Berlusconi: "a disaster", "a rip off" that "screwed everybody"
No, no, no - of COURSE I'm not implying that the rampantly corrupt Italian multimillionaire media baron cum Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is himself a disaster, a rip off and screwing everybody (though he bloody well is), merely quoting this brilliant man's opinions of the Euro - opinions formed almost entirely thanks to the pressures of domestic national politics, as he's got rather worried that the return of former EU Commission President Romano Prodi to the Italian political scene after a few years in Brussels could finally mark the end of Berlusconi's piss-poor yet record-breakingly long time in charge.
To what extent the adoption of the Euro is actually to blame for Italy's shoddy economic performance at the moment, and how much to Berlusconi's faffing about and incompetence, is rather hard to tell. But this is a nice illustration of how the EU is always a handy scapegoat for national governmental fuck-ups.
Berlusconi should, by rights, be out on his money-heavy, principle-light arse come the next Italian elections. But if he can keep blaming all his country's problems on outside forces, uniting the people against a common enemy, he knows he's got a chance. So blame the economy on the EU, blame the EU on his most likely opponent, and undermine the anti-war opposition by launching lawsuits against the CIA, thus proving that he's not another Blair-like lapdog of the Americans.
Normally, the public would easily be able to see through this - and, of course, a fair few still do - but as Silvio owns three national television channels, Italy's largest publishing house (which publishes a number of political magazines), a major advertising/publicity agency, and as his brother controls one national newspaper and his wife another, not to mention his controlling stake in AC Milan which enables him to tap directly into the normally politically apathetic football crowd, our man Berlusconi has an unrivalled wealth and propaganda machine to swing behind whatever the hell he says.
Considering he founded his own political party a couple of months before the 1994 elections on a single-issue "beat communism" ticket, Silvio's a bit like an Italian Robert Kilroy-Silk, which should tell you everything you need to know. But he's more like Kilroy if the silver-haired one was worth several hundred million and completely owned ITV, Sky, Channel 4, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Spectator, Saachi & Saachi and Manchester United... And that, let's face it, is a fucking terrifying thought if ever I heard of one.
Berlusconi's certainly not stupid. He is, however, a threat to the whole of Europe. In his determination to hang on to power, he could well jettison the Euro as a political gesture as much as anything, and the knock-on effects around the continent could be devastating - even for places like Britain who've kept out of the Eurozone.
It's all very well looking at the failure of the Constitution ratification process and the Britain vs. France spat over the Common Agricultural Policy and worrying about how it'll all pan out, but that was merely a sideshow (as has become very clear now that the UK has quietly backed down on the CAP while everyone's attention was on a few bangs in London) - but the real threat to the future of the EU lies south of the Alps, and its name is Silvio.