The first half of 2018 saw Italy without a government for a few months, before a coalition was formed between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the centre-right League Party in June. Disillusioned with dismal economic growth and chronic youth unemployment that have been aggravated by the influx of refugees, Italians have voted to fill more than half their parliament with Eurosceptic and anti-establishment parties. The new coalition has already stepped up efforts to reduce the number of refugees arriving on their shores, as well as increasing the number of deportations. Despite the political turmoil, Italy has moved up from the 13th position to take the 12th spot, most likely due to it topping the international polling ranking. Italy’s rich culture provides a vast reserve of soft power which is unlikely to deplete anytime soon. The country is a cultural superpower and home to the most UNESCO World Heritage sites; one of the world’s most popular cuisines; exceptional museums and galleries; the language of opera; a strong football culture; and a competitive fashion industry. Even more impressive is Italy’s ability to leverage these assets through its extensive international network of embassies and diplomatic cultural missions. Italy’s score on the Education index leaped ten spots, likely due to its low teacher-to-pupil ratio as well as the relatively high number of academic articles published. Italy also facilitates a large number of student exchange programmes, translating to an increase in soft power assets as a ripple-effect is created when foreign students advocate behalf on their host country of study when returning home.
Italy’s greatest soft power assets lie with its cultural pursuits, as shown in it taking the top spot in the international polling data. With more than 52 million tourist arrivals in 2018, citizens from around the world continue to be drawn to the ancient sites of Rome; Florence’s impressive architecture; and the stunning landscapes of the Amalfi Coast.
Political instability and the lingering effects of the global recession continue to weigh on Italy’s economy and public services, translating to low scores in the Government, Enterprise, and Digital sub-indices. The rise of the Five Star Movement may also bring about a fall in Italy’s Engagement ranking if the new coalition pulls Italy out of the Eurozone.
With the young and tech-savvy Renzi no longer in office, Italy has seen a fall in its Digital ranking. More could be done to promote existing cultural assets through government-owned digital channels. Italy also faces a long term challenge in addressing socio-economic and political issues, and ignoring them will only add to structural weaknesses and inefficiencies in public administration.