The many small businesses form the basis of Italy’s industrial sector. In the north, there are many industrial districts with hundreds of small businesses each producing the same products. Competition and concentration of knowledge made several of these districts world leaders in their industries for some time, but they now face increased competition from companies in low-wage countries that are entering their markets.
The majority of the country’s approximately three million small and medium-sized companies produce traditional consumer goods. In the clothing area, several companies have grown and conquered an internationally advanced position with footwear manufacturers such as Magli, designer companies such as Gucci, Armani, Versace and Prada as well as the clothing chain Benetton.
Among the largest private companies are the Fiat Group, Pirelli (tires and cables) and Montedison, which manufactures chemicals, among other things.
The oil and gas company ENI, which operates in some 80 countries, is Italy’s largest industrial company.
After the crisis years in the early 1990s, winding up of large state ownership began. The state had large holding companies, ie companies with the task of owning other companies. The largest was the IRI (Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale), which, before decommissioning in 2000, had owned about 500 companies, wholly or partly. However, the state has retained minority ownership in several of the privatized companies.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Italy. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
The budget dispute with the EU resolved
After Italy agreed to reduce the planned budget deficit for 2019, the European Commission finally approves the Italian budget (see November 13 and October 11). The deficit will now be 2.04 percent instead of 2.4 percent. In addition, the government has adjusted its growth figures for the next two years. The previous budget was criticized for having too high growth figures. Although the Commission considers that the budget is not optimal, an infringement process need not be initiated, which would have required strict monitoring of economic policy in Italy and possible fines for the country.
Hard immigration and security law is adopted
A new immigration and security law that makes it easier to expel migrants and to limit the right to residence permits is adopted by sub-house tests with 396 yes votes and 99 no votes. Earlier this autumn, the Senate gave its approval to the law. The UN Refugee Organization UNHCR has criticized the law for not protecting the weakest and most in need of help. The controversial law means, among other things, that the possibility of a humanitarian residence permit is removed, which was introduced two years ago. Migrants should instead be able to obtain temporary residence permits for six months or one year. Immigrants who have been granted Italian citizenship should also get rid of this if they are convicted of terrorist offenses.
Italy stays on budget despite EU criticism
The government announces that it does not intend to cut its budgetary budget for 2019. The EU Commission had given the country a deadline to change the budget until November 13 after giving Italy a backlash for its budget on October 23. According to the estimates of both the European Commission and the IMF, the budget is expected to lead to a budget deficit in 2020 that will exceed the EU limit of 3 percent of GDP, while the already sky-high government debt equivalent to 130 percent of GDP will increase.
Criticized budget is adopted by Parliament
Parliament approved the government’s draft budget, which received criticism both from the EU and IMF. The deficit in the budget increases to 2.4 percent, which is significantly more than the previous government’s goal. The deficit will finance social initiatives promised by the government parties before the election. The draft budget has been criticized within the EU for boosting Italy’s debt, which is already one of the highest in euro cooperation.
Noise about new migrant ship
Prosecutors in Sicily are launching an investigation into whether Interior Minister Salvini has pleaded guilty to abuse of power and to illegally detaining people after refusing to allow over 100 boat migrants to land in Italy for several days. The migrants were rescued by an Italian coastguard on August 15. Salvini demands that other EU countries promise to receive the migrants before allowing them to enter Italian soil. Albania finally offers to receive 20 Eritrean refugees from the ship. Ireland also provides access to 25 migrants. After Catholic bishops in Italy announced that their diocese wants to give refugees a refuge, boat migrants begin to be sent there at the end of August.
The state of emergency in Liguria after being drilled
Prime Minister Conte faces a 12-month state of emergency in the Liguria region after part of a motorway bridge collapsed a few days earlier in Genoa and killed some 40 people. The government also decides to allocate EUR 5 million for emergency measures.
Migrants rescued by the EU are temporarily received
Italy’s Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi announces that the country will continue to receive migrants rescued by EU rescue efforts in the Mediterranean, Sophia. But the decision is only temporary and the EU must have found a solution to the reception of migrants within five weeks. Italy has previously demanded that the agreement that migrants rescued in the Mediterranean through the Sophia operation be brought to Italian ports. The Sophia effort was launched in 2015 as a way to combat trafficking, but in recent years has focused on, among other things, preventing human traffickers in Libya from transporting migrants across the Mediterranean in submarine boats.
