Belgium -Brussels – In 2016 Italy has found itself on the frontline of an unprecedented migrant crisis, with thousands of people trying to access Europe through our country. Even though this problem is now having a serious impact on local communities’ lives, also in terms of financial costs, the Italian left-wing government is trying to hide its inability to deal with it. Hence I hope that in 2017 our government will finally face the problem head on.
On the one hand, we need the government to recover some of the good practices implemented by the previous right-wing cabinets, such as securing bilateral agreements with the countries of departure of migrants.
On the other hand, it is necessary that the EU will adopt a more aware and active approach. Mass migration cannot be conceived only as an Italian problem, both because it will always more affect all the other European countries, and because the EU was born exactly to allow States to overcome their difficulties jointly.
Another major issue, which is strictly tied to mass migration, is Islamic terrorism. I am hopeful that the political uncertainty that has gone along with the appointment of the new government will not lead the Italian government to manage the emergency less carefully. An asymmetric warfare is ongoing, we must consider it as such and react in the proper way.
As far as our domestic political situation is concerned, I strongly believe that, after prime minister Matteo Renzi’s resignation, the Italian parliament should pass as soon as possible a new, simple and clearer electoral law.
Then we must give Italians the chance to vote for a new parliament and a new government.
In this way, Italy would finally have a government elected by the citizens. The last time this happened was 2008, when Silvio Berlusconi won. Since he resigned in 2011 we have had only unelected prime ministers (Mario Monti, Enrico Letta, Matteo Renzi and now Paolo Gentiloni).
With regard to the economy, I strongly believe that Italy must protect its industry, and in particular its traditional manufacturing base. A more determined action is needed to stop the growth of anti-industrial impulses and to defend our extraordinary source of prosperity and development. Italy must protect its tradition, but at the same time it must take up the challenge of technological transformation. Digital innovations are reshaping our economy and industries at a scale and speed like never before. We must embrace these new technologies, which despite some alarmist views, offer inconceivable opportunities for our entrepreneurs.
As member of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research, Telecoms and Energy (ITRE), I proposed an amendment, which was definitively passed by the European Parliament last December, to the 2017 EU budget for the digitization of small and medium-sized enterprises.
The amendment provides for the allocation of 1.5 million euro for the launch of a pilot project in 50 SMEs and start-ups across Europe so that they are helped by experts (digital enablers) in a digital transformation process of their activities. I believe that this plan will support many businesses to develop an innovative digital culture.
We also need to improve the quality and the efficiency of our judicial system. The unreasonable duration of judicial proceedings discourages foreign direct investments, so it implies a brake on growth. Furthermore, in the last year the judiciary has played an increasingly significant role in the political system. This interference must be stopped in order to not alter the democratic institutional setting of our country.
Despite these problems, it is noteworthy that the Italian pension system still remains one of the most developed and economically sustainable system in Europe. At the same time, some steps forward have been taken to improve the transition from education to employment, but we certainly need further reforms.
The main economic issue is Italy’s north-south divide. While the northern regions (like Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont and Friuli Venezia-Giulia) are prosperous and represent the real engines of the European economic progress, the South remains less economically developed, especially because of the high taxation and the presence of a huge underground economy. Moreover, after many years of policies aimed at promoting public investment, new infrastructures and employment (carried out by the previous governments led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi), a dangerous position based on the theory of the “happy degrowth” is spreading today due to the propaganda made by new political forces such as the Five Star Movement.
In general, we should recognize that in the last decades Italy has made great efforts in terms of innovation, development and less bureaucracy.
These steps have been possible also thanks to the extraordinary role of volunteering, largely made up of Catholic-inspired organizations, movements and leagues. It is on that foundation that Italy must build its future.