Migrations and refugees: the EU’s contradictions

Migrations are a big unsolved issue in the EU. The attitude of the European Union is not always coherent with its guiding principles.

World Refugees Day was celebrated on 20th June, originally called by the United Nations to commemorate the approval of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees. Between current news and official speeches given by politicians for the occasion, I accidentally came across Erri De Luca’s poem “Nota di Geografia”, which I did not know but which struck me immediately, especially the excerpt      “touch Italy fewer lives than      those who got on board (…) yet Italy is an open word, full of air”.  A few lines but so intense and full of meaning that I was unconsciously led      to a bittersweet reflection on the very concept of immigration policies and hospitality. We live in a time of migrations, where each migration is a story in itself, because it originates from wars and persecutions, growing social inequalities, the search for a job, family reunifications, study and research reasons. Man, as the anthropologist Giulio Angioni says, is a “migratory animal” and, as such, the disposition to move constitutes one of the main constants of humanity over the millennia, from the great empires of the past to modern globalization; the journey allowed geographically distant cultures to meet in their incredible variety.[1] From the mid-nineteenth century, through the whole of the twentieth century, migratory experiences have constantly changed and transformed, between short and long-term projects, single individuals and entire families. At the same time, migrations of refugees and asylum seekers have also taken on new peculiarities compared to the post-war period: due to ethnic conflicts in the African continent, the Arab springs in the Mediterranean, the war in Syria, entire peoples have been tragically forced to flee, in search of a new home, looking for salvation and better living conditions.[2] 

Migrations _ mediterranean

Although protection towards foreigners would seem an inherent tradition, not only in our human beings but in our own European and Mediterranean civilization, the sad perception, constantly confirmed by the news, is that Europe is gradually losing memory of its past of great overseas migrations.[3] Many measures adopted by the countries of the EU in recent years have been conceived following the trail of biased information showing the migrant as a danger, a potential criminal, a person to be rejected; measures favored both by legislative weaknesses and by international agreements that silently grant the management of migratory flows to dictatorships like Turkey or military regimes like Libya. The “migration crisis” – as it is called – that has affected the European continent in recent years, has highlighted the difficulties and contradictions of the Union itself in adopting univocal measures among member states. Above all, it leads us to reflect and reconsider the very concept of “border”, no longer understood only as a territorial boundary but, in a broader sense, as a clear separation between “us” and “them”, as a limit towards the construction of truly inclusive societies. Is there a balance between human solidarity and the obligation that states have to protect their borders? Faced with the immense suffering and fatigue of those who undertake such a migratory path, is there a duty for states to welcome?[4]

On the one hand, there is no doubt that World Refugees Day is considered an achievement, the result of the collective capacity and strength of all the people forced to leave their land. An act, which requires extraordinary courage and huge sacrifices, the ability to face one’s own destiny is a characteristic of the most courageous. The merit of the aforementioned Geneva Convention, based on the principle of non-refoulment[5], was precisely the creation of a common international approach for an institution previously regulated at the state level. Following this trend, there was a strong expectation that the new EU would also play a proactive role in terms of political asylum: the idea that a free space without internal borders would make use of a single approach to this matter has, in the long-run, led to the introduction of common standards for ​​the procedures for requesting, evaluating and issuing the right to asylum, as well as the reception, integration, treatment and management of migrants for political reasons. At the time of attributing competence in the field of political asylum to the Union, however, the Member States were already bound by obligations deriving from international law, showing considerable divergences on the subject at the national level. If on the one hand, therefore, European law has allowed the codification of an already operative corpus of legislation, at the same time, it has sharpened the differences within the individual countries. In regulatory terms, the EU has made clear progress: inspired by the key principle of loyal cooperation, it has sought to provide Member States with a common set of tools to meet their daily and operational needs (introduction of a single procedure for reviewing the questions, common database of information on all countries of origin of asylum seekers, creation of a single common way to address specific reception problems).[6]