Friendship agreement with Libya is activated
Italy and Libya agree to breathe new life into a ten-year-old friendship agreement. Under the agreement, Italy will invest the equivalent of US $ 5 billion in Libya. In return, the Libyan authorities will work to prevent migrants from entering Italy via Libyan soil. Libya also undertakes to receive the migrants returned by Italy. The agreement was concluded in 2008 but was put on ice in 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown (see LIBYEN: Modern History).
Italy donates ships to Libya
The Italian government announces that it will donate twelve ships to Libya to enable it to “fight human trafficking” and the flow of people seeking refuge to Europe. Italy also promises to train the Libyan coastguard. Several EU leaders have criticized aid organizations for indirectly helping human traffickers as they assist migrants / asylum seekers who are at sea. The aid organizations, for their part, believe that migrants are not safe in Libya. According to the International Migration Organization IOM, over 1400 people have been killed since the turn of the year when they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. So far this year, 16,600 asylum seekers / migrants have come across the sea to Italy, which is 80 percent lower than the same period in 2017.
Corruption charges against Berlusconi are closed
The Supreme Court has laid a corruption charge against former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as the crime is now restricted. Berlusconi had been prosecuted for trying to bribe an opposition politician in 2006-2007 to get the then center-left government to fall. Senator Sergio De Gregorio has acknowledged that he has received the equivalent of € 3 million from the former prime minister. In 2015, Berlusconi was sentenced to three years in prison in a lower court.
EU agreement on migration
Italy reaches success at an EU summit to solve the migration problem. Two weeks before the summit, the new Italian government has rejected two rescue vessels with migrants as a marker to force other EU countries to take more responsibility for accommodating refugees. The EU countries, after lengthy negotiations, finally agree on a compromise, which means that EU countries should be able to form special reception centers for migrants coming via the Mediterranean. In addition, it is necessary to investigate whether similar centers can be formed outside the EU in North Africa. However, several North African countries, including Morocco and Libya, say no to such centers being placed on their territory. However, many issues are left unresolved after the EU meeting. It is unclear if there are any EU countries that are willing to host reception centers and there is still disagreement as to how asylum seekers who are deemed to have asylum reasons should be allocated among Member States. The EU countries also agree on a payment of € 3 billion to help refugees in Turkey and to strengthen the EU Africa Fund.
Yet another rescue vessel rejected
Italy denies yet another rescue vessel, owned by a German aid organization, accesses the country’s ports to put ashore over 200 migrants on board. Later, Malta also rejects the ship. However, Malta is changing and a few days later the ship arrives in the country after several EU countries, including Italy and France, have agreed to help Malta receive the people on board.
Italy refuses to accept hundreds of boat migrants
The Aquarius rescue ship with 629 people aboard is being prevented from adding to Italy to bring in migrants rescued off the coast of Libya. According to Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, migrants are rejected as a way to force other EU countries to take responsibility. According to Italian media, only the country’s own fleet and coast guard will henceforth be allowed to bring migrants to Italian ports. Eventually, Spain announces that it will accept the migrants. Then Malta has also refused to add the vessel, which is owned by the relief organization SOS Mediterranée, to ports in the country. The French government has also promised to assist the migrants.
EU fines for deficiencies in sewage treatment
Italy will pay over € 25 million in fines for not yet introducing a sewage and drainage system that meets EU standards. Deficiencies in wastewater treatment can be dangerous for the environment, according to the European Court of Justice.
Clearly for right-wing populist government
After President Mattarella’s attempt to establish a technocratic government under the economist Carlo Cottarelli, it seems that a quick new election is the only way out. But Lega and the Five Star Movement are gathering for a new attempt to form government, again with Giuseppe Conte as prime minister. This time, economics professor Giovanni Tria was assigned to get the post of finance minister instead of the euro-critical Paolo Savona, which Mattarella stopped. The President now approves of all the Ministers, including the controversial Savona who is appointed Minister of Europe. Lega’s leader Matteo Salvini becomes Minister of the Interior while Five Star Movement’s Luigi Di Maio becomes Labor Minister.
Mattarella says no to the proposal for finance minister
Sergio Mattarella is using his right as president to say no to Giuseppe Conte’s election of Eurosceptic Paolo Savona as finance minister in his planned government. As a result, Conte chooses not to run for Prime Minister. Instead, Mattarella turns to economist Carlo Cottarelli, a former employee of the International Monetary Fund, and asks him to form a temporary government until new elections can be held.
