Σχόλιο ειδικού συνεργάτη: Παραδοσιακά η ανάλυση των στρατηγικών ζητημάτων της Ευρώπης ερχόταν από την Αμερική. Οι Ευρωπαίοι επαναπαύονταν στην ανέξοδη στρατηγική κάλυψή τους από τις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες και ασχολούνταν με τα καταναλωτικά ζητήματα και την νομική συγκρότηση της ΕΟΚ η οποία μετά το 1992 κάπως βιαστικά ονομάστηκε Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση (ΕΕ). Μετά τον Ψυχρό Πόλεμο όμως τα στρατηγικά ζητήματα εισέβαλαν ορμητικά στο ευρωπαϊκό προσκήνιο. Μεταξύ άλλων, το Γερμανικό ζήτημα λόγω Γερμανικής επανένωσης, το που και πως θα αναπτύξει την στρατηγική της η Αμερική στο νέο διεθνές περιβάλλον, οι σχέσεις της Ρωσίας με την Ευρώπη και ιδιαίτερα με την Γερμανία και οι σχέσεις της Ευρώπης με τις περιφέρειες που κοχλάζουν στρατηγικά. Με αυτά και άλλα συνδέονται ζητήματα όπως το ενεργειακό, η ασφαλής ροή των πλουτοπαραγωγικών πόρων, η αντίκρουση αναδυομένων δυνάμεων από περιοχές που τα δυτικά κράτη θεωρούσαν «ζώνες επιρροής» και γενικότερα οι νέοι στρατηγικοί συσχετισμοί και ισορροπίες ενόψει ενός πολυπολικού πλέον διεθνούς συστήματος όπου με κλασικό τρόπο οι μεγάλες δυνάμεις δεν άργησαν να εντείνουν τον ανταγωνισμό τους για γεωπολιτική παρουσία, έλεγχο των πλουτοπαραγωγικών πόρων και διασφάλιση αγορών. Από το κείμενο που ακολουθεί και από άλλες αναρτήσεις των τελευταίων μηνών, τι παρατηρούμε; Παρατηρούμε ένα μεγάλο έλλειμμα πολιτικοστρατηγικής σκέψης και παντελή έλλειμμα θέσεων για μια ριζική μεταρρύθμιση που θα συμπεριλαμβάνει και τα στρατηγικά ζητήματα. Ακόμη και αμερικανικά ινστιτούτα που ασχολούνται με την Ευρώπη βλέπουμε ότι αντί να δουν τα κύρια πολιτικά και στρατηγικά ζητήματα που αφορούν ζωτικά τα αίτια των προβλημάτων βυθίζονται σε ένα φαύλο κύκλο συζητήσεων για τα αποτελέσματα. Κυρίως, για την δικαιολογημένη αναστάτωση των πολιτών των κρατών μελών οι οποίοι μπερδεμένοι και απελπισμένοι βρίσκονται σε απόγνωση. Γκάλοπ, συναισθηματισμοί και συμπάθειες, λιγότερο ή περισσότερο απελπισμένοι, ρευστότητες μεταξύ λιγότερο και περισσότερο απελπισμένων και άλλα παρόμοια που μπερδεύουν αντί να οδηγήσουν σε συμπέρασμα για τα αίτια των προβλημάτων. Τα αίτια είναι πολλά, κύριο όμως είναι το στρατηγικό έλλειμμα. Στην μεν Ευρώπη στρατηγική σκέψη δεν υπάρχει και τα στρατηγικά σχέδια είναι ελλειμματικά ενώ στον υπόλοιπο κόσμο όλα είναι ρευστά. Το καράβι της Ευρώπης όχι μόνο είναι διάτρητο αλλά στερείται και καπετάνιο.
Europe’s Economic Crisis Pushes Italy Further From the EU
A survey released by the Pew Research Center on May 12 revealed that on average only half the combined population of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Poland and Greece support the European Union. The survey also showed that while EU support in 2014 is slightly higher than it was in 2013 (up to 52 percent from 46 percent), it is still well below the approval ratings seen before the economic crisis, when over two-thirds of these countries’ combined population held favorable opinions of the bloc.
In a way, the numbers make sense. The highest levels of support for the European Union can be found in Germany, which is experiencing modest growth rates and record-low unemployment levels, and in Poland, which has been relatively sheltered from the eurozone crisis and still considers EU membership a key element of its foreign policy. On the contrary, support for the European Union is significantly lower in Spain, Italy and Greece. These countries, as well as many others featured in the survey, see immigration as a key problem with the bloc’s structure. This also makes sense, since the rise of anti-immigration parties across the Continent has been one of the most significant consequences of the economic crisis.