However, it is not the regulatory environment that I want to focus on here; I believe, in fact, that it often does not offer an exhaustive interpretation on the subject of refugees and political asylum. Looking beyond international treaties and declarations, we can realize how the European response has often proved inadequate, reacting to the increase in migratory flows with a dialectic deeply rooted into fear and perceived security. The notions of asylum or refugee have moved further and further away from the ideals of solidarity and hospitality, approaching that of personal protection. The prevailing approach, namely that of containing arrivals, demonstrates how an area that should be dominated by choices made for humanitarian and ethical reasons has become the prerogative of politics and wrong migration practices that perpetually violate human rights leading to the death of thousands of people. In an attempt to regulate and reduce the presence of foreigners in their territory, individual States have increasingly turned towards a reduction of European legislative standards in favor of their own national laws, often much more restrictive[7] – national procedures, in fact, also vary according to the countries of origin of the refugees and on the relationship they have with the host territory (Sweden, for example, welcomes 80% of Iraqi refugees while Great Britain, while in the EU, only 13%).[8] The inability to define coherent and coordinated measures has led national governments to relaunch cooperation with countries of origin and transit countries to contain flows: the beneficiary of this new strategy was Turkey[9], which has become the key country to contain the exodus of Syrian citizens to the Greek islands. The significant reduction in arrivals has turned it into a reference model for relations with the countries of origin and transit of the central Mediterranean route, in particular with Niger and Libya.[10] Also with regard to the work of NGOs, the prevailing approach seems to be to limit their work rather than considering them as a resource. Although in September 2020 the European Commission had asked Member States for greater coordination and support, rescue and search activities continued to be hindered by administrative or criminal proceedings, by obstructive actions such as preventing rescue operations; as well as deploying no additional ships or resources for rescue activities along the main migratory routes. The spread of the pandemic and the resulting restrictive measures have further blocked, if not called off, the deployment of ships.[11] The general situation is still extremely condemnable: in 2020 alone, more than 2600 deaths were recorded on the Central Mediterranean route: the progressive withdrawal of ships from the Mediterranean, the growing obstacles to the rescue activities of NGOs, the decisions to delay the disembarkment and the failure to assign safe harbors clearly questioned the integrity and effectiveness of the rescue system

We are witnessing, quoting Don Luigi Ciotti, a real hemorrhage of humanity, deplorable actions that Europe – the cradle of human rights and democracy – will one day have to deal with.[12] The very immediate European imperative must be to protect people in need, using a corpus of coherent measures and policies as a useful tool for fulfilling their international obligations and ethical duties. Only by working in compliance with the principles of solidarity and shared responsibility the EU can still symbolize a solid refuge for those who fear persecution and an attractive destination for the talent and resourcefulness of workers, students and researchers.[13] For the exercise of this international responsibility to be effective, it is first of all essential to modify the dialectic through which we read the world: the immigrant is not the enemy, but the victim. If it is true that migration has always existed in human history, it is also true that the peaks occurred in recent years have been responsibility of a political and economic system generating lacerating inequalities, exploitation of entire regions of the planet, wars for the exclusive appropriation of raw materials, consequently forcing millions of people to flee. What must be contained is the logic of profit implicitly underlying an unjust economic and political system. Forced migrations caused by environmental deterioration, extraction of local resources, the devastating effects of global warming, constitute forms of human rights violations and centralization of power. These aspects are not only closely related to each other but promoters of a development model that dangerously violates the ecological limits of the planet as well as those of human and social justice.[14] Consider, for example, the sadly know phenomenon of water grabbing, through which powerful economic and political actors control or divert precious water resources to their advantage, stealing them from local communities or entire nations whose livelihood is based precisely on those same plundered ecosystems; currently, 1 billion people do not have access to drinking water in the world, while 70% of the land is now at risk of desertification. Equally important is the impact of the agri-food industry in terms of exploitation of water resources and subtraction of land to the detriment of small crops. Conflicts over natural resources and precious minerals in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or over oil in Nigeria and South Sudan are responsible for the largest migratory waves in the region.[15]

To pay the price of these subordinate power relations and the consequent damage to the ecosystem clearly are the poorest populations, whose survival, more closely connected to the free services of nature, is more exposed to vulnerability, deprivation, and inequality. This logic clearly shows how the main structural crises of the modern era, migration on the front line, are the historical product of highly unfair and incorrect relations of production, consumption, and power; dynamics to which states react by making use of policies that can be interpreted mainly as a retrospective and non-preventive response, which only facilitate an inhuman war against those fleeing wars or unacceptable living conditions. Walls, and fortified borders are not only extremely inhumane but above all useless: what should be done is thinking and analyzing migration from a global perspective, really reducing inequalities and injustices, social and climatic imbalances, making sure that every person, at every latitude and part of the globe, can live a free and dignified life.

