There is apprehension in Berlin and Paris about the fate of the Recovery Fund and one of the reasons is the Italian piece. The Recovery Fund is the tool to get the “winning” European Union out of the serious economic and health crisis triggered by the pandemic, that is, able to face China, which is recovering, and to present itself as a solid partner to Joe’s America Biden.
If, on the other hand, the Recovery Fund were to fail the objective of economic reconstruction, Europe would end up being easy prey to the global challenge between the US and China. It is therefore a strategic, existential crossroads, on which the very fate of the European Union, scourged by Covid-19, depends. “We can come out losers or winners” is heard repeated, from Paris to Berlin, underlining how opposing the Recovery Fund are precisely the “enemies of Europe” or the populists: starting with the political leaders of Budapest and Warsaw, protagonists of a tough tug of war over the rule of law which threatens, at the end of 2020, to sink the agreement reached between the partners.
In this new chapter of the duel between those who want to relaunch and those who want to bury Europe, our country is in the spotlight. The reason is that Italy receives the largest share of the allocated funds – 208 out of 750 billion1 – and without the success of its reconstruction it will be the whole European Union that will emerge weakened, not only in terms of financial but also of political credibility.
For Italy, the crossroads of European reconstruction, the priorities are four: support for the families of the victims of Covid-19; relaunch of economic growth; increase in the space of rights; strengthening of the Eurozone. Support for the families of the victims is urgent and necessary because the nearly 130,000 deaths we add up are the highest price of lives the nation has paid since the end of World War II. There is no corner of the country without grief. The invisible enemy of the pandemic that attacked us by surprise in February 2020 brought death to our homes in a ferocious way: grandparents died without being able to greet their children and grandchildren, doctors and nurses fell to help the infected, young and old have seen their lungs devoured by the virus without being able to do anything but wait for their own end.
Thousands of families have had their dearest loved ones attacked, upset, torn, accumulating deep wounds that it is everyone’s responsibility to face with seriousness and respect. Every life is worth a whole world and nothing can give it back to the family, but it is up to the government to take care of the relatives of the victims to help them recover with effective and rapid measures. To make them feel the human solidarity of the national community to which they belong and to include them in the socio-economic reconstruction of the country.
The relaunch of the national economy is the backbone of the reconstruction. The 208 billion of the European Recovery Fund are the resources that the government has begun to draw on with a flurry of projects, but for this tool to work it will have to be able to lead the country into modernity, that is: more infrastructures for the territory, more innovation in companies, more connectivity for citizens.
To succeed it is not enough to want it, one must have the courage to dare to identify and attack ancient but still immanent obstacles such as bureaucracy, corruption, nepotism and lack of responsibility. Not to mention the organized crime that is trying to exploit the pandemic and the consequent weakening of the state to extend all sorts of illicit trafficking.
The creativity of our companies, the flexibility of citizens in facing the challenges and the quality of Made in Italy that excels in the world in the most diverse sectors, from mechanics to food, can play the advantage of reconstruction. The Recovery Fund can become a tricolor network among Italian excellences to attract foreign investments and create a formidable induced for the entire country. But a competent, aggressive and lean management will be needed. And not a prisoner of the vetoes of politics or of the different nomenklatures that aspire resources for the sole purpose of self-preservation at the expense of the well-being of others. What happened during the pandemic with the delays in payments of the supplementary funds in derogation, the dysfunctions in the support to companies in difficulty and the obstacles to receiving all sorts of aid is a wake-up call on the measures to be taken to make citizens perceive the State closer and not farther.
It is a short step from here to the area of rights. A democracy is strengthened every time it identifies new rights to be defended, strengthened. And the pandemic gives us numerous categories that need protection: from those who have lost their jobs to those who have to retrain their business, from the elderly forced to be alone to pupils deprived of presence in the classroom for too long, from increased gender differences in employment to the need for digital to carry out all sorts of activities. That is, the spectrum of inequalities and hardship has expanded, diversified and requires a long-term strategic response: new social protections for the new categories of disadvantaged people, whose dimensions make the concept of twentieth-century poverty pale.
But that’s not all, the relaunch of the Eurozone is also up for grabs: the only way for the EU to emerge victorious from the challenge with the pandemic is to quickly carry out a reconstruction led by the major economies – Germany, France, Italy and Spain – to achieve Ursula von der Leyen’s European Commission objectives on climate, innovation and digital, aimed at imposing an accelerated transformation on every industrial sector.
By overcoming this challenge, Europe will be able to emerge more united and solid, that is, capable of repelling the onslaught of populism and sovereignty of all colors and nationalities. But it is a goal that cannot be achieved without the strong, total and convinced participation of our country due to the economic weight we have in the EU. In short, just as the pandemic forced Italy to prove resilient to protect itself, reconstruction requires us to attack the taboos of the political-economic system in order to be successful. If we fail we will be sucked into one of the vortexes that history sometimes generates, but if we succeed no goal will be too ambitious.
All this explains the determination with which the Head of State, Sergio Mattarella, has constantly repeated throughout the period of the pandemic appeals for national unity among citizens, for cohesion between political forces and adherence to European principles. It is up to Mario Draghi, the incumbent premier, to lead such a reconstruction process. In the clear knowledge that this is a ruthless and forced stage leadership test. How has it ever happened since the postwar period.
gives “The battlefield. Because the Great Game passes through Italy“By Maurizio Molinari, La Nave di Teseo, 2021, pages 272, euro 18