Romano Prodi has started to talk about Europe. Not a surprise really – he is a former Commission President after all, and plenty of people hoped his approach to the EU would be quite a lot more positive than Berlusconi’s had been. But what does Prodi actually want, and is there a strategy behind what he is saying? This article from The Times does not really shed much light on the issue; Prodi talks vaguely of economic integration for the Eurozone countries, and also of moves towards EU defence capabilties. His tone at least is a major departure from that used by Berlusconi. But what does Prodi want, and will the other countries he talks of want Italy in any sort of enhanced cooperation?
Firstly, in terms of leadership and political direction: Prodi’s rag-bad coalition of the centre left does not share much in common with the patched up centre right in France. I cannot imagine Prodi being much of an ally of Sarkozy’s. Things might go a bit better with Germany, with the SPD in the coalition, and for sure with Spain’s PM Zapatero. Secondly, what are the prospects for enhanced cooperation anyway? Coordination of economic policy between the main Eurozone countries would be even more complicated than Prodi’s own coalition. Would any consensus be achieved on labour market reforms? Thirdly, would any of the other Eurozone countries actually want to cooperate with Italy? Its public finances are in awful shape, as is its demographic situation. Would Italy be any more trustworthy in an enhanced cooperation than it has been in the Eurozone? You have to doubt it.
I won’t write off Prodi’s hopes of managing to get some sort of coordination going, but that is going to be about as hard at European level as dealing with the Rifondazione Communista nationally.