Antonella Iavazzo


[1]  https://www.iltascabile.com/societa/viaggio-migrante/

[2]  https://legale.savethechildren.it/diritti-oltre-frontiera-riflessioni-tema-migrazioni-accoglienza-integrazione-stati-nazionali-unione-europea/

[3]  https://rm.coe.int/una-richiesta-di-aiuto-per-i-diritti-umani-il-crescente-divario-nella-/1680a1dd0f

[4]  https://legale.savethechildren.it/diritti-oltre-frontiera-riflessioni-tema-migrazioni-accoglienza-integrazione-stati-nazionali-unione-europea/

[5] According to Article 33, a refugee cannot be prevented from entering the territory nor can he be deported, expelled or transferred to territories where his life or freedom would be threatened

[6]  https://www.assemblea.emr.it/europedirect/pace-e-diritti/archivio/i-diritti-umani-e-leuropa/2008/diritto-dasilo-come-funziona-nellue

[7] Consider the package of “Asylpaket” measures introduced in Germany in 2015 and responsible for a worsening of the condition of asylum seekers at the national level: countries such as Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo have been included in the list of “safe countries”, resulting in the impossibility of request international protection for those who come from it; monetary transfers were requested from the applicants and the spaces intended for the reception were reduced. In 2019, France also exerted an important squeeze on the assistance offered to refugees and asylum seekers, again requiring certification on the visa health certificate and the eviction of migrant camps in Paris.

[8] https://www.assemblea.emr.it/europedirect/pace-e-diritti/archivio/i-diritti-umani-e-leuropa/2008/diritto-dasilo-come-funziona-nellue

[9] Turkey has pledged to provide shelter and protection for some three million Syrian citizens, in exchange for substantial EU funding from member states and for unlocking negotiations on the visa liberalization agreement for Turkish citizens.

[10] According to IOM data (international organization for migration), in the period 2019-2020, there were more than 20,000 repatriations to Libya despite the undeniable evidence of violations of human rights and the absence of guarantees on the subject and transparency and responsibility

[11]  http://documenti.camera.it/leg18/dossier/pdf/AT029.pdf

[12]  https://www.libera.it/schede-666-immigrati_e_accoglienza_non_e_questione_di_sicurezza_o_di_ordine_pubblico

[13] https://unipd-centrodirittiumani.it/it/schede/I-presupposti-per-la-creazione-del-Sistema-Comune-Europeo-di-Asilo/237#:~:text=Sebbene%20i%20trattati%20sull’Unione,28%2D38)


[15] Ibid

Madame Europe: Europe seen through her sons’ eyes

My name is Martina and I am one of Europe’s daughters.

My mother was born not so many years ago, even though her name – linked to Greek mythology – is way older. She arrived in this world silently, tiptoeing, walking as a cat does, The importance of her is not understood by everybody yet, unluckily.

Europe is a beautiful woman wearing a blue dress that falls on her body like a simple, long and comfortable garment. My mother is strong, resolute, determined although young; when walking, with her light and nude feet, she moves forward with the elegance of the princess she is named after. My mother is among the most powerful and gracious peace beings on earth.

Europe is born just like a phoenix: from the ashes of devastation and misery. From the hunger for peace and thirst for much-needed stability: when she was born she was so shy, with an insecure gaze to the rest of the world, with everybody looking at this fragile creation with such a noble name. Just a dozen were the countries believing in her, but it was on that sweet being that they had put their highest hope, they had understood the importance of getting together in a single team, to get the role of a great power that was growing to take the main stage in this world.

They forged Europe there, where everything had started: in Rome, the cradle of the most magnificent endeavour of humankind, the city that cuddled like in mother’s arms the greatest expression of civilization; there, where everything had begun many centuries before, my mother saw the light.

Europe became a woman just before my birth, only a couple of years earlier. Maybe no one was expecting her to become so gorgeous, powerful, necessary.

My mother’s hair is red, a vivid vermilion that looks like pulsing of its own life, and this is because she has the duty of reminding her children of the human sacrifices that led to her birth, in order for them not to repeat the same terrible mistakes occurred in the past.

Europe is one of the youngest creatures on earth, still, the most ancient history lives in her. Europe is made of many different cultures, she is nurtured with different traditions and she speaks many languages: her children study these languages as they are free to travel, to see other countries, to know each other and the way other people live. Europe allows me to call these people “brothers” and “sisters”.

