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European politics

If Rome falls, what happens to Europe?

Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty

Italy is gripped by yet another political crisis, says Henrik Müller in Der Spiegel. Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a technocrat ex-banker, has stepped down after a rebellion from one of his coalition partners, the populist Five Star Movement. Unlike Italy’s many previous crises, this “Roman drama” has huge implications for Europe and the West. The European Central Bank has just begun raising interest rates to help curb inflation. But high interest rates make it more expensive for Italy to pay back its huge government debt – among prosperous major economies it’s the second highest, as a share of GDP, after Japan.

Without an experienced leader like Draghi, who made tackling debt a priority, Italy could slide into economic crisis, even “state bankruptcy”, and drag much of Europe along with it. The problems don’t end there. An Italian government in unparalleled “political-economic turmoil” is a gift to Vladimir Putin – it breaches the “Western front line” that opposes his invasion of Ukraine. Already, one parliamentary faction is pushing for an end to the West’s hardline approach to Russia. As the Kremlin continues to wage its “hunger war” and “energy war”, by withholding grain from the world and gas from Europe, these divisions will only grow.