Italy at the European Council: Reform and 'Open Data'

Article published on Oct. 28, 2014
Article published on Oct. 28, 2014

The European Council 23-24 October in Brussels, a time for final reports, especially for Italy.

Joy and tears for the Beautiful Country that, in its turn as EU Council president at the last Summit, “did not manage to conduct negotiations towards truly ambitious and binding objectives,” according to Greenpeace, but rather towards an accord that “worsens things” for Legambiente. They are obviously referring to the climate package laid out in black and white by the European Council according to which by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 40 per cent (with respect to 1990 levels), the consumption of renewable energy should be increased by 27 per cent, reaching an indicated target, also of 27 per cent, in the energy efficiency sector. Percentages that – back to the tears – will not permit, according to Legambiente, arriving at a 95 per cent reduction in gas emissions by 2050, as initially established.

The package was welcomed enthusiastically – here comes the joy – by the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, Van Rompuy and Barroso respectively, in their last term in office, together with Italy’s Environmental Minister Gian Luca Galletti, after the overnight signatures of the leaders of the 28 countries. After resistance by Poland, the accord was presented at the press conference by the same Van Rompuy and Barroso. Renzi did not participate, reducing confrontation on the "Barroso question" with about eight Italian journalists who earlier had waited for him until the end (Renzi arrived about two hours late)."

Open Data and Reforms

Moreover for Italy, the two days in Brussels were opened under the rubric of “correspondence,” as the European Commission had the letter asking for clarification on the stability laws (also sent a few days later to France) delivered to Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan. The letter's publication invoked the ire of Barroso. “It’s foolish for President Barroso to be surprised by the letter’s publication,” affirmed President Renzi. “Besides, it was already anticipated that (the letter) would appear in an important paper like the Financial Times. I believe this calls for total 'transparency' and I think the time is over in this 'great hall' for secret letters. In Italy, there will be totally 'open data.’ We want greater clarity on what takes place in Brussels.”

“To Italian citizens,” Renzi continued, “I say, there is no cause for concern because we have taken great measures to reduce taxes. And after all the times Europe has told us to reduce them, now that we’ve done it, it’s not right that a little dispute over decimals and commas impede the course of change in our country. On the contrary, it will be interesting to also tell Europe what we want to do in Italy. It will be amusing when we publish the data on EU expenses.”

The first indiscretions, however, were not late in coming. In fact, it appears that the "great hall's" expenses were already online for quite some time, albeit in a pdf format file of 950 pages. Apparently not much will change, even if hopes persist, with respect to the other question on the leaders’ table, that the economic and employment situation remain one of the EU’s greatest priorities, as per the Council’s conclusions.

Low Growth and Unemployment

The leaders of the 28 States have also in fact confronted the problem of slow GDP growth and still very elevated unemployment levels in most of Europe. During the summit, the urgency to enact intense measures to promote employment, growth and competitiveness was underlined. “Structural reforms and healthy public finances are essential conditions for investments," the conclusions read. Towards that end, the European Council invited the Commission, the Council and Member States to translate these orientations into political actions. In fact, the Council announced its support, after an okay by the European Parliament, for the newly approved Commission's plan to launch an initiative aimed at mobilising 300 billion Euros in additional public and private investments for the period 2015-2017. In addition, it welcomed the establishment of a task force, under the joint guidance of the Commission and the European Investment Bank, to identify concrete actions in favour of these investments, comprising a portfolio of potentially valid projects for Europe to be carried out in the short and near term.