Italy in the European Crisis: problems and prospects

Professor Paul Ginsborg, chair of Contemporary European History at the University of Florence

Co-presented with the Institute for Democracy and Human Right at the University of Sydney

11 September

As the crisis of the European Union continues to evolve, it is important to analyse the contribution of each of its member states, and that of the larger states in particular. Italy occupies a special role. It was one of the founder members of Common Market way back in 1957, and its economy has remained one of the largest in the Union. Yet it has never played a role in Europe’s politics that corresponds to its economic weight, and all too often has simply toed a line dictated by the Franco-German axis. Historically speaking, there are at least two major reasons for this.

One has been the poor quality of the Italian ruling political elite which, with few exceptions, has been intensely inward-looking and often corrupt. The other has been the failings of the Italian public administration which has led Italy for many years to commit the most infringements of European law and to suffer the greatest delays in putting European decisions into practice. The low-point of Italy’s presence in Europe came with the governments of Silvio Berlusconi and, in particular, with Berlusconi’s own performance at the European parliament in July, 2003. However, more recently Mario Monti has replaced him as the head of government , and Mario Draghi has become president of the Central European Bank. Are the two Marios, both highly professional economic experts, capable of initiating a new era in Italy’s relations with Europe?

Professor Paul Ginsborg

Paul Ginsborg is a leading authority on contemporary Italy. He taught European Politics at Cambridge University, before moving to Italy in 1992 to take up the chair of Contemporary European History at the University of Florence. Among his many works is a biography of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (2003), which reached the top of the Italian non-fiction bestseller charts, the Politics of Everyday Life (2005) and Italy and Its Discontents: Family, Civil Society, State (2006). In recent years he has been at the forefront of Italian civil society's mobilisation in defence of democracy.