Italy, one of the founders of the European Union, is now in the most critical of situations. If many different things do not go well for the bel paese in the next year, it may attract the use of the word “founder” in its other, more sinister meaning: to sink.
As the euro zone crisis – which has traumatized Greece, put painful squeezes on Ireland and Portugal, and now engulfs the banks and the economy of Spain – laps around the beaches of Italy’s peninsula, the mood has soured.
In the past week, interviewing some of Italy’s leading journalists for a book on journalism in Berlusconi’s Italy, the country I found was one of profound doubt. Italian journalists are not the least cynical of their profession and often greet new events with a we’ve-seen-it-all-before shrug. Not now. Now they follow and record and comment on the news with journalism’s customary hyperactivity. But they admit they have no notion of what will come – or even how their country will be governed. What might come is, by large consent, possibly, even probably, bad.
Mario Calabresi is the editor of La Stampa, the liberal daily published in the northern city of Turin and owned by the Agnelli clan, who control Fiat. He’s young for an Italian editor, at 42, and is seen as one of the profession’s brightest stars. He’s also the son of Luigi Calabresi, an officer in the Carabinieri who was murdered in Milan in 1972 at the age of 34 by far-left terrorists. Calabresi says, “I must be an optimist,” but he doesn’t sound like it:
This is a temporary government, and the true issue is what comes after. Unfortunately there aren’t many people with whom to have a debate about the future because there aren’t many real political players. There’s a large risk that next year there will be a trend towards populism, attracting protest votes rather than parties having a proper reformist agenda.