Tria snookered…and the EU?

Italy’s twin vice premiers knew that they had a good hand in their latest round of brinksmanship with their own FM and the EU. One will recall that President Mattarella was instrumental in getting Tria to be the Finance minister, whereas the coalition wanted Savona, a euro sceptic. Faced with tremendous pressure, Tria could have resigned rather than agreeing to a budget that will increase the national debt by 2.4%, rather than the 1.9% agreed with the EU. The problem is that if he did, then the replacement would have been either a ‘yes man’ like Conte, or a euro sceptic like Savona. Mattarella was keenly aware of this, and even though, technically Mattarella could have vetoed a candidate he didn’t like, this would have plunged Italy into an institutional crisis without precedent against a coalition that is still in a honeymoon phase with the electorate. Tria, probably on Mattarella’s advice, had to blink.

As far as the EU is concerned, they will huff and puff, but at the end they will also have to swallow the Italian pill, based on two considerations. First that it could have been worse…and second, that forcing Italy to the brink would at this time play to the populists’ advantage, and quite possibly provide them with the excuse to renounce the euro altogether.

It is very unlikely that the EU will travel this uncharted territory whilst in the middle of Brexit. Let’s hope that its highly successful bargaining with Mrs May will not give the eurocrats a feeling that they could do it again with Italy…