Friday 2 December 2016

Summit of three shows the EU's elitist streak

Published 23/08/2016 | 02:30

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, center, stands between French President Francois Hollande, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the deck of the Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi off Ventotene island's shores. Photo: Cesare Abbate/ANSA via AP
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, center, stands between French President Francois Hollande, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the deck of the Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi off Ventotene island's shores. Photo: Cesare Abbate/ANSA via AP

Who would have thought that the decision by Benito Mussolini to banish a group of bothersome politicians to a volcanic outcrop in the Tyrrhenian Sea would have kindled a vision for a new Europe, united, democratic and free of war?

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Ventotene was the place where the small but influential group met. The Italian politicians had been interned by Mussolini during the Second World War, and their dream would evolve into the EU. Yesterday its three biggest members - Germany, France and Italy - returned to the island in the hope of reviving a vision that has never looked quite so dim as it has since the Brexit vote.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi's ambition is to revive that spirit with the aid of Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel. During the dark years of Nazism, Altiero Spinelli wrote a text now known as the Ventotene Manifesto, calling for a free, federal Europe. But, 70 years on, many of those high ideals have been brought back to earth. The EU is struggling to maintain credibility. It is charged with being undemocratic and too central in its decision-making, a charge that will have been strengthened by the imperious decision to limit yesterday's meeting to the three most powerful countries in the bloc. Morally, the EU has struggled to hold its head up given its handling of the migrant crisis. As a trading bloc, it is foundering in its attempts to promote economic growth and observe the budgetary constraints necessary for viability.

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