Tag Archives: Greece

A decision between fear and rage

Why today’s Irish European Fiscal Pact referendum should be carefully observed

During the past weeks, we have seen two important signals which European citizens have given to their governments: in France, Hollande’s victory  is a clear sign of the will of change that strongly spread throughout the country, asking for more social justice and a stronger welfare state.

In Greece, the rising of the parties who declared themselves against the fiscal pact wanted by Germany made the creation of a new government unfeasible. These two political occurrences have been correctly interpreted as a wind of change that begun to blow on the European political scenario: the citizens demand a new approach towards the crisis, different from the one that both Chancellor Merkel and former French President Sarkozy presented as the only possible way out.

Today (31st May 2012), another important decision has to be taken: Ireland will decide whether to ratify the European Fiscal Compact or not. Irish government, following advice from the Attorney General, has decided to hold a referendum on this point, and it is a only case in Europe. In these hours, Irish citizens are taking a decision which appears to be fundamental for the future economic and political balance inside the Union. An agreement on the Compact would mean a strong comeback of Ireland’s will to remain a permanent member of the Union, after the decision not to ratify the Lisbon pact in 2008. Moreover, it would be a little help for Merkel’s austerity plan, which has been weakened by the the results in Greece and France.

Avoiding to draw dangerous comparisons, we should nevertheless notice how the Irish economic situation is close to the one that occurred in Greece some months ago. The country can survive thanks to the 85 billion Euro bailout loans, allocated by the European Stability Fund after the main banks went bankrupt. According to the Irish observers, these similarity will bring the “Yes” supporters to victory. Hugo Brady, Irland-Expert of the Centre for European Reform, has stated that the referendum is “a decision between fear and rage”. This means that, even though a considerable amount of Irish citizens is angry towards the new fiscal measures that the austerity plan will imply, the fear of being involved in a downward spiral similar to the one that brought Greece on the verge of ruin is even stronger.

According to the latest polls, the 39% of the citizens is going to vote “Yes”, the 30% “No”, the 22% is still undecided. We know that in these times the voters’ mood can be highly fickle: that’s why it is not possible to hazard a prevision. My personal opinion is that Irish citizen will decide to ratify the Fiscal Compact, and fear will defeat rage. The main reason is that a possible “No” would not be seen as a request for a different way out of the crisis, like in Greece and France, but as a motion of no confidence towards the Irish future in Europe: but right now Irish people know how much they need the European support in order to survive.

Riccardo Motti

Update 03/06/2012: the “Yes” has won with a wide margin

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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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