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Conference Geopolitics and History

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Geopolitics is a strange science or, more precisely, a specific “thinking style”. While History reconstructs facts and interpret them ex post, according to the classic and still valid Cicero’s line of “Historia magistra vitae”, in geopolitics the basic rationale is future-oriented and not past-oriented: what shall I do, in History, to reach certain results?

Which are the initial conditions, the limits and the opportunities among those which occur once, as the Machiavellian Fortune, or those regarding the constant material features of a country?

As Giovanni Sartori always said, certainly all social sciences are series of data in which we can see similarities or not. However which data is needed to make a good geopolitical project?

I will try to answer this question: applying history to geopolitics enables those who have the character and the talent to do so to significantly improve the fortunes of their own country or even to change them.

Sometimes even to overturn them. As Italy, after World War II, and Japan, another defeated country, which were both the winners of the post-war period.

In fact, in his address at the 1947 Paris Conference, De Gasperi was right in saying he knew that “only the winners’ personal courtesy” was on his side.

Italy, however, had its Protectorate in Somalia, which ended in 1960.

Was it a serious geopolitical choice?

Certainly so because everyone knew that the colonial phase was almost over and that the geographic and business cycle of the time could do without the colonial system.

It was the geopolitics of trade between industrial countries while, when possible, the Third World played the card of unearned income and rents on raw materials or, in the Pro-Soviet socialist countries, it created “import substitution industries” to reduce our exports and slow down our development.

Later the great Italian development of the 1960s focused on large state-owned enterprises.

Private companies, however, woke up to reality and developed through exports and a fast-growing domestic market

Another lesson that current governments should learn is that there are not fully export-oriented economies, which kill their domestic markets to better compete on the “great international market”. It is nonsense and a crazy idea.

Both markets must develop harmoniously.

I remember it well – I had a first-hand experience in this regard. What was the geostrategic relevance? It was very simple.

The issue lay in competing with our allies without being noticed, by possibly invoking the right reasons of our opening to the Third World, where the “imperialists” that had won the Second World War were not very well-liked.

Without raw materials, but with plenty of labour force available and a perfect Mediterranean positioning, our fate was decided and settled.

The State managed raw materials at affordable prices for companies and the latter triggered internal development off.

At the time, increasing public spending was funded by growth itself.

The risk was well-run because, as great professionals, we tried to avoid the inflationary effects of export-driven growth with different currencies, often deliberately manipulated to create us problems – and I well remember Guido Carli leading, at first, our Exchange Office and later the Bank of Italy.

That ruling class had the highest degree of Italy’s geopolitical perception.

Compared to current times, the clashes between Colombo and Giolitti were a great piece of work between professionals, while today we seem to be in a nursery school.

They knew and we knew that our development mechanism was the one outlined by the State-Market mix, but without cherishing too many illusions about our private enterprises’ level of awareness.

State socialism?

Sometimes so, but it was the only way to grow fast and without too much inflation or too many asymmetric shocks.

If you want speed, you need to have a highly planned economy while, if you are interested in the ability to adapt to markets, you can be carried away by the slowness of the many free random transactions.

We had quietly inherited the public enterprises’ model built by Fascism, including IRI, IFI and the other public companies for restructuring and upgrading enterprises, but we had adapted it to the theory of social personalism – halfway between Emmanuel Mounier, the intellectual of reference for Pope Paul VI and the extraordinary legacy of the “Code of Camaldoli,” the document with which the Catholics were leading the new Republican Italy.

Once again there was a maximum level of geopolitical consistency.

We social Catholics were the only political force massively present in Italy. We represented the true Italy and we had a very good relationship with the United States.

Defending Tradition and our People after a defeat and, in the meantime, preparing economic revenge.

We also turned temporary aid, namely the Marshall Plan – officially known as the European Recovery Program (ERP) – from post-war economic and humanitarian aid, much less relevant than we currently believe, into the first step for reconstructing our whole economy, including the one which bothered our winners.

The perception level of Italy’s place in the world, ranging from Pasquale Saraceno to Ezio Vanoni and, immodestly, myself, was almost at the maximum level.

Hence we had to thank our Anglo-Saxon friends, but we had not to be relegated to be the fifth wheel of their business cycle.

Italy was and had to be master of the Mediterranean and open itself to Eastern European markets, even to the Soviet Union’s, having the largest Communist Party in the world in electoral terms.