Europe is a land with no borders, a mother that gives the chance of living together with people coming from different places, reducing distances, both material and figurative ones: something that once was just unthinkable. Still, often we forget how my mother allowed to tear down these walls by allowing people to easily travel to other countries with one single currency and just a document in the pocket. Maybe many find it hard to acknowledge the importance of the demolition of these barriers as they were intangible constraints, they were not physical constructions and, therefore, their destruction does not look like such a great success.

Europe is invisible, she is not the kind of mother you can easily look at, touch, hug; however, to me, to live in a world where she is not existing looks impossible. For me, Europe means to have brothers and sisters that come from France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Greece and many other places and to feel proud and connected with each of them. The same concept of “foreigner”- something that scares many people like the spirit of a ghost – gets nullified, and this is because the concept of living, sharing and knowing a determined space has a greater value today.

Europe means to give and to receive by constantly changing point of view. Today we have the privilege of having a chance. The chance of fully understanding the reality of places, people and cultures that can physically be far from where we are. Moreover, at the same time, we can share with these people our own origins, enriching in this way the collective cultural baggage.

Europe has many aspects, it is the ensemble of sounds and accents of her many different languages, it is the sum of cultures and traditions that are so different one another, even though we already know how to bring them closer to us: seeing and understanding the beauty, connect with it and never let it go. To feel like at home after taking a flight, a train or a ship is a pleasure that was given to us, without getting asked anything back for it.

In this time of severe global, economic and health crisis, some people are not trusting in Europe, they look at it with suspicion in their eyes, as if she was the one to be found guilty of the problems and not the one to provide solutions. And this deeply saddens me. If I think of my experiences, of my studies in France where I fell in love with such an elegant and charming language, with its writers, its cities, its history. And this changed me.

When I think of the cities I had the luck of visiting, the good smell of the air I breathe every time I get off the train or I touch the ground after a flight when I am on the French side of the Alps, the pleasure of listening to that language, I feel more and more it is a matter of love, of passion. Yes, this feeling is something that should be felt by many more people who, instead, criticize a Europe we all are part of, jeopardizing so foolishly the relationships, the brotherhood, the stability that struggled so much to born and grow.

Having the chance of studying abroad allowed me to know other people from all over the world, to speak more languages on the same night and this, believe me, it is a richness that one should exploit as much as possible. Erasmus programs are very popular among university students and the number of double-degree courses should also increase so to give students the chance of living in more contexts and to prepare workers that will be able to spend their academic titles in different countries.

Martina Bellotto

EU and the virus: what did actually happen?

Dear readers, at this moment in history it is very difficult to keep a clear head and analyse facts with reason. It is difficult not to be influenced by natural concerns, which in some cases evolve into real family dramas. However, I believe that, today even more than yesterday, it is necessary to make a critical effort and evaluate the facts outside of rhetoric or, even worse, propaganda.

Italy’s relationship with the European Union in these weeks of health emergency has been severely questioned and Eurosceptics are on the rise [1]. Undoubtedly Europe plays a fundamental role in the society in which we live, as well as in the political and economic current affairs of our beautiful country, whether we like it or not [2].

©️ Comitato Ventotene
Italy export worth 533 billions €, of these 52% is towards EU, 2% Russia, 3% China, 5% UK, 9% USA, 20% other countries, 9% towards countries that have commercial agreements with EU

Since the beginning of the crisis, the European Union has responded in a fragmented and inconsistent fashion. For this reason, last Thursday the President of the European Commission publicly apologized to Italy on the behalf of the European Union as a whole. A powerful as much as a necessary political gesture. In the last two months, there have been unpleasant episodes, not up to a Union whose founding values are respect and solidarity between peoples. Let us think of the case of the medical devices blocked at the border by Germany and France, the unfortunate phrase Mrs. Lagarde said that sent the FTSE MIB index nosedive, or the inappropriate comments from the Dutch Finance Minister [3]. It is clear that the European Union project is still far from being completed.

