Labor and Industry and Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio and Interior Minister and Deputy PM Matteo Salvini attend the swearing in ceremony of the new government Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images

All Eyes on Italy

The emergence of a populist government in Italy directly affects France and its ambitions for European reform. With a politically weakened Germany, a hostile Eastern Europe, and a largely paralyzed Spain, French President Emmanuel Macron, a firm believer in the European ideal of “ever closer union,” risks isolating his country.

PARIS – “We in France should take Italy much more seriously than we do. There is a lot we can learn from this highly successful country.”

That may sound like a quote from centuries ago, not from 2015, when France’s ambassador to Italy was praising and pleading very legitimately for the land of Dante. The following year, in the wake of the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum, Italian journalists asked me whether their country could replace the UK in Europe’s informal “Club of Three” leading European Union member states, together with Germany and France.

Now, however, that recent mixture of confidence and hope has vanished under the crushing weight of political reality. Today’s Italy may be the leading contender for the title of “sick man” of Europe. One could even see the country as a metaphor, if not a synopsis, of everything that has gone wrong in Europe.

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