One billion euros a day, for every working day. That is the value of the merchandise which, every day, leaves the gates of Italian factories on its way to European markets. 250 billion euros a year, more or less. Over half the entire exports of our country. A billion euros a day, or just above, of mechanical and mechatronic products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and plastics, above all, but also furnishings, garments, food and agricultural produce, which make their way towards Germany and France primarily, and then to other countries within the EU. An extraordinary amount of riches, much greater than the cost of goods which we import, net of energy. 16% of our GDP. The driving force of an economy whose best businesses, those which are most open and innovative, are the key players. Precisely those businesses which the “yellow-green” government insists on handicapping, which it fails to listen to, and for which it is creating difficulties with inefficient laws and minimal investment in infrastructure.

A billion euros a day. That is an astonishing statistic, of which unfortunately a major portion of public opinion is quite unaware. Because, if people were truly conscious of it, they would also appreciate the obvious risk of poverty that hangs over us all as a result of every political and governmental choice which seeks to oppose Italy to the EU, which plays at erecting walls and barriers between ourselves and others, which insists on considering Germany and France as adversaries and antagonists rather than partners in a competition and, at the same time, in a collaborative venture which is attempting to give Europe an increasingly important role on a world stage suffering from the difficulties of global trade exchanges.

The calculation has been made, intelligently, by Andrea Montanino, head of the Confindustria Research Centre (La Stampa newspaper, 22nd January). He underlines, extremely clearly, the interdependence of the principal European economies (the success and the strength of the German automobile industry – BMW, Audi and Mercedes – depends a great deal upon the extraordinary contribution of Italian component-makers, one of the most sophisticated and innovative sectors of our manufacturing industry). And he points out how necessary it is, for mutual growth, to reinforce EU markets, rather than weakening them with anachronistic protectionist measures. It is indispensable, if anything, to make further progress in three markets where European integration is deficient: those of energy, the digital world and capital markets. More Europe, in fact, rather than less Europe.

Indeed, a confirmation of this can be seen in the tensions which are accompanying the wretched political choice of Brexit: businesses which are closing down and preparing to transfer their sites elsewhere (Nissan, in respect of its car production facilities, is merely the latest example), services linked to manufacturing which are choosing to relocate to Paris, to Frankfurt, to Amsterdam or to Milan, growing concerns regarding provisions of foodstuffs and of medicinal products, to such an extent that there is a fear of repercussions for public order. The economy of the United Kingdom will contract by 8% over the 15 years following Brexit, according to the calculations of the Bank of England, whilst the pound sterling will lose up to a quarter of its value. With all the consequences for jobs, incomes, social services, and general well-being. A poorer and more fragile country, in fact.

As we steadily get closer to May’s vote for the renewal of the European Parliament, it is actually these questions which come to the fore and which should be the subject of debate within the public opinions of the various countries, over and above nationalist and populist propaganda. Economic statistics, questions related to social and civil development, values.

Within a Europe to be reformed and strengthened, in addition to the bureaucratic bottlenecks and the ideological orthodoxies of formal austerity, it is worthwhile starting to use analyses thoroughly based on competencies, on responsible critical reflections (well informed, therefore, and not the hysterical reactions to fake news and shoddy propaganda supported by those who, in Moscow and Washington, see the values and interests of Europe as obstacles to be torn down), on a memory of and interest in the “great future” of greater and better integration and not a “little future” of timidity, introspection and narrow-minded nationalism.

Wealth, well-being and values, indeed. Reclaiming the good things which have been constructed up until now, reforming institutions and market instruments, improving EU institutions and organisations. The objective: Europe, despite everything.

A piece of information of which we should take particular note comes to us from one of the greatest contemporary European philosophers, Bernard-Henri Lévy, who at the end of January made an announcement in Milan, actually, from the Parenti Theatre, that he would be making a tour of Europe, in twenty venues, from 5th March until 20th May (the final venue in Paris), to talk about Europe, lead discussions, gather common opinions against populism and nationalism and arouse new hope for those who believe in a better Europe (La Stampa newspaper and the La Lettura (the reading) section of the Corriere della Sera newspaper have already devoted copious space to the initiative, which immediately secured several dozen signatures of support from a number of the leading proponents of European culture).

Henri Lévy explains: “I am going to go round to explain why Europe is a great idea, and why it is the last possible utopia for our young people and the only solution for our countries. A Europe threatened from abroad, by the attacks of Trump and Putin, and from within by those who do not believe in its values, free thinking, humanism, and representative democracy. It is threatened above all by our laziness”. The philosopher insists: “For fifty years we have assumed that Europe would have built itself on its own, but this is not the case. In France, but in Italy also, too many people are convinced that the game has already been lost. They think that Marine Le Pen is a fascist but sooner or later will win anyway. But that is not true”.

In the words of Henri Lévy, there is a warning that people need to commit themselves, and not to assume that both liberal democracy and citizen’s rights have been fully achieved, but to work with ideas and initiatives towards a complex but indispensable operation for the defence of Europe and at the same time its reform and re-launch. The question very closely concerns Italy itself, at a difficult time of recession and growing fragility for the economy and the country’s social fabric. And it is worth thinking about which European tools are best to use for living and growing. Jobs and freedom, current well-being, plans for the future. A European perspective, indeed.

05/02/2019