PROJECT M
 
Mario Monti
PROJECT M

Mario Monti, the voice of reason

Nicknamed "the German economist," former Italian prime minster Mario Monti calls for more discipline in Southern and more spending in Northern Europe

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Mario Monti, the voice of reason

Nicknamed "the German economist," former Italian prime minster Mario Monti calls for more discipline in Southern and more spending in Northern Europe


With piano music in the background, the multiple conflicts pervading European politics from Greece to Great Britain are hardly perceptible in Berlin’s upmarket Hotel Adlon. Despite the atmosphere, Italy’s elder statesman Mario Monti, 71, launches into a passionate discussion about Europe’s future.

PROJECT M

Mr. Monti, the “poly-crisis”, as French philosopher Edgar Morin calls it, has a strong grip on Europe. Of all current crises which do you consider the greatest threat to Europe?

Mario Monti

It is the tendency to lose faith in one of our most fundamental values: European solidarity. I see this partly as a reflection of the increasing short-term views of our democratic systems, not only in Europe but the whole world. When it comes to adjusting to globalization, and we all know how difficult that is, in most cases European countries tend to consider the European Union (EU) the cause of globalization rather than possibly the only way to cope with the consequences of globalization. […]

PROJECT M

As a scientist and politician you have seen both sides of the coin: What does it take to make Europe a united society, capable of overcoming the North-South divide?

Mario Monti

In a nutshell, we need to convince the South that rules and compliance with the rules, including those of fiscal discipline, are a fundamental requirement for any community of coexistence such as the EU. At the same time we need to convince the North, Germany and the rest of the northern states of the Union, that there is a need for more growth, especially in southern Europe. Particularly now, there is a need for investment, including public investment. Thus, my message to the South is: Let us stick to discipline and structural fiscal reforms. My message to Germany and the North is: Do not get caught in short-term politics that see no advantages of investment, even if some public investment is financed with debt. German is the only language in which “Schuld” means both guilt and debt. I am considered almost German in my economic thinking. However, the idea that the government should not engage in public investment, including in debt financed public investment, when interest rates are so low is doubtful. […]

PROJECT M

You are addressing one of the major fault lines in European politics. Do you think Germany is hampering Europe’s healing?

Mario Monti

I very much like the German view that basically economic growth is a reward for moral economic behavior. That is why I say to my Anglo-Saxon colleagues: do not even try to persuade the Germans to create more demand through public deficit. There is only one component of public deficit which can be virtuous: deficit due to the financing of investments. […]

PROJECT M

For decades, the concept of a unified Europe was based on the experience of war. Considering today’s issues such as unemployment, debt or varying levels of family support: Do you think that narrative needs to be adjusted?

Mario Monti

Let’s hope they need a new motivation, because – as I see the world and Europe today – I wonder whether we are not witnessing a relapse into a climate of conflict. Luckily, within the EU, the most of a conflict you get is the conflict between the German media and the Greek media over the Greek crisis. Outside the EU, the situation is quite different. In effect, due to the rules of the EU and the fact that ministers of various governments sit at the same table once a month, war is unthinkable. But is it really? I am not so sure. Even the pope spoke of all those current crises as a “piecemeal” World War III. However, we cannot go on forever with a motivation that is referring to the past. […] Despite the fiscal and banking crisis in so many countries of the Euro zone, our single currency stood adamantly strong. Where would we be, small countries as we are, in the waves of globalization if we did not try to stand together? […]

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