It was our idea and we played that card with the image of a young, energetic, free and democratic Italy.

We said to our Allies we could follow them in the “Cold War” – and, indeed, what we did in that field will never be fully told by history – but they had not to annoy us when it came to opening markets to our manufactured products.

And there was that perception even when, with Enrico Mattei, Francesco Cossiga and Bettino Craxi, we upset some plans of our British and American friends.

Politicians devised the great economic and social strategies and even the way to make them be swallowed up and digested by the most recalcitrant among our Western friends.

That was the free geopolitical competition between nations; we were taking our history back after decades of protectionist freezing.

However we protected ourselves very well, even better than our Japanese competitors.

You may say we produced Motta-Alemagna “State panettoni” – and, indeed, we were criticized for that “entrepreneurial State” which was expanding also to less strategic economic sectors. However, if the well-known family brands were lost in comforts, pleasures and debt, what was the fault of the State which recovered factories, equipment and workers and kept on producing excellent cakes?

Nevertheless everything was over with the end of fixed exchange rates in 1971.

Oil became the primary market of the US dollar and, more strictly, of the US economy cycle, while Kissinger made a deal with the Saudis to “manage” the petrodollars coming from the oil price increases following the “Yom Kippur War”.

So America funded the Vietnam War and its failed project of “New Society” – a pocket-size Welfare State in the land of Protestant private enterprise extremism.

We were so accurate in our geopolitical perceptions that while we were close friends of the Arabs in the Middle East, we were also a stable and reliable point of reference for our Israeli friends.

It was not duplicity or double-dealing, but full geopolitical awareness of our limits and our potential.

More importantly, we had to protect our development rate.

The Moro affair, however, marked the end of the First Republic, the era in which Italy – with Andreotti, Craxi, Cossiga, Moro, Ugo La Malfa and the many friends trivially called “secular politicians” – had rebuilt the country precisely on the basis of a perfect geopolitical and strategic knowledge of our new role in the world.

Moro was assassinated and this destabilized our global military and economic security network, inductively leaked from the Red Brigades to our economic and non-economic competitors and enemies.

Hence it was the end of our “secret geopolitics”, as a result of Moro’s death, that stifled and blocked economic growth and our winning production formula.

And what about today?

If there is a ruling class not even understanding the geopolitics basics, this is exactly the current Italian ruling class.

We have sold everything just to make money and go back again into the eternal limbo of secular stagnation, which is a negative Kondratiev cycle for everyone, but especially for those who suffer it due to their competitors.

The entry into the Euro area, which had not to be taken for granted, was carried out by calculating the last six months of the Lira-German Mark ratio, a particularly good time for Italy.

As if, being sixty, we had to jump as in our prime.

No one said anything at the time.

It suited to Germany which, meanwhile, had become Italy’s global competitor. We could complain about it, but we did not.

Thatcher, Mitterrand and Kohl – constantly in touch with Cossiga – in fact accepted the German reunification just because they could take the German Mark hostage – as they had done with aspirin – and called it euro.

The statesmen of that Europe knew it perfectly, whereas our petty politicians take everything for granted. They are selected only for their appearing on TV and are now a prey to the lobbies’ money.

In fact, approximately 40 lobbies operate out in the open in Italy’s Parliament.

Obviously the First Republic’s ruling classes dealt with lobbies but, except for some rare cases, they were not influenced by them.

Too strong was the Party’s control for the worst to happen.

Now, after the ill-conceived privatizations – and that was the real reason for the shift from the First to the Second Republic – the State does no longer organize economic life and the results are before us to be seen.

Private individuals can never be farsighted and organize large companies for many years.

There is no capital, the business owner family is divided and the heirs are not up to expectations.

Pure liberalism and laissez-faire are good for small companies, while for the large and very large ones the State is needed, with its regulatory power, its wealth of capital and its professional managers.

Just as war is too serious a matter to be left to the military, the economy is too important a matter to be left only to capitalists.

Currently it is as if the memory of the First Republic’s geopolitics in a different context had remained, thus producing sometimes grotesque results.

A persisting “American myth”, while today the United States look well beyond Europe they now consider to be ruined, and thus a possible prey.

A sort of tender and comic loyalty to those who use the economic and strategic levers to eliminate us, such as the easy purchases of our companies and the failed economic expansion which, in fact, makes us others’ prey.