In the same way, however, we cannot forget everything that has been done at the European level to help Italy and how much is now under study. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the EU has proposed the suspension of the Stability Pact and it has given the green light to state aid. Both initiatives have been widely approved by the Eurogroup. Moreover, the European Central Bank has launched the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme for an amount of 750 billion euros, substantially lowering interest rates [4] on Italian treasury bonds. In addition, the re-use of unused European funds in 2019 has been authorised, freeing up a fund of 37 billion for businesses in the fight against the virus. All this while Germany started receiving Covid-19 patients in its hospitals, taking care of transportation, and becoming the first country in the world to help the Lombardy region (even before many other Italian regions). Sure, an airplane with the Chinese flag printed on the side is more impressive, but the EU has never been very good at communication (perhaps because of the bad memories that propaganda evokes among its Member States).

Picture by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0 The European Parliament in Strasbourg

Let’s now turn to the proposals that are being prepared and the negotiations underway in Brussels.

On 9 April, the Eurogroup approved a coordinated response at the European level for about 540 billion, with the commitment to implement a Recovery Fund for the future economic restart which would amount to about another 500 billion once this first phase is over. The first tranche of aid approved is divided into 200 billion for companies to be disbursed through the European Investment Bank, 240 billion through the European Stability Mechanism (with the only condition of being spent on the health emergency) and 100 billion of a European fund to support workers who risk losing their jobs (the SURE fund). Once we sum these instruments to the responses taken at the national level by individual member states, we obtain an amount of 430 billion in fiscal stimulus and 2,240 billion in liquidity injections [5].

As Adriana Cerretelli writes on -Il Sole 24, April 15th edition- “In simple terms, this means that Europe is ready to help Italy with 80-82 billion in loans from the EIB (20), Sure (15), unused structural funds (10-11) and Mes (36, with savings of 1.5 billion interest rates). All of this while waiting for the European relaunch plan which, with or without Eurobonds, it is known that it will take time to build. Hard not to call it solidarity.”

But let us return for a moment to the instruments agreed by the Eurogroup. Last April 17, the European Parliament approved both the Recovery Fund and a new credit line of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), while it was said no to the Corona Bonds. As Carlo Cottarelli points out in the press, these instruments (SURE and EIB loans included) are all based on a concept very similar to that of the Corona Bond. That is, the disbursement of common debt, guaranteed by a fund made available jointly by all Member States, basically a mutualisation of debt. This is also written black and white by the Italian Office of the European Parliament [6].

Last Friday’s vote is also important for another reason. With its vote against Corona Bonds, the League party has made its position clear before the eyes of the Italian electorate. After weeks of bitter controversy over the ESM, the League refuted any doubt that the problem is not the ESM, but solidarity within the European Union. For a certain kind of rhetoric to continue, the EU must show no signs of solidarity. Not even if such gestures are directed towards our country. Unfortunately, the idea of blaming Europe for all Italian evils and the nostalgia for a weak currency, which would be catastrophic for Italy at this time, remain very much in vogue among many Italian voters – and the two main opposition parties are well aware that such beliefs must not be contradicted -. Their political future would be at stake. Be very well aware, dear readers, of alleged economists who call for a return to monetary sovereignty and at the same time speculate on the condition of political instability in our beautiful country, perhaps while they are in government [7].

To save itself from this health emergency, which is quickly turning into an economic drama, Italy must instead hope for a stronger, more supportive and more united Europe. Within this European Union we not only have our shoulders covered by a central bank that is doing our interests and a single market that will soon allow us to return exporting without duties and customs, but also, and above all, the political and economic support of 26 other friendly countries thanks to which we can jointly face the difficulties we are facing. Of course, some of these countries are not living up to the enormous crisis that has hit us. That is why we hope that we will continue to work towards the development and profound renewal of the European Union, which is an enormous guarantee for the well-being of all of us citizens. We should probably take as an example the 136 teams of international researchers who, funded by the EU, are joining their forces in trying to synthesize a vaccine against the virus.

I do not know what will be decided at the European Council on the 23rd, but I know for certain what to hope for.

