The Italian Presidential Elections and the Politics of Trust

The Italian electoral college will start voting for the successor to Sergio Mattarella as President of the Republic on 24 January. Between now and then, at least two pages of every major national newspaper will be devoted to rumours and speculation about what Italy’s party leaders are planning, who might get drafted as a candidate, and how the votes are likely to line up. It is the usual blizzard of noise that comes at the end of the white semester — the last six months of any presidential mandate, during which the President of the Republic is no longer able to dissolve parliament. What is at stake is not just who will take over the leadership of the Italian state but also whether the current government can hold together and whether the any new President will send Italy’s parliamentarians back to face the voters. By implication, Italy’s successful implementation of its national recovery and resilience plan is also on the table — together with all that entails for the rest of the European Union.

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Choice and Division in Joe Biden’s America

The election of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as the 46th President of the United States creates an important opportunity to change American politics and the transatlantic relationship. In his acceptance speech to the nation, the President-Elect argued that ‘the refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is … a decision. It’s a choice we make. And if we decide not to cooperate, we can also decide to cooperate.’

Making that choice to cooperate will not be easy for either side. The differences between the constituencies that the two major U.S. political parties represent are structural. Bringing them together will involve important concessions. Moreover, those concessions will not be equal because the differences across American society are not evenly balanced. Worse, trust is lacking — which means no one is eager to make the first concession. Biden may lead, but neither Democrats nor Republicans are likely to follow without a clear vision of where they should be headed and a strong incentive to go there.

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Can Europeans Afford to be Optimistic?

June 4 brought two important pieces of good news. The first was an agreement within the German grand coalition government to add €130 billion to its fiscal response to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The second was the decision by the European Central Bank’s (ECB) governing council to add €600 billion to its pandemic emergency purchase program, to extend that program to June 2021, and to maintain or rollover any holding in that program through 2022. The question is whether this is going to be enough to hold disaster at bay. Given the nature of this crisis, the answer is always going to be uncertain. The same doubts apply to the European Commission’s proposal for a ‘next generation EU’ (European Union) recovery program.

Europeans can still afford to be optimistic. Even if they turn out to be inadequate, this collection of policies shows that Europe’s leaders have mastered the lessons from the last crisis and are determined to respond to the current crisis in an effectively coordinated fashion. So long as Europe’s leaders continue along this path, they should be able to rise to the occasion.

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