“I’m disappointed”. Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani criticises the President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde upon this latter announcing an interest rate hike in July.
Do you think we risk recession this way?
“Caution is needed. I don’t understand why you would announce a rate increase so early. It is a habit of the ECB, which does not help the markets and the economy. I don’t think I’m the only one to think this way, the governor of the Bank of Italy and the president of the ABI have always criticised premature announcements.”
What is your opinion on the decision?
“I have great respect for the ECB, which is free to do what it sees fit, but I can say that this measure would have a negative impact on Italy, which suffers as a result of exogenous, externally induced inflation and needs to grow. The real economy is being afflicted, families are being strained by rising mortgages, and investment is being blocked by the high cost of money. So, we are heading for stagnation or even recession.”
Tell us more about why our inflation comes from outside.
“Inflation in the eurozone is mainly caused by factors external to the European economy, such as rising energy or commodity prices. At this stage, we are facing an economic slowdown that is already evident in the Union, especially in Germany, which has entered recession. The negative performance of Italian industry in the last two months, as highlighted by Confindustria this week, is first and foremost due to the German freeze: consider that Germany is number 1 for Italian exports. It is therefore not helpful to keep raising rates, which risks taking us into recession: we have to balance the fight against inflation and the risk of recession.”
Can this instrument prove beneficial for other countries?
“American inflation, for example, is endogenous, it comes from within. That changes everything. For us, the effect is the opposite, and therefore economically wrong. We cannot possibly just live with the Weimar obsession, the financial instability complex, fearing the great crisis and inflation that led to the German crisis…”
You think the ECB has this obsession…
“Clearly. It is not the first time that I have clashed with Frankfurt. As President of the European Parliament, I blocked the ECB Supervisory Service, because the person in charge wanted to force all banks to sell their impaired loans, NPLs, after an inspection on a single bank. I argued that it could only do so with that bank, not erga omnes, because such a decision would be up to the legislator. Everyone agreed with me, I was defending the competences of the Europarliament.”
What effect can Lagarde’s announcement have?
“Blocking the initiatives of entrepreneurs who do not make investments in order not to ask the banks for money: something to be absolutely avoided. Also, variable-rate mortgages risk being unaffordable for families.”
All this is happening at a very critical time for the war in Ukraine. How do you interpret the Wagner Brigade’s aborted march to Moscow?
“As a crack in the power system in Russia. We follow events but do not interfere, we confirm support for Ukraine but we are not at war with Russia. There are 5300 Italians there and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is monitoring the situation.”
The elections in Molise were the first after Berlusconi’s passing: what is the takeaway message of Roberti’s resounding victory?
“It tells us that FI is growing; in addition to its votes, there are those of two linked lists. It is the last gift from Berlusconi, a figure so strong that he will continue to lead us even after he is gone. That’s what great leaders do.”