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opinion
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Hell, no!

It is getting harder to understand the European Union

Soledad Gallego-Díaz

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To say that the result of the Italian elections "has nothing to do with EU policies," and that the reasons are to be sought within the country itself, as some voices in the European Commission have claimed, is a shrieking denial of reality: a notable example, dangerous from the political point of view, of the way relevant facts can be ignored, just because they do not square with a previously decided system of interpretation.

Of course, the Italian electoral results have a lot do with the EU. "Quit talking all the time about the reasons why the Italians should not have supported Berlusconi, and ask why they have voted for him," writes Stefano Casertano, a professor of political science at the University of Potsdam in Germany. Many Italians have done so, he explains, because they believe that the euro has produced "winners and losers," and because they are sick of hearing it said that there is no alternative to austerity. "Those who have voted this time think, possibly, that a little of Berlusconi is what Germany deserves," he adds.

Casertano's ironic explanation of the resurrection of the zombie Berlusconi is perhaps excessive, but it is clear that the Italians have voted in far greater number for those whom they believe will stand up to the economic policies designed in Germany.

This is the case not only of Berlusconi, but also of the Five Star Movement (M5S), led by the comedian Beppe Grillo. We shall have to follow closely the voting of the movement's new deputies in weeks to come, because the sort of people who have obtained seats on its slates have nothing to do with those of Berlusconi -- the chief difference, among others, being a strict demand for exemplary conduct in elected representatives. However, it is likely they will fall in behind Berlusconi if he begins with proposals contrary to the EU policies. Has all this nothing to do with Europe?

Quit talking about the reasons why Italians should not have supported Berlusconi, and ask why they have voted for him"

Will Brussels and Berlin remain impenetrable in their adamant refusal to admit that the fiscal consolidation they have set under way, the well-known austerity, has actual political consequences?

Whether they see it or not, it is disturbing that the hopes of so many of the long-suffering citizens of southern Europe are ever more tied to uncertainty; that these people prefer the uncertainty inherent in a new kind of political movement, to the certainty of the suffering proposed by the Union.

"Do they believe that a country such as Italy, where parents and grandparents are helping their children and grandchildren to survive, is going to accept a cutback in pensions? Of course not. "Hell, no!" says Casertano.

What sort of European Union is this, on what principles is it based and what objectives does it pursue if it is possible that in Bavaria they have 3.8 percent unemployment and in Spain 26 percent? Economists (and indolent, complacent politicians) imagine that their job is "too easy, and too pointless, if in every storm the only thing they need to say is that after it blows over, the waters will be calm again," wrote Keynes. "You face a double task," the English economist wrote to the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Economic recovery and reform." For the first, he explained, it is necessary to act with speed, and essential to obtain quick results. The second is also urgent, but even the most wise and necessary reform may, in some aspects, impede and complicate growth, and cause the whole plan to fail.

The heirs of Roosevelt have understood this, and are designing a clear policy of stimulus measures to prevent further rises in unemployment. Keynes' own heirs, the Europeans, are still ignoring the inputs of reality that do not fit their fixed ideas. The result is obvious: every day it is getting harder to understand the European Union.

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