Right-wing populists agree on government programs and prime ministers
The five-star movement and Lega agree on a government program that also gets approved by party members in a vote. The parties want to introduce a national salary, tighten immigration policy, ease economic austerity policy and implement tax cuts. However, no exit from the euro is proposed, which is reported to have been discussed. President Mattarella endorses the parties’ proposal that Giuseppe Conte, a 54-year-old law professor who lacks political experience, should become prime minister.
Court gives Berlusconi the right to become prime minister
An earlier verdict that banned Silvio Berlusconi from running for election to public office is set aside by a Milan court. The ban was a result of Berlusconi being convicted in 2013 for tax offenses. If there is a new election, Berlusconi can then again aim to become prime minister.
Berlusconi gives the go-ahead to stand outside government cooperation
The opportunities for the Five Star Movement and Lega to succeed in forming a joint government increase after Silvio Berlusconi promised not to stand in the way. The five-star movement has refused to have anything to do with Berlusconi and his party, Heja Italy, which are part of the same right-wing alliance as Lega. Berlusconi now agrees not to break the alliance, although Lega enters into a government collaboration with the Five Star Movement. A major reason is believed to be to ensure that Heja Italy does not lose more voters, which could be the case if it does not appear that the problematic political situation in the country gets a solution and that a government can eventually be formed.
President Mattarella proposes “neutral” government
A third attempt to form a coalition government is carried out. The largest single party The Five Star Movement cannot agree to cooperate with the right-wing bloc (Heja Italy and Lega), no agreement is reached with the Democratic Party. President Mattarella then submits a proposal to appoint a “neutral” government consisting of party-politically independent experts who can submit a budget for next year and lead the country until new elections can be held in early 2019. The proposal is however rejected by the Five Star Movement and Lega.
Russian diplomats should be expelled
Italy will expel two Russian diplomats as a result of a nerve poisoning attack on a Russian former spy and his daughter in the UK in early March. It is taking place in concerted action with some 20 countries, mainly in the EU, in solidarity with the British government accusing Russia of being behind the attack. In total, over 100 Russian diplomats are expelled, 60 of whom are from the United States. Moscow denies all involvement in the poison attack and threatens with countermeasures.
Election success for Lega and the Five Star Movement
4th of March
Silvio Berlusconi’s right block wins most places overall in the lower house (265). But that is not enough for it to be able to have enough support for government. In addition, xenophobic Lega has received more votes (125) than Berlusconi’s Heja Italy (105), making the distribution of power uncertain within the alliance. The single party that has the strongest support among voters is the populist Five Star Movement, which received about one-third of the vote in the election and 222 seats in the House of Commons. The election means a defeat for the ruling party PD (111 seats), which causes party leader Matteo Renzi to announce his intention to resign.
Renzi excludes cooperation with “extremists”
Democratic Party leaders and former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi say the center-left alliance will not form government with extremists. He refers to Silvio Berlusconi’s Heja Italy as part of a collaboration with xenophobic Lega.
Demonstrations after migrant attacks
Alien hostile groups clash with police as they show support for a man arrested after shooting six African migrants a few days earlier in the town of Macerata. The man is a supporter of the extreme right and has stated that he shot migrants as a way of revenge for the murder of a teenage girl who was said to have been committed by a Nigerian drug dealer. A few days after the manifestation of the right-wing extremists, anti-fascist organizations are holding demonstrations in Macerata. The Migrant Attack has accelerated the immigration debate ahead of the elections in early March.
Italy will send troops to Niger
Parliament’s House of Commons approves the government’s plan to send about 500 soldiers currently based in Iraq to Niger. The troop movement is part of a strategy to stop human smugglers from making money by sending migrants on life-threatening boat trips across the Mediterranean to Europe. The soldiers will help strengthen control at Niger’s borders – many who flee to Libya via Niger – and fight terrorism.
Migration problems in focus for EU countries in the south
Leaders of seven EU countries in southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Cyprus, France, Greece,, Malta and Portugal) gather for a summit in Rome. There, they make a joint statement expressing their support for the EU’s common migration policy. They have agreed that the EU needs to strengthen its external border guarding, fight human smuggling and do more to address problems in migrants’ home countries. They call on all EU countries to do more to help those countries receiving the most asylum seekers / migrants.