Italy is one of the great success stories of the post–World War II era. Indeed, a massive transformation of the country’s economy and society has taken place over the past 60 years. By the end of the twentieth century, a nation that in 1958 was the least developed of the six founding members of the European Community had achieved an economic miracle based on a distinctive brand of entrepreneurial development. It had become one of the world’s leading industrial countries. Its reputation for fashion, food, and flair was second to none. It is today a member of the elite Group of Eight industrialized nations.
Yet, even as the outside world’s image of Italy has improved over the years, a number of fundamental problems have remained persistent features of the national landscape. Italians have always been inclined to self-criticism and self-doubt. But increasingly outsiders, too, have experienced exasperation at the country’s shortcomings, real and imagined. The fall of Romano Prodi’s 20-month-old government in January, after the prime minister lost a vote of confidence in the Senate, was only the latest example of political dysfunction. Today, Italy faces a range of acute and pressing challenges. Many Italians fear that these pose a threat to their country’s prosperity and wellbeing. The citizens also question their political leadership’s capacity to address the challenges, which stem largely from ongoing political, economic, and demographic trends.
For the first time, [the European Parliament elections] will be fought on European issues, not on national issues. [French President Emmanuel Macron and Italy's governing populists] represent two pure versions of what's going to be offered. [Europe is] now entering a phase where the political fight is in Brussels. It is now a place where you have parties and platforms, and the direction might shift very much if a new party wins.