Position of Italy in the European Union

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Today, among the 28 EU states, Italy ranks 23rd in terms of percentage of citizens in favour of the European Union. In 2007 Italy was at the 10th place, “and of all the founding members, it was probably the most European country” (Ecfr reference). A fact about all makes us reflect: in the last political elections, in Italy one elector over two voted for a Euro-skeptic party.

For a historically Euro-enthusiastic country it is indeed a real revolution, which finds some of its deep roots in the management of the European economic and fiscal policies, above all the austerity imposed at European level.

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In fact, in the last fifteen years in Italy, as in Europe, the maintenance of employment levels has been achieved by increasing the share of precarious workers and low wages (V. Daniele, 2015). In 2016, in Italy, 55% of employees in the 15-24 age group were on a fixed-term basis, in Spain it reached 73%. The lowest share was found in the United Kingdom where it was 15% (OECD, Employment Outlook 2017).

The spread of precarious and low-paid work is the result of various phenomena: structural change in the economy, automation, globalisation. But it is also the result of the economic policies adopted, of the consolidated idea according to which economic growth is possible only by making work cheaper and more flexible. An idea resulting from the uncritical acceptance of globalisation as a phenomenon governed solely by economic forces. In global competition, in which capital moves freely among nations, the individual governments’ capacity of intervention has decreased considerably: therefore, either an economy adapts itself to it by making the system and work flexible, or investments will locate elsewhere. When these assumption are accepted, the road to flexibility appears to be the only one that can be followed. Even if it could be considered a simple road because it requires just adapting to the context, there are social costs: uncertainty, insecurity and inequality (OECD Report, 2017). Therefore, the consequences are not only economic, but also political. Occupational uncertainty translates into disillusionment. On the one hand, political participation is reduced; on the other hand, the population asks for answers that can dispel anxiety and insecurity.

In Italy, populist political forces rejecting or criticising globalisation, and European policies that trace its essence, intercept the demand of security. Their criticism of a ‘dictatorial’ Germany, at the head of Europe, are made in a nationalist way, based on the defense of ‘traditional’ values, of the interests and the state borders, against the markets and the ‘threat’ of immigration. Opposing globalisation, these forces offer a temporary refuge to uncertainty, fear and insecurity. It does not matter to most if their proposals can really, one day, translate into concrete policies. In doing so, they attract increasing shares of the electorate to which ‘traditional’ parties do not seem able to give an answer.

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