Europe in Sicily

The European influence on the Sicilian economy and society

During the Messina Conference, the Italian government focused its attention on the economic aspects of the negotiations. Among the ruling classes of that time, there existed the conviction that it was not possible for Italy to confront the challenges posed by an economic community without first finding a solution to its main problems, such as the lack of economic development in southern Italy and the inadequate investment budget.

The Christian Democratic government led by De Gasperi dealt with the problem by setting up the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (a public development bank for southern Italy), by activating the so-called ‘extraordinary intervention’ (1950) and by staging a land reform. In this first period, state intervention was principally concerned with the establishment of huge industrial sites, mostly in the petrochemical sector. However, it soon became clear that this development model would have deprived many areas of southern Italy of their flourishing artisan enterprises, with many workers abandoning these areas to work in the new industrial centres.

When the Treaties of Rome were signed, conditions of living in southern Italy had improved considerably but, despite all the efforts, the hope for industrial growth had not materialised. In fact, the text of the Treaties did not leave much scope for the newly-formed European Economic Community to influence the attempt to solve the problem of territorial imbalance in the Community. An additional protocol to the European Economic Community Treaty gave Rome exclusive authority over development policies in southern Italy. This was strongly supported by the Italian government, as it did not want its development strategies to be limited by the Community’s competition policy.

“La politique régionale occupe dans le Traité de Rome une place particulière en raison de la solidarité nécessaire qu’imposait l’Italie du Sud (…). Il fallait que ces problèmes devinssent les problèmes de la Communauté toute entière.” 1Regional policy has a special place in the Treaty of Rome because of the need for solidarity that the south of Italy required (…). It was necessary that these problems should become the problems of the entire Community.” – speech of François-Xavier Ortoli, Venice, 5th May 1961

Unfortunately, in the medium to long-term, this course of action proved to be unfavourable, as its main effect was to somewhat exclude southern Italy from the process of European integration.

Nevertheless, we should not underrate the positive results achieved by the Italian government for the southern regions of Italy during the European Economic Community and EURATOM negotiations.

References   [ + ]

1.Regional policy has a special place in the Treaty of Rome because of the need for solidarity that the south of Italy required (…). It was necessary that these problems should become the problems of the entire Community.” – speech of François-Xavier Ortoli, Venice, 5th May 1961