Who is to blame for the Genoa bridge collapse?

Finger pointing is dominating the political debate in Italy following the collapse of the motorway bridge in Genoa. Economic Development Minister Di Maio has blamed the motorway operator Autostrade while Interior Minister Salvini complained that EU budget constraints were making Italy unsafe. Commentators say the Italian state is also to blame for the tragedy in which 40 people died.

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Jutarnji list (HR) /

An extraordinarily dumb state

The consequences of the bridge collapse in Genoa will cost many times more than a new bridge would have, Jutanji list estimates:

“Without a motorway to the port and without the railway lines that run under the ruins, it will be difficult and expensive to get oil through to northern Europe, and the same goes for the tourists heading for the city, for Sardinia or for cruises that start in Genoa. ... Only an extraordinarily dumb state could risk five billion to save two billion, which is what a new bridge would have cost even if it had been paved with marble.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Lack of meritocracy driving the best away

The Genoa disaster lays bare a fundamental problem in Italian society, The Guardian concludes:

“Even though it has produced fine civil engineers, without a meritocracy they rarely get the gigs. Contracts go not to the most competent but to the best connected. Before Genoa's bridge was even started, another bridge by the designer Riccardo Morandi, in Venezuela, had partially collapsed. ...The lack of meritocracy is as felt today as in the 1960s: so many of the finest doctors, scientists and financiers are émigrés. Italy is being shaped not just by the arrival of immigrants but by the departure of its own people.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Something is rotten in the state of Italy

After the fatal accidents of farmworkers, the bridge collapse is the second tragedy to hit Italy within a short period of time. The two incidents have a common denominator, historian Ernesto Galli della Loggia writes in Corriere della Sera:

“It has to do with the weakening and indeed the virtual disappearance of the state, the consequence of which is the neglect of one of its key tasks, namely to carry out inspections and impose penalties. ... It's well known that the Italians have always left much to be desired when it comes to abiding by the law. However, the country has become so used to the lack of inspections and penalties and increasing impunity that the problem has now become the very heart of our nation's anthropology. ... The upshot is a social atmosphere that could turn Italy into an absolute anomaly in the context of western Europe.”

Libération (FR) /

Austerity plans now all the scarier

The state must not shirk its responsibilities with cutbacks and the privatisation of infrastructure, Libération admonishes:

“This tragedy hits home because bridges are part of our daily lives. We use them without a second thought, convinced of their reliability and reassured by these millions of tons of concrete. ... If even concrete is no longer reliable, what is? What's more, at a time when almost all the states of Europe are trying to cut their budgets to save money here or there and often seek to transfer state responsibilities to the private sector, one feels a shiver of fear at the idea that 70 percent of Italy's 15,000 bridges are over 40 years old, and that seven percent of French bridges are considered at risk today.”

The Economist (GB) /

Reinforced concrete a global safety risk

Reinforced concrete structures like the collapsed bridge in Genoa are showing signs of wear and tear in many places across the globe, The Economist warns:

“It is not just in Italy that questions should be asked about monitoring and maintenance regimes. Bridges throughout Europe, America and Asia are all showing signs of deterioration. As long ago as 1999, one study showed that 30 percent of road bridges surveyed in Europe had some sort of defect, often involving corrosion of their reinforcement. ... With the world covered in reinforced concrete, this is a problem that spans countries. The failure of the Morandi bridge shows that it must not be ignored.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Italy is a prisoner of the euro

Italy is paying the price for membership of the Eurozone combined with big debts, The Daily Telegraph comments:

“And just as it is pretty common for apartment blocks, especially south of Rome, to explode as a result of gas leaks, so it is not unusual for Italy’s decaying infrastructure to cause appalling loss of life. ... To sort out the infrastructure would require truckloads of borrowed cash, but Italy is a prisoner of the euro and its public debt is already 132 per cent of GDP (the fourth highest in the world among major countries), costing €80 billion (£71 billion) a year in interest.”

444.hu (HU) /

A scapegoat for state's mistakes

Website 444.hu, on the other hand, finds Salvini's attempt to blame the EU's austerity dictates for the collapse of the bridge absurd:

“Italy has just received the EU's approval to spend 10 billion euros on developing its infrastructure. The EU even stressed how necessary these investments were. In Genoa too this has long been an issue and the Morandi bridge was also mentioned. The loudest opponent of investment in infrastructure was in fact the Five-Star Movement. ... Italy's political class, of all political colours, must stop always trying to blame others for their own political failures, whether it's the migrants, the EU or the euro.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Reprehensible exploitation of mourning

For De Morgen Salvini's accusations are in the worst possible taste:

“Even before the victims have been identified Salvini has found the culprit: Europe, for who else could it be? What kind of little person, little fiend, would exploit this time of mourning for their own little political war? Salvini's explanation is ridiculous, oversimplified and aimed solely at scoring a few points with voters. Indeed, right-wing extremist populism with its short legs has made a full comeback to Italy. We have already written it and we're writing it again: Matteo Salvini is proof that the far-right gang remains a gang even after being sworn into government.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Motorways should be renationalised

Italy needs to nationalise its infrastructure, 24 Chasa stresses:

“Italian motorway toll charges are among the highest in Europe. The 250-kilometre stretch from Rome to Florence, for example, costs 18 euros. This money goes straight into the pockets of the Benetton family. According to Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio they earn billions of euros and pay very little in taxes in Luxembourg. ... One solution to the problem would be to put the motorways in the hands of the state once more and work out a kind of Marshall Plan aimed at making the Italian infrastructure safe again. Much of it was built in the 1960s and 70s. ... Before that can be done, however, you'd better just cross yourself three times when you drive over a bridge in Italy.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Italy no longer believes in the future

The country is collapsing because it is resisting progress, Corriere della Sera laments:

“Italy is a country that was built in the 1960s, has been left to its own devices since the 1990s and began to cave in ten years ago. And the reason for this is that we no longer believe in progress. Everything seems more important to us: the environment, austerity, citizens' committees, the Court of Audit, the fight against waste and corruption. There's always a good reason to do nothing. A sad testimony to this structural failure is the political polemic that has broken out as the bodies of the dead are still being recovered from the wreckage. ... The problem is that for many years neither maintenance work nor major projects have been carried out. ... By ceasing to plan for the future we lose the know-how we had to manage what we already have.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Those in charge ignored the danger

All the warnings went unheeded, La Repubblica rails:

“The fact that the bridge was no longer in the same condition as it was fifty years ago was so obvious that at the end of April motorway operator Autostrade put out a call for applications worth 20 million euros for 'structural reconstruction work' on the viaduct. ... It was to be made more sound and secure, which means that it was neither sufficiently secure nor sound. ... Added to the age of the bridge and its critical condition, that would have justified comprehensive maintenance work. Notwithstanding all the assurances we have heard in the last few hours, an investigation must be carried out to determine whether these special maintenance measures were indeed carried out and what role the estimated costs potentially played here.”

Westfälische Nachrichten (DE) /

Don't get annoyed at car jams at road works

The Westfälische Nachrichten wants to send a message to all car drivers:

“The accident has not only ended the lives of many people in Genoa and changed the lives of their family and friends. It affects us too. In the next months we will all feel a little uneasy going over large and small bridges and feel a sense of relief when - like countless times before - nothing happens. We certainly have plenty of reasons for serious concern. Only twelve percent of the almost 40,000 bridges in Germany are in good or very good condition. Almost the same percentage are in an inadequate condition, and 800 are in unsatisfactory condition. Perhaps instead of being annoyed the next time we're stuck in traffic leading up to road works on the motorway, we'll be glad that at last something is being done for our safety.”