The Euro crisis continues to wreak havoc in the European Union.Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia – now Greece and Italy: onegovernment after the other tumbles over the European debt crisis.After Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi lost the support ofhis main coalition partner, Lega Nord, plans are worked out toinstall a government of experts.
Former European Commissioner Mario Monti emerged as favorite tolead this government. For 17 years Mario Monti has been presidentof Bocconi University in Milan, one of the few Italian universitiesthat receive international recognition. His challenges aremassive:
1.) winning back the confidence of both European partners andinvestors in the sustainability of Italy’s economy,
2.) finding political support to implement a massive austeritypackage that Italy’s Senate approved today, and
3.) facing Italians outraged over glooming budget cuts.
Connections to Europe and financial world
Nevertheless, Monti’s background may qualify him to tackle theseissues. On the European level, Monti is well-known due to his roleas European Commissioner and a number of other functions. In thepast, Monti was Honorary President of Bruegel, a Europeanthink-tank for economic policy, and member of the Reflection Groupon the Future of Europe in 2020-2030, established by the EuropeanCouncil and presided by Felipe González.
As International Advisor of Goldman Sachs and Member of theInternational Advisory Board of the Coca-Cola Company he builtconnections also to the financial and business world. Hisinternational advisory council at Bocconi consists of well-knownfaces featuring Josef Ackermann, chairman of Deutsche Bank, MartinFeldstein, Professor of Economics at Harvard University, PresidentEmeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research and topadvisor of the U.S. presidents Reagan and Bush.
In his speech to open the academic year 2010 at Bocconi, Montialready gave hints to what Europe can expect from this man. Heurged Europe and Italy in particular to avoid shortsightedness andstart implementing urgent reforms towards a vision of a strongermore competitive Italy.
Italian debate on the country’s future
“Italy and Europe are going through a time of crisis: politicalcrisis, monetary crisis, a crisis of credibility. From thesecrises, at times, significant and long-lasting progress arises.Even so, crises shorten the field of vision, less attention isgiven to building the future and they cause one to focus more onachieving objectives in the near future. In recent years, recentmonths and recent days, the field of vision of time and space inItaly has been progressively, fearfully reduced.
Even the European Union, though not certain in its measures, hasbeen forced to narrow its own field of vision. Absorbed by theimperative of defending its currency, it has become moreintroverted, less attentive and less active on a global scale. Yetthis is the round in which it may fully participate, while none ofthe countries within it could do the same, not even the largestcountries. With all of you today, we would like to try to increasethe Italian and European field of vision in both time and space.Thus giving you an idea of the spirit in which our Faculty, alongwith our students, seek to position themselves each day of theacademic year.
We have recalled the need to speak less and observe more manytimes in the Italian debate, systematically looking towards thefuture and an international outlook, working on a project as agroup, setting deadlines. Just one example: in Poland, a countrywhose economy is growing quickly, and which has substantialpolitical weight in Europe by now, sometimes higher than Italy’s,the government has promoted a public debate on how to advancegrowth and improve society from now to 2030.
Italy, which has proved to be stronger than expected andstronger than other countries up to now, continues to have seriousproblems with the financial crisis of slow growth and lowcompetitiveness, combined with an economic and social structurethat tends to give the burden of the consequences of these problemsto young people and the weakest parts of the population.
From shortsight to vision
A future must be built with goodwill: an inertial future is notencouraging. But what future is Italian public debate discussing?It is not 2030. The only future date that involves specificcommitment developed at an international level with sanctions is2015, the date of the Milan Expo. As for the rest, for the countryas a whole, the field of vision does not seem, or rather, did notseem, to go beyond 2013, the scheduled date of the nextelections.
Today the horizon seems to be cut even shorter: the farthesthorizon is 14 December 2010. In the past, Europe had offered toanchor Italy to future dates with serious commitments andsanctions: this was the case with the 1992 project for creating asingle market, this was the case with the single currency projectand its eager and successful pursuit.
Then Europe no longer offered these opportunities until thisyear, when, with the launch of the “Europe 2020″ strategy, eachcountry was asked to present their own national reform plan to theEuropean Commission by this November. Unfortunately, it cannot besaid that there has been attention in public debate in recentmonths on the topic of what Italy would like to be in 2020.Therefore, the occasion has not yet been utilized to encourageItalian society not to close its eyes on its own future.”