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Transatlantic Trends 2012

12/09/2012, Rome

In August, in an interview to the German weekly Der Spiegel, Italian premier Mario Monti was worried about a rising anti-German sentiment in Italy and “the short-sightedness” regarding the political-economic crisis, saying it could lead to a “European psychological break up”. A month later, in early September, in Cernobbio, Monti launched a new proposal approved by the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy, to hold a special summit on euro-skepticism and populism at the Capitol in Rome, the emblem of European integration.

Yet, Monti’s remarks preceded the following events: the ECB decision to buy state bonds from the countries in difficulty, the conditional go-ahead given by the German Constitutional Court to the ESM and the budgetary pact, the relaunching of federal policy by EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso during his speech on the state of the EU, and the victory of the “lukewarm Europeanists” and the defeat of the “euro-skeptics” in the early Dutch elections.

In the opinion of Michele Valensise (Foreign Affairs secretary-general), “Monti’s call to rethink the way Europe is facing the crisis” and the advancement of euro-skepticism, “is reflected in the results of the 2012 Transatlantic Trends”.

Transatlantic Trends is a German Marshall Fund report, promoted by the Compagnia di San Paolo and other organizations and presented contemporaneously by the Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome and worldwide. It examines and measures public opinion trends on different topics. This year’s issues included the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the presidential elections in the US. “The study is useful for reaching a clearer perception of problems and understanding how the crisis is influencing public opinion”, noted Ettore Greco, the director of IAI.

“The report”, he continued, “gives encouraging data on the transatlantic front, where relations between the US and Europe seem good”. Mario Deaglio, professor of international economics at Turin University, was more cautious: “Europe and America are like second generation cousins: they are related but they will eventually drift apart”.

On the other hand current transatlantic relations are in good health, according to Pierangelo Isernia, scientific advisor to Transatlantic Trends, “this is especially thanks to Obama”. His foreign policy decisions are supported by over 80% of European citizens, most of whom would vote for him. And regarding elections, Emiliano Alessandri, Transatlantic Trends researcher, expressed his concerns about the isolationist leanings of Romney’s Republican Party, stating that, if it were to win the elections, “the specter of a populist party coming into power much feared in Europe would materialize”.

Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, professor of International relations at the Catholic University Sacro Cuore in Milan, also talked about a populist drift, “It is the result of the ‘perfect storm’ that we are experiencing. There is disillusionment and a lack of faith in the idea that politicians can solve problems”. In Isernia’s opinion, Italy lacks national pride and the ability to look beyond European borders, “like Turkey did during its darkest period”. In Europe, “it’s necessary to find a country that is in a position to exercise leadership: Germany seems the best candidate and that is why Italy must cooperate with her”, Greco added.

These views were strengthened by Sergio Fabbrini, director of the Luiss School of Government: “Angela Merkel is considered the leader of the EU, in spite of Van Rompuy and Barroso. Indeed, 52% of EU citizens consider her crisis management better than that of the presidents of the European Council and Commission. In particular, the Swedes, Germans and Turks are satisfied with their governments’ policies, the same cannot be said for other EU citizens, especially the Italians, Spanish and Portuguese, who are not. Thus, as Luca Remmert, deputy president of San Paolo Company, pointed out, there is “a split between the north and the south of Europe on economic policy”.

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