We have not even seized the Brexit opportunity.

We have not even our banks any longer. In the period of “Quantitative Easing” started by Mario Draghi, the Bank of Italy’s liabilities in the Euro system slumped: in September they fell to -354 billion euro.

We have no longer our banks – hence the transactions of the European monetary area penalize us, while capital is fleeing our country.

And when the European Quantitative Easing ends – much to Germans’ delight – what will happen to our funds and debt securities, which few actually want under the current conditions?

There is not even a sign that our ruling class has developed a few working assumptions, or at least leading us to think they know what is going on.

The underlying idea seems to be that everything is inevitable and dark, hence we might as well devote ourselves to Twitter, to the media, to appearances on some talk shows – in short, to the “image”, which seems to be particularly important for politicians’ popularity in today’s communication society.

Obviously we record booming foreign investment in small and medium-sized Italian companies – mostly minority shareholdings – but where are the profits going?

In the fashion world, the “Made in Italy” absolute model, the Arabs bought almost everything: Corneliani, Dainese, Tiffany and Gucci by Bahrain, while “Valentino” by Qatar. There are 15,800 French companies operating in Italy, not to mention banks: BNL-Paribas, Crédit Agricole, etc. In the energy sector EDF purchased Edison, but French companies also operate in the public transport sector in some Northern cities and in Tuscany.

Nothing wrong, in principle, but how do we respond to these attacks?

Are we doing at least the same? Not at all.

Currently the Italian penetration into the EU and US production systems is quite good, but not enough yet.

The level of our purchases “outside the area” is certainly not such as to equate what is lost.

According to my calculations, 24% of the total foreign acquisitions in Italy is operated by us externally.

Unicredit has a 9.7% Islamic shareholding, including the Emirates’ Abaar fund and LIA, the old Gaddafi’s bank, now disputed and contended by the two major factions.

The same holds true for BPM, with different percentages and with the agreement between Sanpaolo and Qatar’s National Bank.

Do you believe that all these large and politically significant bargains and business are governed by the relevant Italian authorities?

Not at all, there is only the naive myth of the self-regulating market.

I fear that this applies also to military security and intelligence – everyone can buy anything without the secret services being in a position to say “no”!

We all know that the Italian Stock Exchange is owned by the London Stock Exchange.

The corporate structure of the Italian Stock Exchange, however, also includes a bank from Dubai and another sovereign investment fund from Qatar.

Once again, power flows which operate without control, discernment and often even without most of the ruling class knowing about them.

Will this power structure have some impact on our policies in the Middle East? Will these capital dislocations influence our decisions?

Certainly so, but the flows must be controlled, otherwise they will govern and rule us.

The market is free, but the government has to manage and regulate it anyway.

Nations have not disappeared in the liquid world described by the all-too-famous sociologist Bauman. They have only been relocated. They do so every day, in a context in which there is a non-declared ongoing and creeping war.

It is the clash and confrontation between regions of the world, which occur in many concrete and abstract places.

In fact Europe is bound to lose and be broken up into areas – governments like it or not.

Hence the winner is whoever remains nation.The loser is broken up and becomes “liquid”.

The other pole is the United States, which will become increasingly autonomous and independent from the losing European Union.

In South America and Africa “bubbles” will materialize with homogeneous characteristics by production type, but they will change very quickly. The same will happen to Central and Southern Italy, which will be “attached” to North Africa up to becoming an economically and strategically homogeneous region.

Also Northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia will tend to build a united bloc. Central Germany and France will still play the scene of Kerneuropa’s unity, while Scandinavia, the post-Soviet republics of the old Hanseatic League and the Netherlands will be integrated northwards.

Italy has lost – hence it will be divided, irrespective of laws or Regions.

With a view to further highlighting Italy’s crisis – the crisis of those who have definitely lost the globalization fight – we need to mention the young people leaving the country after graduating, or anyway “trying their luck” and looking for a land of opportunity elsewhere, now that Italy is at the core of all misfortunes.

A dead country cannot give hope to life, namely to young people.

Why should one stay in Italy without any prospects?

Nevertheless the State and families pay generously for youth education and the fruit of their children’s skills are used by other countries, which invested not even a euro in their education and training.

In 2015 the Italians who left the country to live abroad permanently were 107,529. Not all of them are enrolled in the Register of Italians Abroad (AIRE) – hence we may also assume they are twice that number.

