×

Italy's power struggle is threatening European democracy, union leader says

  • Rome's power struggle has rattled global financial markets in recent days, amid renewed fears that euroskeptic parties in the euro zone's third-largest economy could frame a new election as a de facto referendum on Italy's role in Europe.
  • "We feel that democracy in Europe is going through a very difficult phase, if not, a crisis … Because, at the end of the day, I don't think these (populist) parties have an economics agenda," Philip Jennings, the leader of the UNI Global Union has said.

Italy's deepening political turmoil has pushed European democracy to the brink of collapse, the leader of the UNI Global Union has said.

Rome's power struggle has rattled global financial markets in recent days, amid renewed fears that euroskeptic parties in the euro zone's third-largest economy could frame a new election as a de facto referendum on Italy's role in Europe.

Philip Jennings, the general secretary of a union that represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade unions, told CNBC Tuesday that a "deserved" backlash against globalization was threatening a fundamental pillar of the European project.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) annual forum in Paris, Jennings told CNBC's Joumanna Bercetche: "Two-thirds of the people doing some kind of work in this world have no proper contract and no proper terms and conditions of employment so this backlash against globalization is real."

"Politicians have to reconnect with the concerns of people, they have to reconnect to improve their condition, improve their work experience and to say that we're going to accompany you through this revolution," he added.

Five Star Movement and Lega

Italy has been without a government since an inconclusive vote in early March, with the president finally nominating former International Monetary Fund official Carlo Cottarelli as interim prime minister until a snap poll is held sometime between September and spring 2019.

The decision to appoint Cottarelli prompted the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the right-wing Lega party (League) to switch back into campaign mode.

Philip J. Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union
Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Philip J. Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union

When asked whether he shared some sympathy with the core messages of Italy's populist groups, Jennings replied: "These parties and others are taking some of our analysis but twisting it and distorting it for their political message. We don't like the populist parties because it is a step away from hate, it's a step away from xenophobia (and) it's a step away from some of the fascist tendencies that we see."

"We feel that democracy in Europe is going through a very difficult phase, if not, a crisis … Because, at the end of the day, I don't think these (populist) parties have an economics agenda," he added.