Giovanni Sgaravatti

Chronicle of the EU and its approach to the coronavirus

  • On January 29th the first two cases of Coronavirus were reported in Italy (in Rome)
  • On 21 February, the first cases of local broadcasting (from people who had not recently travelled to China) were recorded
  • On March 4, the painful threshold of the first 100 deaths is crossed
  • On 6 March at an extraordinary European Council the Italian Minister of Health denounced some countries, including France and Germany, to prevent the export of health equipment
  • On 6 March the EU announces a package of 140 million, of which 47.5 million for 17 research projects involving 136 teams of scientists focussed on the development of a vaccine and 50 million for Italian companies producing medicinal products
  • On 9 March the Prime Minister signed the decree (Dpcm) “I stay at home”, asking all Italian citizens not to leave their homes except for compelling reasons
  • On 10 March the EU allocates a 25 billion euro fund to counter the emergency (10 billion SURE guarantee).
  • On March 11 the President of the European Commission publicly condemned the behaviour of some Member States to restrict the free movement of goods and in a video she addressed the European citizens saying “Today we are all Italians”.
  • On March 11 China sends a team of doctors to Italy
  • On 12 March Lagarde says that it is not within the ECB’s mandate to decrease spreads (the Italian spread soars)
  • On 13 March, the European Commission announces 37 billion in public investment using EU structural funds
  • On 15 March, the single market returns to be a de-facto single market again and shipments are allowed to transit freely
  • On 16 March the Eurogroup meeting happens online
  • On 16 March the “Cura Italia” was approved, with which the government authorized 25 billion in debt to deal with the emergency
  • On March 17, the USA NGO Samaritan’s Purse installs a field hospital in Cremona with 60 beds, 8 of which are equipped for intensive care and 60 doctors and health personnel
  • On 18 March the European Central Bank launches the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme for an amount of 750 billion euros (the spread returns to normal levels)
  • On 19 March, the European Investment Bank announced that it was working on a pan-European investment plan worth 250 billion euro for companies and especially SMEs. The underlying guarantee should be a fund of 25 billion euro
  • On March 20, the Stability Pact is suspended
  • On March 22, the government closes all non-essential production activities
  • On March the 22nd, 52 Cuban doctors land in Malpensa
  • March 24th, Germany is the first country in the world to receive COVID-19 Italian patients
  • 24 March, the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs confirms that the member states that will be able to use European funds to deal with the emergency 
  • March the 25th, China sends 30 lung ventilators, 20 sets of health monitors, 3,000 protective suits, 300,000 masks (plus another 20,000 of type N95) and 3,000 face shields
  • On March 26, 120 doctors, equipment and pharmaceutical products and 122 military personnel arrive from Russia. A journalist from “La Stampa” is later threatened by a spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Defence via Twitter for an inquiry into the type of aid granted and the reasons behind it
  • On 26 March the European Council meets to put in place a joint fiscal response to the pandemic. The first opponent of this response is the Netherlands, whose Finance Minister asks why countries like Spain cannot respond independently after 7 years of economic growth in the eurozone. The Portuguese Prime Minister will label the phrase as “repugnant”
  • On March 27, French President Macron gives a series of interviews to Italian newspapers where he publicly sides with Spain and Italy in favour of the Corona Bonds
  • March 28th Von Der Leyen gives an interview to the German newspaper DPA where he defines the Corona Bonds a slogan
  • 29 March, Albania sends a medical-health team to Italy to reciprocate gestures of solidarity of the past
  • On 2 April the European Commission formally proposes the SURE, a 100 billion euro fund to support unemployment caused by the emergency.
  • 8 April, Mauro Ferrari leaves the European Research Centre
  • April 8th, Schroder opens Eurobonds
  • 9 April, the Eurogroup agrees on the measures to be taken (ESM, SURE, EIB, Recovery Fund)
  • 10 April, Conte announces that Italy will be locked-down until the 3rd of May
  • On 17 April, the European Parliament approves the Recovery Fund and the new ESM credit line, no to Coronabonds

[1] Coronavirus: Is Europe losing Italy?

[2] Economics – Let us trade

[3] https://www.portugalresident.com/repugnant-pm-costa-launches-extraordinary-attack-on-dutch-finance-minister/?fbclid=IwAR2IVazHYsGqYpq_7HXTqHFAsN2qY1S2p_DKFvZYef1KEIx5kseslzq70fQ

[4] https://tradingeconomics.com/italy/government-bond-yield

[5] Economia | Commissione europea)

[6] https://europarl.europa.eu/italy/it/succede-al-pe/cosa-sta-facendo-l%E2%80%99ue-per-rispondere-all%E2%80%99emergenza-covid-19

[7] Italy’s Top Euroskeptic Made Hefty Profit From Salvini’s Bad Bet

Further readings



Riprende l’export di mascherine verso l’Italia: Germania e Francia costrette a piegarsi alla Ue













Let us trade

Giovanni Sgaravatti

Giovanni Sgaravatti

The European Union was built to restore peace and equilibrium in a continent wounded by the two World Wars. However, a second objective simplified the path towards the Union: the ambition of creating a European economic area. These two goals are the foundations of the EU. As Churchill emphasized, they are deeply connected with each other. The direct evolution of the second objective is the European Single Market (ESM). Having a GDP of 13 trillion euro and a population of 500 million people, it represents the largest economic area without barriers in the world. The abolition of customs duties, legislative obstacles and restrictions on the quantities of goods and services that can be exchanged, allowed to the EU member states to grow in synergy. 

