Italy in the 1990’s Part 6

Italy in the 1990's 7

According to localtimezone, these results were achieved at the end of a path marked by internal and external tensions to the majority. After a first additional economic maneuver of 16. 000 billion (July 1996), the government passed a budget law equal to 62. 500 billions. In the following months the debate was particularly heated. The confederal trade unions judged the cuts in social spending envisaged by the budget to be excessive and criticized the tax measures on housing and income, considered penalizing for employees; Communist PRC also expressed dissent from these aspects of the maneuver, conditioning its support to a greater commitment of the executive on employment issues. The most bitter opposition was, in any case, that of the Pole for freedoms, which sided sharply against the government’s fiscal policy and against measures that would have hit the self-employed and damaged the recovery of production. Particularly critical of the regional wealth tax and the so-called Eurotax (a tax one-off that would have collected the State 12. 500 billion), the Polo in November promoted a vast protest demonstration that mobilized, for the first time in such a massive way, large sectors of the middle class, accentuating dissent in Parliament to the point of deserting the classroom on the occasion of the vote on the budget. The approval of the latter (December), modified in some points but unchanged in its overall entity, did not, however, definitively resolve the problem of the cohesion of the majority, within which Rifondazione comunista often continued to differentiate its position from that of the majority. ‘executive. Similar problems reappeared in the fall of 1997 when the Prodi government, in September, started a discussion with the social partners for the reform of the social security system and presented the budget law for 1998, which provided for cuts of 25. 000 billion. Particularly clear was the opposition of the Communist Refoundation, critical of the government’s economic maneuver and more generally of its action with respect to the problem of employment. The announcement of the vote against the budget law by the PRC led Prodi, on the 9th October, to put the office back in the hands of the President of the Republic. However, a dense series of meetings between the center-left forces and the Communist Refoundation made it possible to prevent the government crisis from reaching its extreme consequences: on October 14, all the components of the majority approved the budget law, on the basis of the government’s commitment to present a bill that would allow, starting from 2001, the reduction of working hours to 35 hours.

The difficulties in relations with Rifondazione also manifested themselves in terms of foreign policy, on the occasion of yet another worsening of the Albanian crisis which for some time had also had direct consequences for our country, whose Apulian coasts were the destination of recurrent landings of illegal immigrants. The decision to send, with the authorization of the United Nations, a peacekeeping mission to Albania to guarantee the restoration of legality and free elections (April 1997) was openly opposed by the PRC which, judging negatively the dispatch of military forces, expressed to the Chamber a vote against the government proposal, then approved with the decisive votes of the Polo for freedoms. The major differences remained, however, on issues relating to the revision of the welfare state. In particular, a real, great reform of the social security system, the subject of extensive discussions and contrasting theses, especially among the leftist forces, no longer appeared to be postponed, not only for immediate financial reasons, but for long-term social effects. It was a question of avoiding burdening future generations with the cost, in the long run unsustainable, of a large number of retirees whose early exit from the world of work had been favored through the practice of early retirement. The prolongation of the average age, linked to the overall improvement of living conditions, added to the numerical reduction of the youth classes and of the employed, in fact risked collapsing the system. The corrective measures proposed by the government, made necessary by excessive gradualness of the Dini reform determined the resistance of the trade unions and the resolute opposition of the Communist Refoundation. In a context of general scarcity of resources and a reduction in expenditure, it seemed difficult to find in the country and among the political forces, including the opposition, the necessary consensus to reduce the widespread and already acquired privileges for the benefit of a relaunch of employment.

No less delicate problems were those related to justice. The investigations into the system of bribes, which had initiated the collapse of the political system of the first Republic, despite having resulted in numerous trials, albeit concentrated in a limited number of proxies, were far from being concluded, not only for the slowness of the various degrees of judgment, but due to the continuous emergence of new cases involving politicians, entrepreneurs, public officials and even magistrates. The expectations of those who believed they could quickly close the season of illegality with the definition of the relative responsibilities were therefore disappointed. Nor did the path of some political solution to the problem seem feasible, felt by a large part of public opinion as an unjustified amnesty. No political force dared to fully implement concrete proposals in this sense. The situation was made even more complex by the simultaneous carrying out of the Mafia trials (first of all the one involving G. Andreotti) and by the use in these and other proceedings of the declarations of the ‘repentants’. Finally, an often very bitter dispute remained open between sectors of the judiciary and sectors of the political class, which criticized the leading role assumed after Tangentopoli by the investigating magistracy: the contrast was further fueled by the involvement in some inquiries of the opposition leader, Berlusconi. An attempt was thus made to include the judicial question in the broader context of institutional reforms. Here the government gave way to parliamentary initiative.

Italy in the 1990's 7