It seems to be a remake of last year, the political year end in Italy. As in 2018, the state budget was passed at the last minute, on December 23 - while it was the 30th for the last time. As in 2018, the opposition scolded that there was no time for thorough discussions. As in the previous year, the targeted new debt is just over two percent. And just as twelve months ago, the Prime Minister praised himself for saving the citizens an increase in VAT with the budget and instead giving one or two social benefits. This is routine for him, because he too has remained the same: Giuseppe Conte.

A picture of perfect continuity - and yet there is a hard break behind it. Conte started the year 2019 with a coalition of the anti-establishment force Movimento5Stelle (M5S - 5-star movement) and the right-wing populist-racist Lega, with a coalition in which the Lega boss Matteo Salvini with his broad sides opposed the refugees and against Brussels set the tone. Salvini is now out - and inside Contes' team is the moderately left-wing, pro-European Partito Democratico (PD).

During the budget consultations, one could observe that the wind had completely turned over it. This time there was no violent budget dispute with the EU Commission, this time Europe did not hold its breath when asked whether the government in Rome would like to push the euro against the wall, this time there were no nervous reactions on the financial markets. The matter was completely silent, after all, Treasurer Minister Roberto Gualtieri from the PD ranks is a convinced European who is responsible for the balance sheet.

Refugee policy is also noiseless

The Conte government is now managing the refugee policy noiselessly. The NGO ships, whether they are called Alan Kurdi or Ocean Viking , are undisturbed on the Sicilian road, they save people, they take them to an Italian port - and from there they are redistributed to Germany, France or Portugal.

The result: Italy has disappeared from the headlines. How different was the picture a few months ago when Salvini was Minister of the Interior! With the battle cry, Salvini had "Prima gli italiani!" ("Italians first!") Has the policy of "closed ports" and enforced them brutally. The test of strength with German captain Carola Rackete, who saved 42 people with the ship Sea Watch she commanded in June 2019, became a symbol of his campaign against the NGOs. Salvini refused to enter for weeks, and for weeks people had to endure the deck in the summer heat - until after 17 days Rackete finally bailed out against the orders of the Italian authorities in the port of Lampedusa.

The captain was put under house arrest, the ship was confiscated, Salvini sounded against the "tick", the "spoiled communist". After all, he was rightly convinced that his popularity could only help. The European elections of May 26 had just provided him with the evidence. In the national parliamentary elections of March 2018, the Lega had still scored 17 percent - but now it soared to a sensational 34 percent and became by far the strongest party in Italy. As a mirror image, their coalition partners broke from the five stars: They dropped from their almost 33 percent (2018) to only 17 percent.