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Vincent Della Sala

On 1 January 1999, Italy was amongst the group of initial countries

forming the euro zone; on 9 January, just a few days later, the

Comitato Interministeriale per la Programmazione Economica

(CIPE) gave final approval to a motion to set up a new agency to

promote regional economic development, primarily in the South,

called Sviluppo Italia (‘Development Italy’). While there is a tendency

to look to European economic and monetary integration as

the source of most economic, political and social developments in

Italy in the 1990s, the two January developments were not totally

unrelated. It may seem strange that the creation of yet another

agency would qualify as an important highlight in an eventful year

in Italian politics. However, the creation of Sviluppo Italia is an

illustrative case study for a number of important political and economic

trends of the last few years that came to the surface in 1999.

These include economic development in the South in an integrated

Europe, regional and industrial policy in an era of an increasingly

neoliberal macroeconomic policy regime, and the question of how

to address major social demands while state authority and capacity

are being ‘hollowed out’ in an increasingly global economy.

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Vincent Della Sala

The areas of policy and politics that captured the notion that Italy was

“saved by Europe” and “condemned to success” were budgetary politics

and the state of Italy’s public finances. During the dark days of the currency

crisis of September 1992, few would have expected that by the

end of the decade Italy’s public finances would have managed to correct

themselves to settle below the ceilings set by the Maastricht convergence

criteria. Justifiably, political, economic, and social leaders trumpeted

Italy’s entry into the euro economy as a great policy achievement

and as a sign that its commitment to fiscal discipline could never be

questioned again. Moreover, the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) would

guarantee that any relapse would be corrected by a healthy dose of EU

medicine. This narrative of Italy’s spendthrift ways being reformed by

the discipline of Europe was seriously questioned in 2005 when the

European Commission and Council initiated the excessive deficit procedure

in response to Italy’s violation of the terms of the SGP. Had the vincolo

esterno (external constraint) that shaped Italian macro-economic

policy in the 1990s lost its grip? Were Italian policy-makers breaking

free of European constraints, or were they simply adjusting to a more

elastic framework for the control of public finances in the EU?

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Sergio Fabbrini and Vincent Della Sala

There has been a continuous discussion since the second half of the

1980s on the transformation of the most important political, institutional,

and social structures within states, especially European

states. If a polity is defined as the various spheres—political, institutional

and social—that constitute states, then it may be argued that

changes on a European and global scale, along with transformations

that affect the sub-national level of government, have given rise to a

series of structural constraints and factors that shape political and

social life well beyond the borders of the national state. It is a discussion

that has not spared Italy, especially given the scale of change

experienced in the 1990s. This is not to say that internal factors no

longer exert an element of agency. Rather, endogenous forces need to

be placed within a broader context. The links between exogenous

influences and endogenous dynamics might help explain the continuity

and change of the structures of various national polities. The

events of 2003, presented in the chapters that follow, provide ample

material in this respect.