Former Italian Prime Minister and President of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, Massimo D’Alema is considered a prominent, Italian leftist. He spoke to euronews about life after Berlusconi and the eurozone’s troubles.
euronews: “Italy had a shake up towards the end of 2011. Since then, it has slowly recovered but at great cost. The austerity plan has meant higher taxes, pension reform and now labour reform – with incentives for hiring and measures for layoffs. You’re a leftist but what are the right answers?”
Massimo D’Alema: “Well I have to say that Italy has taken a very important step forward since the replacement of the Berlusconi government. This, for Italy and for the eurozone, was very good news, because Italy was not responsible for the crisis, the government was.”
euronews: “But with how it is today, including the employment reforms, by introducing more flexibility without necessarily strengthening the safety net in a country where there is no minimum wage, where unemployment benefits are very limited and where the social protection is dysfunctional, are there still risks?”
Massimo D’Alema: “The problem was the huge division of the labour market between workers and between the young people who have security and the ones who are in a more precarious situation – with no rights and no protection. So, the reform has two sides, one means there’s more flexible work for protected workers but on the other side, there’s now more protection for young people who had nothing. I don’t think the problem of the division of the labour market has been resolved but the reform has allowed it to take a step forward.“
euronews: “Italian markets have generally taken less of a battering of late but recently, borrowing rates have started to rebound and Italy is overloaded with debt, 120 percent of its GDP is debt and it is in recession. Do you still think Italy is out of the woods?”
Massimo D’Alema: “No, I think we should realise that we have a Europe-wide problem, it is not just Italy. This is what has been happening recently throughout the European markets.”
euronews: “But Italy is part of the weak …”
Massimo D’Alema: “Yes of course, of course, Italy is part of the problem but two things must be emphasised, first, Italy is a rich country, and the wealth of Italians is much higher than the debt. A lot higher than the debt. This means that we have resources inside the country. Secondly, it was shown in the past with the centre-left Prodi and Ciampi governments that it is possible to reduce public spending. We have reduced public spending five points lower than the right-wing government, without touching basic social rights.“
euronews: “There will be elections, in your country next year, just as in Germany. There will also be elections in France. Do you believe there should be a change in these three countries?”
Massimo D’Alema: “Yes of course. I know that markets do not like elections, because sometimes it seems that democracy is an unbearable weight for the financial markets. But I think it’s not the markets which decide people’s destinies. Yes, I think we need change and I think we can change because the three major European countries, France, Italy, and Germany, together represent 200 million EU citizens. That’s out of the 330 million in the eurozone. So these are really important countries.”
euronews: “Would it be enough to offset a Europe that would still be dominated by the right?”
Massimo D’Alema: “This is not true, it is not true because I think things are changing. In Slovakia, a small country, the left won. In Slovenia the left won but yes, Europe has been dominated by the right. We can see the results… We need a European strategy for growth, and that means European investment, Eurobonds…”
euronews: “That’s to say?”
Massimo D’Alema: “We need a European guarantee on the debt. It does not mean that each country must pay this debt but the strength of Europe can mean lower interest rates, freeing up resources for growth without spending too much money on financial speculation.
euronews:“So this is something that can not be done as long as Angela Merkel is around…”
Massimo D’Alema: “Yes. I think she has been very negative for Europe. Merkel represents a very selfish Europe.”
euronews: “So, a question on another subject. A year ago, 63 people fleeing Lybia died of hunger and thirst in a boat adrift because nobody came to their rescue. The Italians knew and did nothing. There has been a report by the Council of Europe, which also calls NATO into question. How did we come to let people die at sea by failing to let them onto Italy’s soil? “
Massimo D’Alema: “I think, and I said it even then, that the immigration policy conducted by the Berlusconi government was really a black time in our history. As was the agreement between Italy and the Gadaffi government to return the illegal migrants. It is possible to return illegal immigrants but the problem is that before returning them, you should check if they are refugees who have the right to stay. “
euronews: “More generally, is there more of an obvious shift in the discourse of Europe? The values it proclaims and how it treats migrants and asylum seekers? Italy is a particularly bad offender, do you see this contradiction?”
Massimo D’Alema: “Yes. I agree with you and in addition I think we need immigrants. If we want to keep a balance between the youth and our ageing population, we will need immigrants in the coming years. The European Commission itself said that we need roughly 30 million immigrants over the next 15 years. So I think we should have a European policy of immigration and right now we do not have that but if we’re talking about Italy, look at Malta? They have never had one. When there is a boat, the only thing they do is to point the way to Italy.“
D'Alema: Merkel represents a 'selfish Europe'