For Italy, ′Things might get very, very tight′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.02.2013
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For Italy, 'Things might get very, very tight'

There's no room for Europe to breathe easy after recent elections in Italy, says Italian journalist and EU correspondent Giovanni Del Re. In an interview with DW, he explains why the situation back home is so critical.

For an Italian correspondent in Brussels, Italy can feel like a long way from home. For Giovanni Del Re, it has perhaps never felt so distant as after the shocking results of Italy's latest election.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Del Re, a few days ago, a German magazine published an article under the headline, "Italy Votes - and Europe trembles." Should the EU still be "trembling"?

Giovanni Del Re: Europe can't take it easy with results like this. Under the current conditions it's extremely difficult to set up a stable government, and of course you can't forget that Italy's still in the crosshairs of international investors. If the markets come to the conclusion that Italy's unstable again and [will] abandon the path of reform, then things might get very, very tight, not just for Italy and its public debts and financial stability, but for the entire Eurozone.

Neither Bersani's Democratic Party nor Berlusconi's center-right coalition have obtained a clear majority to govern. Italy is at a standstill. How likely is another round of elections?

A middle-aged man smirks at the camera. (Photo: no info)

Giovanni M. Del Re has been forced to watch the spectacle from abroad

They were brought up, but then it occurred to many politicians that new elections would most likely benefit the former comic [and now politician of the Five Star Movement], Beppe Grillo. No one has any interest in seeing Grillo going from 26 to 30 percent in a vote. The problem is, that building a coalition will be very difficult. There is also talk of a coalition between Berlusconi's party and the left. But it's difficult to imagine that such a coalition could hold together for very long.

The EU had hoped for a clear win by Bersani or Mario Monti, so that reforms could be pushed through. The results are a shock for Brussels. To what extent does the unclear situation in Italy threaten to intensify the European crisis?

The danger is certainly there. You can't forget that Italy continues to have very high levels of debt and had its sights set on refinancing. If markets lose that trust, such refinancing will become very difficult for Italy. That would mean that Italy would need the help of the EU and a bailout. With such a huge country and such high debt levels, that would be problematic.

How do you explain the surprisingly good showing by former comic Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi?

You have to hand it to Berlusconi: He's a good communicator and a genius when it comes to marketing. He can send very clear, simple and enticing messages. But the main thing is that Italian voters have very short memory spans. They've already forgotten who's responsible for the current situation, the one that led to Mario Monti's technocratic government one-and-a-half years ago. As for Grillo, it's clear that lots of Italians are annoyed with the politicking and the scandals that every party's involved in. Those voters would love to have something totally new, carte blanche, so to speak - and that's how Grillo presented himself.

The loser of the elections is Mario Monti, head of the previous technocratic government. Was Monti punished for his reforms and austerity measures, or was he simply too soft during the campaign?

Both. Monti placed a little too much emphasis on raising taxes. That was extremely trying on the Italians, especially for those at low income levels. They never totally accepted that. But it's definitely true, as well, that he had a very poor showing during the election campaign. This rapid change in his appearance - going from the reserved professor to a campaigner who insulted other parties - that didn't go down too well with Italians.

Mr. Del Re, when you, as a correspondent in Brussels, come into contact with colleagues from around the world, what do you say to them about developments in your native country?

That's very difficult to answer, because I'm also amazed. I never expected an outcome of this scale. The only thing I can say is that I'm worried. At this point and time I don't see any solution or any way out of this situation. One can only hope that the biggest parties take responsibility and understand that Italy is at stake. But that is only a hope.

Giovanni del Re is a correspondent for the Catholic Italian newspaper, Avvenire. He writes from Brussels on topics related to the European Union.

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