36.7% of these 107,529 Italians are young people aged between 18 and 35, who moved to Germany as many of their grandparents had done several years ago, before our great post-war reform.

There is no German motorway or Alpine Swiss flyover not built with the hard work, tears and blood of our children from the South of Italy.

However, 69.2% of those who moved abroad, did so to Europe.

Hence it did not take much to keep them home – the homologies with our EU colleagues are still many.

On average, the college and university years cost 3,000 euro for those who remain at home and over 8,000-9,000 euro for the young people who move to other cities.

The calculation is easily made, considering that in 2014-2015 – the latest years for which data is available – the total number of registered university students is 270,145.

A huge mass of young people and investment that are destroyed in a closed circuit characterized by the death of any hope, slammed doors, underpaid jobs for which there was certainly no need to study, as well as a biological, affective and professional life – if any – which is fulfilled when it is too late.

It is not a problem of money, but rather the knell of any hope in Italy, that you can see in the eyes of the many young people who have excellent diplomas and degrees, which cannot be used to make the country grow and change. Young people who are trapped in a repetitive circle of life with only one thousand euro a month – if any – to survive.

Not to mention how this situation affects pension schemes, which now provide only pocket money for these young people.

A death spiral: young people cannot settle down and give birth to children – hence the State’s fiscal crisis worsens thus leading to ridiculous pensions.

How can a country survive in this way? How long can we still keep an advanced production system in place, when university students have decreased by 20% over the last decade and academics and experts – “les savants”, as Saint Simon called them – leave the country?

Darkness at noon for Italy, as when Jesus Christ died.

How many factories and companies have gone bankrupt, often as a result of oppressive taxation and baroque bureaucracy. How many entrepreneurs have killed themselves to avoid the stigma of bankruptcy – the same stigma of failure looming large over the many young people who cannot find a job?

How many chances of surviving has a country based on this equation: fewer companies, fewer workers, less-skilled jobs and much less generational turnover?

We recorded over 700 suicides for economic reasons.

44% of them were committed by entrepreneurs; 40% by unemployed people and 10.3% by employees.

In the first half of this year they are already 81 (+28%).

Currently Campania has replaced Veneto as the region most affected by this sad record – and we can easily imagine the many issues related to economic lawfulness.

However, the fact that businessmen sometimes attempt suicide or work on the verge of viability – by possibly paying workers and not taxes, otherwise they could not even survive – means only one thing.

It means that social processes are not governed and that they are not managed by efficient authorities. They are allowed to go away as productive “bubbles”, while they should be included in a program – also a public one – to regulate them.

We should never leave the development of the small companies in my beloved Veneto region at the mercy of the German or Austrian cycle fluctuations and, when the former Yugoslav republics are available, we should compete, organize new markets and improve technologies.

We should not let technology and crafts go to Northern Europe, where our models are copied and sold at a lower price.

Work must be protected – certainly in a new way compared to the old tariff barriers – but we can hardly believe that such a sensitive mechanism can be left in the hands of small business owners or their tiny banks.

It was said that the First Republic was suffering from “production gigantism”, but the incompetent Second Republic is floundering in a phase of obsessive dwarfism and, sometimes, narrow-mindedness.

Our large companies – the few ones which have survived – are those who were born as small ones during the First Republic and that – sensitive to international laws and above all to the national interest – we have protected, nurtured, sometimes rescued and often funded.

There is no economy without national planning, especially now that all productive systems compete at the same time in the world.

In fact, when I look to the industrial policy of the latest Italian governments, I just become speechless.

The crisis always kills the smallest companies and Italy is a country that structurally does not protect its SMEs.

Renzi’s government has not even rescued one single small company and it has not implemented any policy to create others.

Scarce tax relief and no bureaucratic streamlining and simplification for the 5,332 new small technology companies set up between 2013 and 2015 while, over the same period, 1,127,167 traditional companies were registered as “new”, of which only 51% are real enterprises, but a mere 4% was created to develop an innovative idea.

Hence this is Italy’s new disastrous geopolitical equation: a few firms, that are still decreasing in number, of which very few ones develop innovation; falling domestic demand and total workforce, while Italy’s economic and social fabric is deteriorating.

