Conte to become Italy's new prime minister

Italy's President Sergio Mattarella has tasked Giuseppe Conte, a jurist with little experience in politics, with forming a government, freeing the way for the future prime minister to form a cabinet made up of ministers from anti-EU parties the Five Star Movement and the Northern League. Commentators speculate on the impact of this decision for Europe.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

Citizens can sit back and relax

In his first statement the professor of law said he wanted to be the Italian people's advocate and defender. But with these words Conte is absolving the citizens of their responsibility, La Repubblica's editor-in-chief Mario Calabresi complains:

“These words are already a political manifesto. ... The citizens are no longer being called on to do their bit and give their best. Instead they have been promised the start of an era in which harmony returns and all the problems vanish as if by magic. And if difficulties arise, as usual those who are against change will be to blame.”

La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

A welcome confrontation

The fact that Italy, a founding member of the EU, is now governed by an EU-critical coalition will give the bloc a valuable boost, La Tribune de Genève believes:

“This confrontation is welcome. For too long national and European institutions have shown how ineffective they are at solving the EU's collective problems. This can no longer continue. Three fronts are already emerging. Rome wants to spend more while cutting taxes, endangering its own financial stability and that of the entire Eurozone. It wants to toughen migration policy and stresses the indifference of its partners. And it wants to lift the sanctions against Russia. In so doing it is exacerbating the divides in a Europe that is already schizophrenic on this point.”

hvg (HU) /

A pioneering role in European politics?

The political experiment in Italy could be copied in other parts of Europe, HVG comments:

“The emerging Italian government is hugely significant because even if its politics often appear entertaining when viewed from abroad, Italy has pioneered numerous political developments in Europe. Both state institutions and fascism are examples of movements that first emerged in Italy and then spread across Europe. ... And now Italy is engaging in a new experiment. This time the new element isn't Lega's anti-migrant sentiment. What's really new is the blend of grassroots democracy and authoritarianism: a historic challenge for parliamentary democracy.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Hanging by a thread

Political columnist Massimo Franco sees the danger of a new election looming not least because of the personnel decisions being made in Rome. In Corriere della Sera he writes:

“The anti-euro views of Professor Paolo Savona [tipped for finance minister] are no less worrying than Conte's lack of political experience and disputed academic title. ... We can only hope that President Mattarella will manage in the next few hours to make clear to his dialogue partners what is at stake here and to discourage those who, seduced by the prospect of new elections, can barely resist the temptation to torpedo the whole deal [as Matteo Salvini has threatened to do].”

France Inter (FR) /

The EU should be quiet for now

The Northern League-M5S government will soon collapse due to its own mistakes, Bernard Guetta writes on the website of public radio broadcaster France Inter, and advises critics to be patient:

“Nothing will be simple, but if we want to prevent the EU from self-destructing the Commission and the European capitals must refrain from condemning the emerging Italian government right from the start. This government must not be allowed to hold anyone but itself responsible for the difficulties it will face. On the contrary, we must wish it well and patiently wait for Italy to get back on its feet.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Berlin still hasn't understood Europe's crisis

Germany in particular needs to take action in view of the situation in Italy, Der Tagesspiegel explains:

“The long-standing Athens drama can't be repeated with Rome, because if Europe's third-largest economy crashes the EU could collapse. It's understandable: Italy, the country with the longest Mediterranean coast, feels it has been left in the lurch with the migration coming ashore on its beaches. And the roughly 50 percent youth unemployment rate in the south cries out for investment in education and work. President Macron has understood the European crisis but Chancellor Merkel hasn't given any answers so far. In Italy, the Germans have long since come to be seen as the greedy beneficiaries of an austerity policy. At others' expense. Only those who take this criticism seriously can in turn demand more self-criticism from the Italians. In order to call for truly necessary reforms in Rome.”

Index (HU) /

Bad news from Rome

The Italians have destroyed any hope that the EU will soon be navigating less troubled waters, Index notes:

“In March the Italians elected a populist joke of a party and a far-right party that not too long ago was campaigning for the north of Italy to split off from the rest. And these two - so it seems - are now to form a coalition. What does it mean that Europe's fourth-biggest economy is not governed by people who don't repay the state debt and want to increase government spending although the country has the second-largest public debt in Europe. Moreover, this government wants to deport half a million asylum seekers in one go, and is also wooing Vladimir Putin. This doesn't bode well at all for the EU.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Prime minister without any leeway

Giuseppe Conte is only there to serve the bosses of the coalition parties, La Repubblica's editor-in-chief Mario Calabresi believes:

“He is a prime minister who will be obliged to implement a programme that he hasn't written with a team he hasn't chosen. One can't avoid asking what kind of room for manoeuvre he can have, perched as he is between Salvini and Di Maio. ... How will Giuseppe Conte conduct himself at the G7 meeting in Canada [in June] or at the European summits if he can't say or decide anything without consulting the coalition's main players? ... It's enough for him to stick to the mandate the people have approved, the coalition will say. This is the only legitimation. But day-to-day reality will raise problems that this nebulous and ambiguous pact doesn't deal with in any way.”

Kurier (AT) /

Provided the EU is destroyed

As the senior coalition partner in the Italian government the League will weaken the EU, Kurier concludes:

“The Five Star Movement copied part of the election programme from Wikipedia, promised a basic income for everyone and is led by the aimless, absent comedian Beppe Grillo. The Northern League, by contrast, is now an established party in the north which together with Marine Le Pen and others is out to weaken the EU. ... The gifts that M5S and the League have now agreed on are to be paid not by the Italians but by the whole of the EU, by even higher debt and debt relief from the ECB. This won't happen but hostility towards the EU in Italy will increase. That's what the League wants - to somehow destroy the EU.”

De Morgen (BE) /

A way for Rome to shed the euro on the sly

The new coalition in Rome wants to pay the state's arrears with short-dated government notes known in Italy as mini-BOTS. This policy carries major risks, warns economics professor Paul De Grauwe in his column for De Morgen:

“Monetary systems based on two parallel currencies are not stable. This has to do with Gresham's Law: ... 'Bad money drives out good money'. ... If the Italian state issues too many mini-BOTs the value of this parallel currency will drop. More and more Italians will start paying with this lower-valued currency and saving the 'real euros'. Fewer and fewer real euros will be in circulation. That will be the moment when Italy can leave the euro. I can't shake the impression that that's the real intention of the leaders of the new Italian government.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

An opportunity to put Europe on a new footing

Hakin el Karoui counters in L'Opinion that a crisis between Rome and its EU partners could be beneficial for Europe:

“The crisis in Italy could be a chance to show that Europe can't be saved by patchwork monetary policies or legal tricks. The Eurozone's economic system is dysfunctional: geographic polarisation is pulling capital and the creation of value northwards. The south, meanwhile, doesn't create enough value, and that has an immediate impact on public accounts. The Germans proved in 2011 that they were ready to change their position, even while presenting them as set in stone. Paradoxically, the emerging Italian crisis could be an ideal opportunity to put Europe on a new footing. Let's hope Emmanuel Macron can do just that.”