Stronger lira casts a cloud over sunny side of the Alps

The dash for the euro is bringing gloom to South Tyrol.

Bolzano - "There are two sides to this coin," says Richard Seebacher, swivelling in his chair to admire the Rosengarten peak through the window of the Cassa di Risparmio bank.

"For Italian importers, a strong lira in the single currency should be good. But for exporters it is very alarming. We produce 11 per cent of Europe's apples here," he said, turning back to flick through his desk- top news monitor. "Prodi's Euro tax debated," says a headline.

In a warehouse across town,new machines are stamping EU-approved sell-by date stickers on packs of prize golden delicious apples which will be trucked up the Brenner Pass, on through Germany, to the shelves of a Liverpool supermarket. Due to Rome's decision to bring the lira into the exchange-rate mechanism, the producers will get far less for their load than in previous years.

Nervousness about the strengthening lira is evident throughout South Tyrol.

At the parliament of the provincial government, in Bolzano, deputies met last week in solemn mood. They were discussing whether they could raise new taxes to run their bountiful, quasi city-state, in the manner to which the citizens have become accustomed.

"There are many people here who are not happy about trying to force Italy into the EMU first wave," said Mr Seebacher. "And I don't believe we will make it."

The conventional wisdom says that, given the chaos of its national politics, Italy has become wholeheartedly pro-European. As a founder member of the community, the government of Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister, believes Italy has a right to membership of EMU from the start.

In reality, Italy, like other countries, is confused about the sense of the headlong drive for the single currency. And once again, Europe's "citizens" here know their anxieties are not being heard in Brussels. South Tyrol is untypical of Italy; the area was part of Austria-Hungary until the end of the First World War. The concerns do, however, reflect ordinary Italian misgivings about the euro, magnified by proximity to the frontier. South Tyrol is in many respects very pro-European, being in the prosperous north. The vine-draped mountains and the aroma of fresh coffee normally heighten the feel-good factor. Bolzano is "on the sunny side of the Alps".

But the region's economy is heavily reliant on tourism, with 70 per cent of visitors coming from Germany. A downturn has already been noticed this year as the lira has strengthened.

The region's native German-speaking population has a strong historical interest in cementing ties with Austria and Bavaria, seeing European integration as a way to blur state boundaries. The South Tyrolese have won autonomy from Rome, as well as large subsidies.

However, precisely because South Tyrol has prospered under its autonomous government it resents what it sees as a "political" diktat from Rome over belt-tightening for the single currency. Those driving the euro bandwagon in Bonn and Paris scorn countries who engage in "competitative devaluation". But in Bolzano the freedom to weaken the lira is seen as a valuable tool which has brought a mini-boom.

New economic hardship is likely to hit South Tyrol's less privileged ethnic Italians first, and extreme right Italian nationalist politicians here are exploiting popular discontent.

"People hate the Euro-tax. They are angry that a reduction in employment and cuts in state social spending is the price we are having to pay for the euro," said Luigi Schiatti, of the post-Fascist Unitalia political party.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape