The bridge collapsed Tuesday, August 14 a little before noon.
The rescuers had arrived on the spot only a few hours ago when Mr Salvini published this tweet: “Se ci sono vincoli european che ci impediscono di spendere soldi per mettere in sicurezza le scuole dove vanno i nostri figli o the autostrade su cui viaggiano i nostri lavoratori , metteremo davanti a tutto ea tutti la sicurezza degli Italiani. “
“If there are European constraints that prevent us from spending money to secure the schools where our children go or the highways on which our workers travel, we will put the safety of the Italians ahead of the rest” …
Thorough technical expertise will be required to accurately determine the factors and responsibilities that contributed to the collapse of the Morandi Bridge. But before appointing other culprits, it was of course logical to start with Europe!
It should be remembered that between 2009 and 2016, Italy’s public expenditure rose from 51.2% to 49.3% of GDP and the tax rate from 42% to 42.9% over the same period. Not really a Brussels scramble!
Moreover, if the European rules invite the Member States to certain budget deficit rules, they do not pronounce on how to achieve it.
Finally, Mr Salvini’s argument implies that the quality of a country’s infrastructure and public facilities would be directly correlated to the level of public expenditure. This is false of course: more than twenty OECD countries have a lower level of public expenditure than Italy. But we do not see the bridges collapse there. In Switzerland, a country that surveys of the World Bank and the World Economic Forum regularly rank among the best-serviced infrastructure countries, the level of public expenditure was at 34.3% in 2016.
The European Commission reacted quickly to the head of the Northern League, recalling that from 2014 to 2020, Italy received and will receive 2.5 billion euros for its infrastructures. In April, n 8.5 billion euro motorway modernization plan, including the Genoa region, was also granted by Brussels …
It will however be necessary to get used until the European elections to the outrageous irruptions of this gentleman, and some others with him.
The Lega Nord (Northern League in English) was born of a “rightization” of the Christian Democracy of the North of the country for which the historical fascism and neo-fascism (seen like a party of Rome and the south) were at the origin very little frequentable This is why it would be stupid to equate Mr Salvini with fascism as it marked Italy after 1919 and more generally Europe between the two wars,
Yet, in the 1990s, the Lega Nord, even though it was already xenophobic and hostile to non-EU immigration, had taken great care to distinguish itself from both the Italian neo-fascists and the French Front National.
However, we can not deny the long drift of the Northern League towards European neo-fascism, concretized by the choice after the 2014 European elections to join forces with the far-right parties of the European Parliament, the National Front (now Rassemblement National), the Austrian Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ), and the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV). A European far-right whose political roots return without a shadow of a doubt (in any case for the FN and the FPÖ) to the losers of the Second World War.
To call these movements “populist” is therefore a political and historical mistake: let’s name things for what they are.
Iconography: Matteo Salvini, Federal Secretary of the Northern League, Minister of the Interior and Vice-President of the Italian Council, at a meeting in Turin in February 2018 © Marco Bertorello / AFP