The economic benefits directly related to the European Single Market are estimated at 8.5% of the EU GDP. These have generated an increase of the employment rate, creating 2.8 million jobs and stimulating the birth of 21 million new companies. The cornerstone of the European Single Market is the free movement of goods, capital, services and labour. In fact, the ESM is not just an efficient tool to strengthen the relationships and the cohesiveness among the countries, it also guarantees a regulated market with high standard of quality for the products exchanged. The European Commission establishes the safety and quality standards of the products to safeguard the consumers, taking care also about the protection of the environment.

The EU is also continuously changing and updating its regulation to follow the main social and economic needs of its citizens. For this reason, recently the debate has focused on technology, data protection (GDPR) and e-commerce. Today a relevant portion of the exchanges of goods are made online and this trend will grow in the next years. Therefore, the EU has devoted explicit attention to such sector, creating the Digital Single Market. The intention is reducing legal obstacles and inefficiencies that condition e-commerce performances, but also contributing to a fair legislation of the web. In this debate crucial aspects are: copyright protection, online products’ quality standards and consumers’ protection. The European Commission evaluated the potential impact on the European economy of the Digital Single Market at 415 billion euro per year.

The fundamental role of the EU to support the economy of member States is not limited to the European Single Market and internal synergies. Belonging to the Union, European countries have a significant power on the global market and they can defend their interests negotiating with the other world’s super powers such as the US and China. Some examples are anti-dumping measures, the rules on foodstuffs quality standards, on children’s toys or on pharmaceutical products and pesticides.

The volume of Italian exports between 2002 and 2018 rose from 266 to 463 billion euros, which (discounting for inflation) is equivalent to an increase of 44%. Of these 463 billion, 202 account for exports destined for countries outside the European Union (in 2002 they were 103 billion, which means an increase of 68%). Between 2002 and 2018, the EU negotiated and allowed the entry into force of 23 free trade agreements (FTAs) with as many countries. This type of agreements has often been criticized (with good reason) for the lack of transparency in the negotiations. The EU responded becoming the first institution in the world to publish all the approved chapters, whilst the whole agreement is still being negotiated. 

Furthermore, the highly controversial mechanism for resolving disputes regarding investments has also been completely revised, guaranteeing a high level of investor protection and at the same time maintaining the full right of governments to regulate and pursue legitimate public interest objectives such as the protection of health, safety or the environment (see the most recent agreements, such as CETA or the one with South Korea). 

Finally, one of the fears of skeptics is that of facing unfair competition for products protected at the EU level, such as indications of origin (IG). This fear is mostly unfounded since the EU has always fought to defend all the characteristic products of its territory, especially the Italian and French top products. With CETA, Italy obtained the recognition of as many as 41 IG (corresponding to 90% of the total), and in the first 5 months of 2019 the country saw an increase in exports of almost 13% (for a value of € 3.5 billions) with a strongly positive trade balance (import-export ratio of 1: 3), while with Japan, food exports grew by 80% with the recognition of 45 Italian excellencies (IGP).

Free trade agreements are often accused of being for the exclusive benefit of large companies and of hindering small businesses. In reality, FTAs benefit the most efficient exporting companies, be they large or small. Examples of Italian small and medium enterprises that have benefited from FTAs are: the family company of Crotone Astorino (which after the entry into force of the FTA with South Africa in 2015 began to export pasta for volumes greater than one ton, using ancient Italian grains); the Venetian design company Moving (that increased its turnover from the Chilean market by 51% between 2011 and 2015); the Trapanese company Graffeo Cravatte (nowadays enormously benefitting from the total abatement of customs duties with Canada, until yesterday at 16-18%). There are lots of success stories, please find some of those at this link.

