Comedian Beppe Grillo has shaken up Italian politics, with his 5 Star Movement party (Movimento 5 Stelle) winning local and administrative polls in the Italian city of Parma and several smaller towns. Euronews met him in Tuscany.
Beppe Grillo: “The media show pictures of me taken during my shows, when I of course I’m overacting. Because that’s my job. I have to get the audience’s attention. I can’t whisper. Look at this frontpage. He looks serious and I look crazy. They put these examples of my facial expressions on a front page and then they write: “Would you let your country be controlled by someone like Grillo?” So everyone says: “Of course not!”
So how have the mainstream media and other political parties reacted to his political success? Is he serious?
Beppe Grillo: “They still don’t know how to react to what is happening. It is not a political revolution, more like a cultural one. The real leader is the movement and the movement’s programme rather than any physical person. People should start voting for a programme not a person.”
But having having attacked professional politicians is Grillo’s movement ready to shoulder social responsibilities and manage real cities?
Beppe Grillo: “Taking responsibility is a marvellous thing. We want to. But we are talking about citizens voting for other citizens who will enter local parliaments and the national government. Our country is almost economically ruined. We will take on responsibilities but we will also say: “We are not magicians, but let’s see what we can do.” I have toured all of Europe and met young people that have left Italy. There are millions of them. They are educated, with MBAs, and they say, “We cannot come home under these economic circumstances,” but they are almost in tears as they speak. We should give these people a chance. If we start to bring people rather than parties into the national parliament, if we get elected specialists in energy, in transport, in waste, if we bring to the national parliament citizens that have a real and daily relationship with the community… then I bet our well educated young people will come back to Italy. After Romania we have the biggest diaspora in Europe. We export well educated people and import less educated workers.”
The 5 Star Movement’s manifesto is on line. Beppe Grillo is not alone with his ideas. Many other European political parties criticise European politics.
Beppe Grillo: “Our movement has filled a very dangerous vacuum. We are talking about Greek extremists, about Marine Le Pen’s movement in France, about Hungarian far right movements. These kind of Fascist movements flourish in a sociopolitical vacuum. Think about the fact that Italy “invented” Fascism and we have exported it throughout the world. And today, in Italy, instead of having Fascism the vacuum is filled with citizens with no criminal records.”
Is Europe dead? Is there any common political future for the continent or is the political end of the European Union nigh?
Beppe Grillo: “Europe was a marvelous dream invented by Jacques Delors and Willy Brandt but it has failed by trying to putting together economies which were very far away the one from another. This, and also a currency which shouldn’t have been the same for all. Two currencies would have been better. Otherwise Angela Merkel and Germany could go back to the Deutsche mark and we will have a weaker euro used in South European countries like Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, even Ireland. We could form a “different” eurozone. Let’s sit down and discuss this. We have nothing to lose. We have already lost 30% of our economy since joining the euro. Our economy is imploding because of the lack of confidence in the future. Firms are failing and the national debt grows instead of shrinking.”
And what does Beppe Grillo think of ex Italian leader, Silvio Berlusconi?
Beppe Grillo: “Berlusconi seemed to be eternal. He left only a short time ago but he still seems like ancient history. He looks like an even older guy. He doesn’t use make up any more. Berlusconi is just something which doesn’t mean anything anymore. He achieved success thanks to his tv channels. Once his channels no longer had the monopoly, he fell beause he had built nothing during his public life.”
But even the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano says that he’s not impressed by Grillo.
Beppe Grillo: “When he talks about Grillo-ism, or about demagogues, he should be careful because a president should be neutral. We have now 250 local administrators elected by citizens. He was chosen by parties, he wasn’t elected by individual citizens.”
But politics is expensive. So how is Movimento 5 Stelle funded?
Beppe Grillo: “We have refused public money. We had the right to get 1.7 million euros. It was our right to get this money but we said no. We have two party members in Emilia Romagna’s and Piemonte’s regional parliaments. These people have reduced their salaries from 10/12,000 euros per month to 2,500 euros per month. This is already a good salary for a 25-28 year old person. We have already done it.”
So what does Grillo want? What does he expect from the ruling politicians, the people he says are responsible for the situation in Italy?
Beppe Grillo: “If you will let me say it on Euronews, because they won’t let me speak on Italian channels, my message to professional politicians is: citizens, thanks to the net, remember. TV has no memory, but people have. We do remember who you are. You cannot leave pretending that everything is all right. Do not think about taking a holiday on a Carribean island. Before you go, return the money which you have stolen with some interest and you will be judged by a jury of citizens with no criminal records, and they will tell you what kind of sentence you will be sentenced to.”