Tag Archives: Germany

Germany and a new Europe

The political significance of Moody’s downgrade

The last week could have been lethal for Europe’s future. The collapse of the Italian and Spanish stock exchange, toghether with the downgrade (from “stable” to “negative”) of Germany’s outlook decided by the American rating agency Moody’s are a powerful warning to the European Union and Germany.

In future German Bundesanleihen (government bonds) could not be considered as secure as they were during the last turbulents months, in which they have been seen by the investors as a safe shore inside the economic storm that hit the European nations. This is the silent message that Moody’s decision sent to the German establishment. On the other hand Wolfgang Schäuble too, the Minister of finance in Merkel’s government, has made clear in differents occasions that an eventual collapse of Euro and a deepen of the government debt’s crisis will mightly afflict Germany’s economy.

Compared to the scenario that we’ve seen during the last months, the most recent one is different in a sense at least: the sellings are now hitting not only the markets of specific nations (even though they were focused especially on Italy and Spain), but also the Eurozone in general. The cause of this phenomenon has to be investigated beyond the financial speculation, which however plays a part in the game. The main reason that’s crushing Europe’s financial system is the loss of confidence among the international investors, who are now scared to put their money in any European government bonds. Everybody saw Greek and Spanish citizens running to the banks, withdrawing as much cash as possible: easy to imagine that a private investor in Japan or an American pension fund will choose other countries to put his own money in.

This is the reason why Moody’s downgrade is very interesting from a political perspective too. One point that European politicians should keep in their minds is the extreme carefulness they ought to use when issuing statements about Europe’s future. Finding a shared point of view is something Europe can avoid no more. A couple of hours before last week’s stock exchange crack Phillip Rösler, German Deputy Federal Chancellor, stated that Greece will not be able to fulfil his duties, and will consequently be forced to leave the Eurozone. This sounded as a clear denial of what Mario Draghi, ECB’s Governor, had made clear the day before: “Euro cannot be renounced. There is no possible comeback to national values”. It is evident that such a chaos is precisely what European politicians must avoid, in order to restore confidence among international investors. This lack of trust between European nations risk to neutralize the positive effects of the sweeping reforms that has been adopted by the western governments, often causing a strong discontent in the pubblic opinion.

Europe is now at a crossroads: either the national leaders collaborate, embracing a common point of view, and work together for the financial union to become a polical one (which means that the debt of the nations who are in trouble must be shared by every Eurozone’s country), or they should declare the failure of Europe-project. In the first case, the taking on of such a responsibility would probably encorage the investors to recover the lost confidence in the European market: the rise of Eurozone’s markets that we have seen since last Friday (27th July) is in this sense a direct consequence of the new statement issued by Mario Draghi and Angela Merkel, who made known a strong and shared will to save Euro and not lo leave any Eurozone’s country alone. If Europe is unite, even the usual speculation can not be too harmful.

In the second case, the widespread discontent among the citizens and the increasing poverty will probably bring Europe into a political scenario affected by a dangerous instability, in which the populist propaganda could easily find many ears eager to hear their slogans. If we want to avoid such situation, is time for Germany too to declare an undisputed will to save Europe, a project that many Merkel’s predecessors have contributed to build.

Riccardo Motti

Top left: Eurozone countries’ rating, copyright Die Welt; centre: Phillip Rösler, copyright talk.onevietnam.org; bottom left: Draghi and Merkel, copyright linkiesta.it

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Crisis and gunshots

Political violence makes a comeback in Italy

Shots, screams, blood on the ground. It’s Monday 7th May in Genova, Italy. The man who lies on the ground is Roberto Adinolfi, managing director of Ansaldo Nucleare, a nuclear company which is part of Finmeccanica Group, big name of Italian’s Defence industry. He suffered severe knee wounds, caused by three gunshots fired by unknown perpetrators: this is a criminal action that is known in Italy under the name of “gambizzazione” (kneecap). It consist in shooting at a person’s legs in order either to punish him or to give a public message. This practice has been typical of the so-called “anni di piombo”, a period between the 70’s and the 80’s in which an escalation of political violence has caused an high number of homicides and acts of terrorism, ended in the kidnapping and execution of the former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro at the hand of Brigate Rosse, a pseudo-communist terrorist organisation.

Even though it would be misleading to draw a direct comparison between that dark period of Italian history and the present situation, some similarities brought Italy back to a 40 years old scenario. The responsibility for the attack has been in fact claimed by an anarchic group called “Olga”, which also made clear that other demonstrative actions are going to be carried out. Moreover, in the country a strong resentment is growing against the State Tax Agency, Equitalia, which is seen as an evil “Nottingham sheriff” and considered the moral responsible for the many cases of suicide that happened in the last months. Most of them were workers, small businessmen and freelancers crippled by debts towards Equitalia. Obviously, to blame such an agency for those deaths is like declaring that the guilt for a shooting is carried by the pistol, and not by the person who pulled the trigger. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure: there is a concrete risk of a dramatic escalation, which brought Anna Cancellieri, Italian Minister of Interior, to declare that the army is going to garrison a couple of strategic points.

This night at 4.30 a Molotov cocktail has been thrown against one Equitalia office in Livorno, and on 4th May one man with a gun held an Equitalia’s employee hostage for more than 6 hours, after bursting in his bureau. According to the Italian police, this situation requires a very careful attention, because it is already known that there is a strong connection between Greek anarchists groups and similar Italian organisation. The choice of “Olga” as the name of the group that attacked Adinolfi is in this sense not casual: so it is called one of the five Greek anarchists who have been imprisoned last March on charge of terrorism. After that imprisonment, a document written by one of the convicts has been able to come out from the prison illegally, in order to be translated and put out on the website owned by the “Conspiracy Cells of Fire”, an anarchic organisation. “Let’s attack the managers” is one of the instructions given to the “comrades of the outside”. So it looks like there’s at least one international group of armed anarchists which can be a threat for national security. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The situation is actually more complicated: until now the economical crisis which is afflicting the capitalistic system has been faced by the most influential European governments with measures that are thought to help banks and big companies, in spite of giving to the people a new hope for the future. This dynamic caused a strong disaffection towards the usual ways to be engaged in politics, which are now widely considered ineffective. The first remarkable effect is the rising of the parties which have always been on the edge of the political scenario, either because of their unclear affiliation, like the Piraten Partei in Germany and Movimento 5 stelle in Italy, or because of their extremism, like the Front National in France and E.LA.M. (Golden Dawn) in Greece. The second effect is the returning on the scene of such terrorist groups which has been active in the past, and have patiently waited until the economic and social situation allowed them to commit their usual demonstrative actions. Even though there are no clear signs that such actions can bring more people to a subversive cause, it’s a risk that European democracies should not take. Personally I don’t think that police and the army’s array can be considered as effective measures to resolve this problem: the only way to keep people far from terrorism is to give them the possibility to believe in a future in which the sustainability of the economic system won’t be just an engaging slogan, but a concrete reality.

Riccardo Motti

Top left: the crime scene, copyright Giornalettismo.com; Centre right: soldier in garrison, copyright panorama.it; Bottom left: The symbol of  the anarchist group “Olga”

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