Giovanni Sgaravatti and Michele Corio








https://www.ilpost.it/2019/02/13/approvato-accordo-unione-europea-singapore/ [not mentioned]

https://www.agi.it/estero/accordo_libero_scambio_ue_giappone-4170340/news/2018-07-18/ [not mentioned]

The advantages for Italy of being in the EU

Giovanni Sgaravatti

Giovanni Sgaravatti


It is really difficult to explain the advantages of being within the European Union and the monetary union to those who have seen their wages remain the same in the last twenty years, when services and the cost of living have generally increased. Nevertheless, at Jeune Europe we believe it is important trying to do it because the European Union is our only hope, and we should keep this in mind. Below you will find a list, inevitably incomplete, of the advantages that Italy gets from being in Europe. Some of the benefits of being inside the EU are very well known (as the 70 years of peace, or Erasmus), so in the following articles we tried to focus only on those known the least.

Giovanni Sgaravatti, Michele Corio

  1. The least known advantages for Italy of being in the EU
  2. A dream of unity
  3. Monetary union, the Italian case.
  4. Banking Union: a step for more stability.
  5. Let us trade.

Monetary Union, the Italian case

In Italy, the monetary union is often taken as a scapegoat for all the ills of the last twenty years. To verify the factuality of this criticism we must weigh the disadvantages of the single currency with the advantages. Furthermore, a critical effort to verify the counterfactual (i.e. what would have happened if we had not adopted the euro) is paramount.

euro One euro Italian coin, picture by Alberto Moglioni

The disadvantages reiterated by the discontented is in having lost the monetary sovereignty and in the unfavourable exchange rate. Let’s start with the first topic. What was once the role of the Bank of Italy has now passed to the European Central Bank (ECB). The advantage of being able to print money lies in the possibility of using expansive monetary policies and devaluation. With the former, the central bank aims to lower interest rates, favouring consumption and investment. While with devaluation export is favoured and the cost of labour is lowered.


A (dis)continuity in the European Governance

Antonio Tajani descends from the highest seat in the European Parliament. He shakes hands with compatriot David Sassoli, who takes his place. They smile. This snapshot closes the waltz of the leadership positions of the European Union of these days, or of those who more than others will influence the choices of the Union, and therefore our lives, from here for the next five years. Following the elections of the new European Parliament on May 26th, the face of the Union and its representatives have changed. The change, however, did not take on the dimensions that during the electoral campaign they feared. During the first months of 2019, in fact, an apocalypse was expected, a revolution in terms of numbers and values ​​within the decision-making spheres of Brussels [1]. The fact is that this epochal change has not been realised; there have been some adjustments in the control room, and some fluctuations in public opinion, but the European Union maintains its values ​​and its different souls that characterise it.

If some balances have changed, others have remained firm. But which balances do we talk about?


A benefit of EU : Erasmus+

With the European elections taking place this week, and the ideas of Euroscepticism looming amongst EU member countries in the polls, there exists a definite requirement in analysing the true benefits the European Union provides its citizens. Given that there a numerous advantages in being an EU citizen, this article shall specifically analyse the Erasmus+ exchange scheme the Union provides, in order to obtain a more profound understanding of the resources which are available at our disposal through being a member of this Union.


A dream of unity

Giovanni Sgaravatti

Giovanni Sgaravatti

The European Union is the largest peace project in history. As such it must be understood, defended, strengthened and undoubtedly improved. Talking to someone who has lived through the war is all it takes to understand that peace cannot be taken for granted, not even in the twenty-first century. History teaches us that we Europeans have been one of the most stubborn and abusive people on the face of the earth. Probably, considering a war in Europe today as unlikely to result almost ridiculous, is already the greatest victory of the European Union.
Free movement, pic by Hungary Today


The least known advantages of being in the EU

The EU is an institution that enables its member States to cooperate and coordinate efforts to improve the lives of their citizens and to allow their businesses to compete with those located within the borders of global super-powers such as China and the USA.

Here below. we will focus on some examples of how the EU is deploying efforts to impact our daily life for the best (some of which we ignore altogether).

  1. The European Medicines Agency (EMA)
  2. The European Space Agency (ESA)
  3. The investment plan for Europe
  4. The general data protection regulation (GDPR)
  5. The programs for environmental protection
  6. The European food safety agency (EFSA)

Let’s try and explain what they are about:



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