A hetero-directed country, without its own memory or culture, forced as any South American banana republic to follow the fads and diktats of those who are winning the ongoing daily war, which is the third world war.

A ridiculous ruling class that presents world leaders with football players’ jerseys and purrs and applauds those who mocks it. A country which pretends to be what it no longer is, namely a great industrial country, our old First World Manufacture.

A non-existent political culture – whereas it is precisely politics which is culture at its finest – while schools become indoctrination centres for the most foolish fads and myths.

A country which does not know that the old alliances are dead, and that it must look for new ones, eastwards, in China, in the new string of pearls of Xi Jinping’s “maritime Silk Road”, or in the new technology society, as done by Israel.

As Leo Longanesi brilliantly said, “the modern grows old and the old comes back into fashion”.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

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EU dying silently as it plays in Trump’s court

Mohammad Ghaderi

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While the US is explicitly undermining the EU regionalism for an upper hand in the global economic dynamics, the Europe is falling in a trap with secret negotiations.

The paradoxical approaches taken by the European authorities is definitely one of its kind. Over the past months, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has repeatedly emphasized that the EU can no longer rely on the United States to secure its interests.

However, the German Chancellor held secret and hidden negotiations with the US government and Trump to resolve Europe’s economic and security problems and crises.

In other words, there is a significant difference between the speeches and actions of the European authorities regarding the EU’s independence from Washington. Here are some points that need to be taken into consideration:

Firstly, US President Donald Trump is one of the main opponents of the existing structure in Europe. He has come to this conclusion that the collapse of the United Europe will provide the United States with great economic growth among its allies. The White House therefore monitors the simultaneous destruction of the Eurozone and the European Union as essential goals. This is the main reason for Trump’s support for nationalist and anti-EU movements in Europe. Recently, Donald Trump has officially urged French President Emmanuel Macron to pull his country out of the EU to benefit from more US-France ties. Also, the US president has asked Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, to sue the European Union for making barriers in Brexit talks. Trump has gone even further, and warned Theresa May that she should choose between integrating in the European economic structure and having economic relations with the United States. Together, these statements and stances show that Trump is working hard to achieve his main goal in Europe; which is the collapse of the European Union.

Secondly, although some may think that confronting the United Europe is the secret target of the US President, Trump’s behavior suggest that he has no reluctance to declare his opposition to the EU and the Eurozone. Trump believes that the collapse of the European Union will lead to an increase in his power and would intensify his dominance on the European players. Hence, the President of the United States is trying to manage the EU’s collapse from an economic and commercial perspective. It should not be forgotten that during the 2016 presidential campaigns, nationalist and anti-EU movements were Trump’s only supporters in Europe, and other politicians affiliated with the Social Democratic or Conservative movements in Europe (which currently hold the power) wished that the Democrats and Hillary Clinton could win the election.
Europe is now facing a phenomenon called “Trump”. In spite of this, the way European authorities try to deal with the White House is still based on a kind of deterrent idealism. Unlike countries such as China and Canada, which have given a strong response to imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, European authorities have not yet taken a determined decision against the United States and the Trump government. On the other hand, European leaders continue to resolve the differences between themselves and the Trump government on the through negotiation. It is as if the European leaders have not yet realized the deep opposition of Trump with the EU and the Eurozone. They are still trying to reduce the US president’s “conflicts” with the EU to some sort of “superficial disagreement”, which is exactly what the president of the United States and his entourage want.

Undoubtedly, the current retreat of the EU authorities before Trump and their failure to enter the phase of “confrontation with the White House” should be interpreted as “EU’s quiet suicide”. The continuation of this process will lead to further pressures on the European Union, and subsequently, the position of nationalist and anti-EU groups within Europe will be strengthened. Besides, we should take this fact into account that with the advent of more than one hundred far-right representatives to the European Parliament during the 2014 parliamentary elections, the process of “collapse of the United Europe” has actually begun. Right now in countries such as Austria, Italy, Sweden, and even France and Germany, nationalist groups have been able to politically strengthen their position, and even find way to the top of political equations of some of these countries. The most important factor that can save Europe from current crises is to strengthen the Europe’s independence in the international system. The symbol and objective example of the strengthening of such an independence is “standing against the United States”. But that’s exactly what the European authorities have forgotten.

