declined from 121% of the EU average in 1995 to 102% today. That is, of course, a relative, not an absolute, decline, but still, 20% in a decade and a half is pretty bad news.

  10. Jon, I’d like to see a cite for those figures.

    Also, note that the EU of 1995 didn’t include Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria — perfectly nice countries, but all with incomes well below the EU average. Do the figures take this into account?

    Doug M.

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