Worlds Apart

‘Italy is a perfect storm for populism in Europe’ - Paolo Magri, director of the Italian Institute for International Political Studies

Months of political gridlock in Italy have finally ended with the formation of its first anti-establishment and populist government. Worlds Apart invites the director of the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) think tank, Paolo Magri, to discuss the anti-European feeling in the country and across the EU, as well as the differences with the US.

“Italy in Europe is like a perfect storm for populism. Populism is fed by economic problems, fed by a surge of uncontrolled migration,” Magri says. Despite Italians being “upset with Europe,” Magri says he is sure “the majority of Italians would be happy to risk adventuring into a world without Europe and euro.” 

“One year ago, it looked after Brexit all countries could join the anti-Europe movement.” But it didn’t happen in the Netherlands and in France, where the nationalist Party for Freedom and Marine Le Pen’s National Front “dropped a strong anti-Europe policy, which is what [Lega leader Matteo] Salvini and [Five Start Movement leader Luigi] di Mayo did in this campaign,” Magri says. 

As for the new government’s foreign policy, Magri says it would be too “risky” to be on a collision course with the EU. Although Italy and “several European countries believe we should get out of sanctions [against Russia],” it’s Washington that takes “the final decision.” The US will use “a trade war in exchange for support” on its Moscow policy and the US withdrawal from the Iran deal, Magri says.