It seems as if European officials hesitate to consider the significant presumption of “Trump’s opposition to the United Europe” in their behavioral and verbal calculations. They are still thinking and deciding in the phase of “interacting with the White House”, and they are even willing to give their NATO Ally some advantages. But if the EU doesn’t enter the phase of “confronting the US” and merely try to control Trump’s decisions and policies, its destiny will be nothing but collapse and destruction. This confrontation calls for putting an end to the Europeans’ play on the US ground; a precondition that has not yet been fulfilled by EU member states. Eventually, the Green Continent is at one of the most critical periods of its political, economic and security life. Indeed, how can we imagine that Europe, by continuing its current submission to the United States, can get out of the existing crises?

First published in our partner MNA

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The meeting between Prime Minister Conte and President Trump

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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At least apparently, the meeting between US President Trump and Italy’s Prime Minister Conte – already widely planned and publicized – went well.

With some common and evident pride, they mutually defined each other as the initiators of what, nowadays, is usually called “populism”, consisting in the fight against traditional elites in favour of the “people” that, however, actually appears rather as a fight between two different components of the global elite: the old one that still focuses on globalization and the other that instead gathers around the evident crisis of globalism and wants to build a new multipolar world. Ultimately the opening to the world market has proved to be less effective than expected: the cost for destroying “domestic” jobs has turned out to be greater than the gains resulting from the globalized market.

President Trump, who has clear in mind what is still happening on the US-Mexican border, said that the Italian government’s work on the migrant issue “is formidable”.

Italy’s government work that, however, would be “formidable” both for illegal migrants and for the very few legal ones.

Nevertheless President Trump was particularly sensitive to an issue which is high on prime Minister Conte’s agenda, namely Libya.

Trump and Conte have established a new “strategic dialogue” between the USA and Italy on Libya, while the US President currently recognizes Italy’s hegemony over the Mediterranean and the stabilization of Libya and, later, of Northern Africa.

In more specific terms, President Trump said it would  further diminish the American presence in the Mediterranean and would delegate Italy to manage and reduce tensions in the region. Hence the need for the Italian government to increase defense spending, as we will see later on.

In August 2018 Italy will already send some military ships to Libyan waters, while the United States still has many ships operating in the Mediterranean, which they do not intend to relinquish completely.

The new US-Italian “control room” will operate within the framework between this residual US presence and the increase of Italian operations in the Mediterranean.

Prime Minister Conte’s real project, however, is a great International Conference on Libya, to be held in Rome next autumn, which will see the United States play the role of hegemonic power and will enable the Italian government to definitively position itself as the leader of the whole  Libyan political process.

In fact, Prime Minister Conte is thinking about a joint “control room” between Italy and the United States, especially for Libya and for security in the Mediterranean region.

Nevertheless there is a problem: the difference between the US and Italian war potentials.

There is also the different assessment of the Mediterranean region by the United States, which sees the Mediterranean in connection with the Persian Gulf and Central Asia (hence in contrast with Russian interests), and finally the contact with China’s maritime control area.

Conversely, probably due to a still narrow-minded vision, for Italy the Mediterranean is the region in which the migrants’ market must be controlled and finally be put to an end, by avoiding the interference of France – which is  interested in encouraging the flow of migrants towards  Europe and hence towards Italy – and the jihad, which is spread also through large-scale migration.

All French – and sometimes British – interests are far from Italy’s and often totally diverging with its goals.

Furthermore, Italy has long played all its cards on Fayez al-Sarraj’s government, the “legitimate” one according to the United Nations and hence – according to our experience – the weakest and most unstable and irrelevant government.

There are currently signs of a new relationship with General Haftar, but none of the two Libyan governments fully trusts Italy. Probably it would be a smart strategy for Italy to play all its cards on Fayez al-Sarraj, so as to remain his sole sponsor and later play from a vantage point with General Haftar himself, that now no longer goes beyond the old border with Tripolitania.

How will Italy be in a position to get in touch with the region in the West controlled by General Khalifa Haftar, a leader who reports respectively to Egypt, Russia and France, which has always pretended to support Fayez al-Sarraj but, from the beginning, has made the Service Action of its intelligence services side with the military of the East, of General Haftar’s Cyrenaica?

Clearly the de facto union between the United States and Italy for Libya serves to get France and most of the EU out of play- and, indeed, the EU has scarcely taken care of the issue. The French-EU system is now a structural opponent of Prime Minister Conte’s government, but is also a German ally. Germany is now an enemy of President Trump’s United States and he wants it to reduce its export surplus, which is greater in real terms than China’s.

