I know it well: Maastricht is not fashionable. Rather, it is fashionable in equal and opposite sense. In the ’90s, it was our great collective mission. I remember the enthusiasm and the excitement with which Romano Prodi, Walter Veltroni and Nino Andreatta greeting Carlo Azeglio Ciampi when he brought to Palazzo Chigi macroeconomic data to certify the Italian suitability to join the single currency. We managed to, against all odds. Today the euro, and in general the budgetary rules established to be part of it, work fine as punchball against which all the frustrations of a season of economic depression and political weakness can be thrown.
In this, Beppe Grillo and Matteo Salvini are great experts. We should not worry too much, if they were the only ones. Ultimately, it is one of their corporate names. But when it is the leader of the Democratic Party to say that Europe is made up of a mass of bureaucrats, then, yes, the problem is serious. As for the virtues of the budget, I think that would be enough to study history, unfortunately removed, of the Italian public debt. Particularly of its perverse effects. An awful quantity of public money literally thrown away to repair the reckless choices made in the ’70s and ’80s.
Overall, since 1995, over one million euro for inert interest on debt. Resources that other countries were investing on growth or on welfare. And that we have been forced to sacrifice to avoid waking up one day and discover that our country failed. Especially here it is to be found the source of our recent problems. Who do we want to blame? The cause is in our own mistakes as a nation as a whole, certainly not in Europe. But there is more: the data shows that it was thanks to Maastricht that Italy started a virtuous cycle. The obligations of the Stability Pact have arrested the growth of debt in relation to GDP.
And this, until the great crisis of the last five years, when the collapse of the growth has unfortunately partially complicated the return path. But this – just a few remember it – happened to Italy in smaller proportions than any other major European countries. The problem is that our outstanding debt was so significant as to compromise severely the ability to recover in the medium term.
We cannot make history using “ifs”. Sometimes, however, I cannot resist. And I wonder: where would we be now if it were not for Maastricht? It is certainly a difficult exercise. There are many variables that discourage simulations of this type. However, we have some certainty. It is unimaginable, for example, to think that out debt has passed, since the early ’70s to the early ’90s, from about 40% to about 120% in relation to GDP. Without Maastricht, and persevering with previous policies, today we could be well above 200% of GDP.
Based on “Andare insieme, andare lontano”
Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo