Friday, November 1, 2013

Open Season

I stopped posting about European politics in this space after the Italian electoral results shook out last March, in part because the failure of the Left, of Vendola's SEL, of anything like a republican consensus, was so dispiriting. I have to confess, I greatly under-appreciated Enrico Letta, the compromise choice for Premier after Luigi Bersani fell on his sword, and I expected his government to crumble within a few months. But here he is, still holding onto a tenuous majority, pronouncing with characteristic circumspection and intelligence on the dangers confronting Europe in next May's EU Parliamentary elections. So I'll take him at face value, and consider the interview he gave today as the opening round in what I intend to be a thorough set of notes as that complex, multiform, and quite fascinating electoral cycle unfolds.

Letta is concerned, and so am I, that anti-European nationalists could win 25% of the vote in a number of important countries, including the UKIP in the UK, the FN in France, and yes, the MVS in his own. He shrewdly observed that the concerted continent-wide euro-skeptic campaign shaping up--Marine LePen's visit to Gert Wilders in the Netherlands a few weeks ago sent a strong signal--would mark a major step in the europeanization of what has often been seen as an assortment of national elections for the EU Parliament: a severe irony, as he points out, that hostility to the Union would become its rallying cry. 

But it remains true that the strongest Europeanist declarations by people like Letta who hold national office risk being read as oblique interventions in their own national politics, and Letta's wide-ranging interview is no diffferent. In calling for a strengthened 'United States of Europe' with a new euro-zone economic commissioner, Letta is also beckoning to Italian progressives who voted for Grillo's MVS last February to return to his own PD fold--his only real hope to achieve a stable majority. So yes, one big, fascinating election campaign for Europe's huge parliament is starting to engage, and already the 28 flavors of European political life are starting to advertise themselves. Tasty!


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