With the UK poised to leave the European Union at some point through Brexit, the divisions among the EU’s member states are growing more and more apparent every day. It isn’t just members such as the UK either, which despite its EU membership was never fully integrated into many aspects of the union. Core members such as Italy are growing ever more disenchanted with the strictures of EU membership, giving rise to a whole host of proposals that could undo decades of closer European cooperation.
Italy has long been beset by financial difficulties, with the country’s banking system requiring an EU bailout a couple of years ago and the government still struggling to get its financial house in order. And the Italian government, now headed by populists, is publicly butting heads with Brussels over its plans to increase its debt load rather than make tough decisions about cutting social spending. And with key Italian politicians continuing to blame Italy’s poor economic performance on the country’s euro membership, dissatisfaction with the common currency continues to fester.
That’s why key members of the Italian government are publicly floating the idea of Italy reintroducing its own currency in parallel to the euro. That would be a crucial defection that could potentially shake worldwide confidence in the euro and its long-term survivability. The question is whether these plans should be taken seriously as an attempt to destabilize the euro, or whether they’re just a bargaining chip the Italian government wants to use to gain additional concessions from Brussels.
Given the fact that Italy is floating the issuance of new bonds in addition to its possible new currency, it seems that the government is serious about its plans. Whether the political will exists throughout Italy to put those plans into action is another question. Nonetheless, the fact that such plans are being discussed at the highest levels of government is just another indicator that all is not well in Europe. Unless the current dissatisfaction with the European project is able to be overcome, we very well could see the EU unravel within our lifetimes.