The “distant friend”, namely America, to be called against the “near enemy”, namely the EU, which is an old and excellent Israeli strategy, but never replaces the direct operations against the opponent that is only a few steps away.

The Italian struggle is against the “Rhenish” Europe, which still wants to split up the “Libyan region” and is not interested in the migration issue, which does not affect France and Germany at all.

Germany has mostly migrants from the Middle East, not so much from the Maghreb region.

In fact, migration in Italy is an operation of “indirect strategy”: the costs for the State increase; the mass of skilled workers decreases; also the innovation potential of companies decreases since they are de facto forced to hire low-skilled migrants when they need manpower;  finally the invisible costs of large-scale migration increase, such as health, prison system, security and initial support to  the migrants themselves.

The aforementioned Italian-US “control room”, however, puts the EU in a difficult position: it is true that President  Trump said that,in the future,Italy would play the role of “facilitator” between the USA and the EU, but Italy is as weak within the European Union as it is strong in the bilateral link with Trump’s “populist” United States.

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the gas pipeline that the USA favours against the gas lines controlled in Northern Europe by Russia and its “friendly” countries, is the “wedding gift” that President Trump asks to Italy.

This pipeline falls within a markedly anti-Russian policy line, but it also affects an Apulian region, namely Salento, that is already very sensitive for the current Italian government from the electoral viewpoint. In fact the Italian government won many votes from the anti-TAP movements, which are very strong in Salento, and are ready to fight to the death.

Will the Five Star Movement decide to lose its face and  Apulia’s voters with a view to strengthening its friendship with the United States, while President Trump asks for government support to the TAP as Italian government’s “proof of love”?

Furthermore will the Italian government’s support for the TAP be useful in relation to the Russian Federation, which should become a supporter of the new “sovereinist” Italy?

I am afraid that if the current government does not choose from the beginning with which of the two powers it wants to side, it will find itself in the same unpleasant and uncomfortable situation as Arlecchino in Goldoni’s play The Servant of Two Masters.

Moreover, in spite of everything, the Russian issue is at the core of the new “contract” between Prime Minister Conte and President Trump.

The EU sanctions against Russia are strongly penalizing for the Italian economy, which has decreased its exports to Russia by 70%, with a loss of over 200,000 jobs and a 25% fall of Russian tourists in Italy.

Prime Minister Conte wants reassurances, and possibly support, to reduce sanctions against the Russian Federation, but Italy may decide to support the TAP – which was designed to counter the North Stream between Russia and Germany –  in exchange for a decrease in US sanctions against Russia.

Hence, if Italy is linked to the anti-Russian front as a result of the Conte-Trump agreement, how will President Putin behave at international level? Certainly his behaviour will  not be favourable and, anyway, capable of doing much selective damage to Italy.

Reverting to Libya, the US-Italian pact to get the Maghreb country out of the political and military chaos envisages ongoing consultations between Italian and US Defence and Foreign Ministers.

Hence is Prime Minister Conte absolutely certain of being able to favour the US trade on the whole European continent? We rather fear that Italy’s EU partners will not look favourably upon Italy’s brokerage and intermediation onto US markets, while possibly Italy’s trade deficit with the United States remains intact and the EU’s one with the USA is  under attack.

As President Trump said, “the Italian companies’ interests will not be hit” – which, inter alia, now seems to be quite credible.

In Trump’s era, the Italian exports to the United States are worth 40.5 billion euros per year.

The total amount of trade between the two countries is worth 55 billion euros, but the Italian imports from the United States currently amount to 15 billion euros.

From 2009 to 2017, the Italian exports to the United States rose by 139%, as against a 58% increase in US exports to Italy over the same period.

The Italian exports to the United States often consist of cars, as well as “luxury and high-end goods”.

If President Trump taxes foreign cars, FCA –  which imports about 50% of the cars it later sells to the USA – could be hit by a 20-25% tax, as the one thought by Trump’s Administration, which would reduce Fiat- Chrysler’s profits within a range from 616 up to 866 million euros.

This applies only to cars. But the US President wants to hit – along with the others -Italy’s trade surplus with the United States, which is approximately 36 billion US dollars.

It is an implicit, but probably involuntary attack on the strategy by Minister Savona, who is collecting the surpluses of Italy’s balance of payments to turn them into assets vis-à-vis the EU.

Moreover, there is also the issue of military spending that the US President wants to increase up to a yearly 2% level for all NATO European States.

However, if we spend the expected 2%, it is more than likely that Italy will ipso facto exceed the deficit / GDP ratio set by the EU that former Prime Minister Prodi once dismissed  as “stupid”.

Hence how could Italy be the sole and effective broker and mediator between the EU and North America?

Therefore there are many lights and shadows on the new preferential relationship between the United States and Italy. We hope that everything will go well.

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Europe

Mesut Ozil’s retirement and the dark face of identity politics in Germany

Sisir Devkota

Published

on

Distinguished commentators are pondering upon a particular question in common. What was Ozil supposed to do when Recep Tayyip Erdogan-the President of Turkey had invited him for a compassionate meeting in a hotel room? The answer is obvious. He could not have ignored. Except for breakouts inside the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) and the anti-immigration AfD (Alternative for Germany), Mesut Ozil has substantial approval from all corners. More than football, the issue is deeply rooted in the Christian roots of political parties in Germany.

Rienhard Grindel-a former politician hailing from CDP, manufactured a fuss about how Ozil should not have met with Erdogan in front of a packed press before flying to Russia for the World Cup. Former footballer and Germany’s team manager, Olivier Bierhoff struck a controversial statement too. He regretted not leaving Manchester City’s prolific Ilkay Gundogan and Ozil out of the aeroplane to Russia. When the animosity became public, Germany was out in the Russian summer, preparing for a doomed destiny of failing to qualify from the group stages. Ozil kept quiet until it was over but for outsiders and in Turkey, there was a serious accusation to tackle. Erdogan was advertised as a leader practicing anti-democratic values and arguments like Ozil’s meeting with the Turkish president was against the values of Germany baffled all neutrals. How could a country’s democracy diminish by a footballer’s honourable act? Slowly and subsequently, Rienhard was reminded of his statement in 2004. “Multiculturalism is a myth”, he had declared. Renowned journalist, Matt Pearson pierced him in public and questioned his ability to lead a team full of second and third generation Germans. Read Ozil’s statement carefully. He has cultivated feelings of justifying his citizenship every time he is on the pitch. “When we lose, I’m not German”, Ozil wrote in his long address. The problem is about identity. It is a fight of political values, lost in transition.

Germany’s chancellor-Angela Merkel is with Ozil. Her colleague Grindel was a former CDP man until elected as the association’s president in 2016. Defectors from CDP formed the Alternative for Germany. Ozil’s retirement has underlined the problem of clashing political franchises in Germany. Merkel has often been accused of straying away from the values of CDP, which in its inception, was assembled by World War survivors to protect the Christian character of the German nation. The AfD was born in the same light to correct the frailties of the existing CDP. Ozil’s case of mistreatment is only the result of the clashing politics, deeply rooted with the values of religious identity. Unlike modern societies, it is not the case of Islam being politicised. Instead, it is a contest of Christian quality. An attempt to correct the founding values of German political structure. The AfD are making dangerous strides and to put it in their own words, they are seeking to become the true guardian of Christian identity in Europe. Influential pastors and bishops are supporting the AfD agendas to incorporate Christian values in schools. Ozil is right about the nature of his German society. It is in a skirmish. In a civil war of values tied with Christianity.

France is a good comparison to make. Officials from the French National team were angered by social media statements of how Africa had won the world cup; not France. A fellow French footballer of an African descent replied with twenty-three French flags; the total number of his teammates who won the cup in Russia. Ozil expressed the same emotion; unlike in Germany, he would have still been a French-when he lost matches. Rightly, the 2010 Bambi award winner has questioned his treatment by the German Football Association (DFB). However, recurring racial attacks in the past have often disparaged the good impression of a German society. Be it rejections of Indian students by a professor in Leipzig (2015) or the murder of an Egyptian national in 2009; it is a society expanding in turmoil.

Turkey, his ancestral land has commended his courage to speak up against the system. Erdogan reportedly telephoned him in sympathy and support. For many, it has come as a political agenda in the midst of elections but Mesut Ozil’s cause deserves widespread endorsement. When Rienhard Grindel was just a treasurer for the DFB, Ozil won the world cup for Germany in 2014.

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