2021 was a difficult year throughout the world. Covid-19 continued to spread misery as new variants emerged, and vaccines were unevenly distributed. Civil liberties and democratic norms were undermined in China and many other countries. Russia’s main opposition leader was jailed. Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the United States Capitol. Civil wars erupted in Ethiopia and Myanmar. And Russia is amassing military forces along the border of Ukraine.
Amid the gloom, one country shined in many ways. Italy began the year with many successes in sports: the Luna Rossa was the challenger in the America’s Cup sailing competition in New Zealand; Matteo Berrettini made it to the tennis finals at Wimbledon; Italy earned a record 40 medals at the summer Olympics in Tokyo; and Italy won the European Cup in Soccer. Giorgio Parisi won a Nobel Prize in Physics, and Italy again won the Eurovision Song Contest.
In December 2021, another honor was bestowed on Italy. The British magazine, the Economist, crowned Italy the “Country of the Year.” This annual accolade given by the internationally reputed weekly “does not go to the largest, the richest or the happiest” of countries, “but to the one that has improved the most” that year. In the past, Tunisia was recognized for embracing democracy, and Uzbekistan was honored for abolishing slavery.
The Economist acknowledged the many other victories of Italy this year, but bestowed this award for Italy’s politics. Central to the honor is Prime Minister Mario Draghi, former president of the European Central Bank: Italy “has acquired a competent and internationally respected prime minister.” Moreover, the magazine noted that Draghi manages well internal conflicts at the executive level, and he encourages cooperation from Italian politicians “to support a program of comprehensive reforms that should allow Italy to obtain funds to which it is entitled under the European Recovery Plan.” The Economist also cited Italy’s vaccination rate that is above the European average and a more rapid economic recovery than that of France and Germany. Growth prospects foresee an increase in GDP of more than 6%.
The London “newspaper” — as the Economist refers to itself — has not always been benevolent toward Italy. In the 1990s, it described Silvio Berlusconi as “unfit” to lead the country’s government. In 2014, it portrayed Matteo Renzi as “clueless,” showing him on board a European paper boat intent on eating a gelato while the boat sinks. Of course, Great Britain is currently struggling with its own problems, from a confused Brexit, to an irresponsible management of the pandemic, to a clownish and amateurish Boris Johnson as prime minister.
The Economist concludes its accolade to Italy with a warning to Draghi: “There is a risk that this unusual surge of rational government will suffer a setback” if Draghi becomes president of the Republic, a more ceremonial post, making way for a less competent successor as prime minister. The London weekly expressed its preference for Draghi to remain out of the running for the Quirinale. And recent opinion polls say that about three quarters of Italians want Draghi to stay on as prime minister at least until the end of the parliamentary term in 2023, instead of taking the role at the Quirinale. And so it came true!
Thanks, Barb for a very informative piece…I did not know much about him before this.
Bravo Mario. Heard about this from our Italian (actually she’s Danish married to an Italian) friend. Nice coverage.
Sent from my iPhone
As an Italian-American with family roots in Puglia, I have always been very proud of Italy! Really enjoy your site and appreciate the posts in both languages.