But on the surface, some of the survey’s results also seem odd. Support for the European Union is higher in Spain (50 percent) than in Italy (46 percent), but Spain’s level of unemployment is almost three times higher than that of Italy. This gives rise to an important question: Why haven’t we seen a significant anti-EU and anti-immigration party arise in Spain?
There isn’t a simple answer to this. However, several things can help us better understand the situation. Italy has been a member of the European Union longer than Spain has, and memories of fascism are considerably fresher in Spain. For most Italians, Mussolini and World War II are increasingly distant memories, but many Spanish voters still remember the Franco dictatorship, which only ended in the mid-1970s. This partially explains why, in times of economic hardship, Spaniards tend to turn to the left instead of the right. In Spain, as in many other European countries, the left remains pro-European and cannot easily oppose immigration for ideological reasons.
We must also consider the fact that the ruling conservative Popular Party has successfully managed to absorb most of Spain’s right wing. Even if some of its factions are currently questioning the leadership of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the Popular Party still attracts an overwhelming majority of the country’s conservative vote. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi temporarily attracted similar levels of support, but his political alliances were often motivated by personal and electoral alliances rather than shared ideology. Additionally, two decades of political scandals have degraded Berlusconi’s political image and Italy’s center-right has become more fragmented. It is unsurprising, then, that Berlusconi is lagging behind the anti-system Five Star Movement in Italian opinion polls.
Perhaps the most important factor to keep in mind, however, is that Spain only joined the European Union in 1986. This means that many Spanish citizens remember the relative isolation and economic weakness Spain saw before joining the European Union. In the two decades that followed Spain’s EU accession, the country became a poster child for the use of structural funds as railways and highways flourished across the country. For some time, EU membership was equated with prosperity in Spain.
Italy, on the other hand, struggles to remember life before the European Union. Quite the opposite, in fact: Instead, the country remembers a mythical time between the 1950s and early 1960s when the Italian economy was flourishing, national champion Fiat was the largest automaker in Europe, and each generation believed they would have a better life than their parents. Federico Fellini captured the zeitgeist of the era in his celebrated movie, La Dolce Vita. Ironically, a little more than five decades later, another movie — the Oscar-winning The Great Beauty — did the same, but this time depicting a decadent Rome and its decrepit political, intellectual and religious elites.
Life probably was not so perfect during the years of the so-called “Italian miracle,” but the problem with romanticized versions of the past is that they tend to poison the view of the present. Many Spaniards remember a relatively poor country that became rich for a few decades, only to become relatively poor again with the crisis — though in many ways Spain is still better off than it was in the early 1980s. In Italy, the sentiment of lost greatness is easier to exploit by populist parties that blame the European Union and the corrupt politicians that back it for all of the country’s problems.
There are other, deeper explanations for the different opinions of the European Union in Spain and Italy. The Spanish political landscape is still profoundly divided on structural and foundational elements of the state. Key issues such as monarchy vs. republic, centralism vs. federalism vs. separatism, and conservatism vs. progressivism still absorb most of the energies of Spain’s political parties and voters. EU membership is one of the few things on which most Spaniards agree, even if this sentiment is being weakened by the crisis.
After the Franco dictatorship ended, Spain created a political system that, while flawed, is at least stable. The Italians, though, reacted to their fear of fascism and regional differences by constructing a political system that is so weak and fragmented that prime ministers come and go before voters can learn their names. But Madrid’s centralizing efforts are not without problems; secessionist violence in Spain grew stronger than it ever did in Italy, and the autonomous region of Catalonia is getting closer to independence than any Italian region ever has. Mountainous geography adds to political fragmentation in both countries, but the difference is that Italian governments have long realized that they have only limited control over events within their country.
The main problem for the European Union is that it knows how bad things can get in Spain, but it is uncertain of how bad things can get in Italy. The Spanish banking sector required international aid, unemployment affects a quarter of the active population, and a significant region is threatening to secede — and yet Rajoy is still in power and Spain remains a member of the eurozone. While the Spanish seem resigned to the idea that EU membership links them to the rest of the world, there is a growing sentiment among Italians that their country could actually be better off outside the common currency — and even outside the European Union. As a result, even though the economic crisis may be worse in Spain, its potential political consequences are more dangerous in Italy.