29. Juli 2017 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „Macron’s pro-EU stand is tested by Italy on the waterfront“ · Kategorien: Frankreich, Italien

Financial Times | 28.07.2017

The nationalisation of STX heightens the sense of betrayal in Rome

Emmanuel Macron’s election was welcomed across Europe as a victory over populism and a chance to breathe new life into the European project. Nowhere were these hopes felt as keenly as Rome, where a government threatened by the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement looked to the French president for solidarity in managing migration and support against the eurozone’s fiscal hawks. Two months on, a sense of betrayal is evident.

It is already clear that, while Mr Macron may share Italian goals on eurozone fiscal and budgetary policy, his priority will be relations with Berlin. This much was perhaps inevitable, but there are other sources of friction.

As the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean continues, France is still turning back those who seek to cross the border from Italy and refusing rescue boats entry to its ports.

In the past week, Mr Macron has given Rome fresh cause for resentment, by launching a unilateral attempt to broker peace in Libya — previously a preserve of Italian diplomacy — and nationalising France’s biggest shipyard to prevent it falling into Italian ownership. Italy’s economy minister has accused Mr Macron of abandoning his professed “pro-Europeanism and liberal values” by his decision to take STX France, the company running the shipyards at the Atlantic port, under temporary state control.

That is something of an overstatement. For all his liberal instincts, Mr Macron has always been happy to deploy the power of the French state in industrial policy. As economy minister, he built up the government’s stake in Renault and imposed the introduction of double voting rights for long-term shareholders.

It is not the first time the French government has stepped in to secure the future of the shipyard. Aside from fears over jobs and technology transfer, Mr Macron can reasonably argue that the state has a strategic interest in the site — the only one with facilities to build aircraft carriers.

However, it is hardly surprising that Rome should resent Mr Macron tearing up a deal agreed with the previous French government, which would have left Italy’s state-owned shipbuilder Fincantieri as STX France’s biggest shareholder. Fincantieri had pledged to keep jobs and orders in France for five years; and Italian ministers rightly point out that Mr Macron’s demand to renegotiate suggests a lack of trust.

While the French president has every right to nationalise STX, he would do well to show more sensitivity towards Rome in other respects. The outcome of the Libyan summit in Paris is promising, but his unilateral initiative in hosting it shows a worrying propensity to grandstanding in an area where caution and co-operation would be more appropriate.

Indeed, the Elysée has already had to qualify Mr Macron’s airy declaration later in the week that France would create “hotspots” to process asylum seekers before they left Libya, even if the EU did not support such a strategy.

Mr Macron’s resolve to drive through reform at home is commendable, but falling poll ratings should serve as a warning against doing so in an unnecessarily abrasive fashion. It would be unwise to tackle foreign policy in a similarly “Jupiterian” style. Trying to slice through the complexities of Libyan politics like a Gordian knot is unlikely to succeed.

Italy deserves support both in managing the annual surge in Mediterranean crossings, and in building a long-term European policy to lessen and share the strains of migration. Mr Macron could do a lot to regain Rome’s goodwill if he accepted the need for co-operation to achieve these ends.

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