The EU's stand-off with Italy exposes its own failings
Opinion Italy The EUâs stand-off with Italy exposes its own failings Kenan Malik Demonising migrants isnât confined to Italian politicians â" itâs endemic in Brussels too
Last week, the European commission told Italy that it had to revise its draft budget. Ital yâs Lega-MS5 coalition government had agreed to provide a basic income for the unemployed, repeal a proposed increase in VAT and scrap a 2011 decision to raise the retirement age â" all fulfilling election campaign pledges.
The budget would set Italyâs deficit at 2.4% of GDP â" inside the EU limit of 3% â" but its debt would rise to 130%, second only to Greece.
Leftist critics, including Yanis Varoufakis, have said the budget is neither as radical nor as helpful to the poor as the Italian government claims. For Brussels, it is too radical, with what the commission calls a âserious non-complianceâ with EU guidelines. Only when Germany or France break budget rules, it seems, will the EU turn a blind eye.
What is striking, too, is the comparison between the EUâs response to Italyâs budget and its harsh immigration policies. Like many populist movements, the Lega-MS5 coalition combines anti-poverty measures with abrasive opposition to immigration.
The interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has introduced laws to aid mass deportation of migrants, strip Italians of migrant stock of citizenship and close Roma camps. He has also refused to allow boats rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean to use Italian ports.
Yet, far from objecting to these policies, the EU has itself hardened its stance, strengthening âFortress Europeâ with efforts to build offshore migrant reception centres in Africa. âEuropeâs migration policies are not so different from Trumpâs,â CNN has observed.
Politicians in Brussels legitimise far-right migration policies, oppose a budget to help the poor, reject the decisions of an elected government and then they wonder why so many people in Europe are prepared to vote for rightwing populists.
â¢ Kenan Malik is an Observer journalistTopics
- European Union
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