(Bloomberg) -- The new Italian government’s complaints that it gets a raw deal from the European Union have enraged some across the rest of the bloc who assume the country is awash with subsidies from its northern neighbors.
A columnist in Germany’s Der Spiegel last week wrote that Italians are “aggressive freeloaders” and that “at least beggars say thank you.”
But guess what? Italy’s populist leaders have a point where the EU budget is concerned.
So anyone betting that the risk of missing out on EU largesse will rein in the new administration’s nationalist instincts should check out these charts:
With 60 million people, the third-biggest population in continental Europe, Italy has to make subsidy money go a lot further than countries like Spain and Poland.
Cumbersome bureaucracy and poor planning means that almost halfway through the EU’s 2014-2020 budget cycle Italy hasn’t even spent a tenth of the funds allocated to it.
“We have this absurd situation where every year we negotiate arduously with the commission about whether we can spend a few billion euros more from our national budget, when we have more than 30 billion euros of European money that we’re unable to spend,” said Francesco Grillo, an academic visitor at St Antony’s College Oxford who has advised the European Commission.
The Common Agricultural Policy’s focus on northern products such as wheat, milk, and beef means Italy does less well than many traditional EU members.
As a result Italy winds up as a net contributor to the budget.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.