Italy’s Political Drama Raises Stakes For Euro

ROME—Italy hurtled toward a political crisis that is reigniting debate over Europe’s future, including whether the eurozone’s third-largest economy should remain in the currency union.

The impasse, sparked by President Sergio Mattarella’s decision on Sunday to block the formation of a euroskeptic government, revived longstanding European fears that Italy, with €2.3 trillion in debt and a perennially sick economy, could trigger a new existential crisis in the eurozone.

European officials on Monday expressed the hope that Italy will stick to a pro-euro path, mindful of concerns that its exit could cause huge damage to Europe’s financial system.

The crisis comes amid a raft of challenges to the vision of a deeper political and economic integration promoted by Europe’s centrist establishment.

Eurozone members are divided over proposals to pool their budgets to provide mutual support in the event of a new debt crunch. Brexit, too, is presenting painful choices for both the U.K. and the rest of Europe, while Eastern European countries are repudiating Brussels in key areas such as the rule of law and immigration.

Italy’s emergency emerged from a weekend clash over the euroskepticism of the antiestablishment 5 Star Movement, the country’s largest single party, and the hard-right League party, which regard the euro as a failed project. Both have flirted openly with the idea of pulling Italy from the common currency.

On Sunday, President Mattarella rejected the choice of Paolo Savona, an 81-year-old euroskeptic economist whom the 5 Star and League parties had picked as their economy minister, an especially delicate role given Italy’s precarious public finances and weak banks. Mr. Savona, a former Bank of Italy official, has sharply criticized the euro and likened Berlin’s dominant role in setting eurozone economic policy to wartime aggression by Nazi Germany. The president said he feared a new government with Mr. Savona as economy minister could endanger Italy’s membership in the single currency.

On Monday, as the two antiestablishment parties protested his decision, Mr. Mattarella picked Carlo Cottarelli, an International Monetary Fund veteran, as prime minister-designate, and asked him to try to form a new government. The move stirred accusations that the president had usurped the popular will expressed in March parliamentary elections. The 5 Star and League together won about half of all votes cast.

Mr. Cottarelli, who headed the IMF’s fiscal affairs department, has vigorously defended Italy’s membership in the euro and led an effort to help bring Italy’s public finances in line through large cuts in public spending and waste.

Even if Mr. Cottarelli is able to form a new government, the prime minister-designate is unlikely to win a vote of confidence in parliament. Instead, he will likely lead a caretaker government only until fresh elections are called, which could occur in September.

The leaders of both the 5 Star and the League left little doubt that they would conduct an electoral campaign railing against the strictures of the common currency. That could make the vote a de facto referendum on Italy’s membership in the euro.

“It won’t be an election,” said Matteo Salvini, the 45-year-old firebrand head of the League on Sunday. “It will be a referendum between Italy and those on the outside who want us to be a servile, enslaved nation on our knees.”

European officials on Monday expressed concern about the developments.

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“We hope that Italy will have a stable, pro-European government soon,” said Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for European affairs.

However, the combative stance of Italy’s populists drew cheers from their brethren elsewhere in the region, signaling the pan-European importance the Italian impasse is assuming.

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s hard-right National Front and an ally of the League, said on Twitter that “the European Union and the financial markets are again confiscating democracy. What is happening in Italy is a coup d’état, a holdup of the Italian people by illegitimate institutions.” In a statement, her party said that Italy is a victim of “financial fascism.”

A full-blown return to runs on Italian debt that threatened the survival of the eurozone in 2011 and 2012 isn’t visible so far. Yields on Italian 10-year bonds jumped to 2.63% Monday as prices of the bonds fell. That is the highest since late 2013, although far from the peak of more than 7% in late 2011. The euro weakened on the Italian news, while shares on the Milan stock exchange fell 2.1%.

The popularity of the 5 Star and League parties reflects the fact that Italian voters—like many in southern in Europe—still blame European institutions, Germany and financial markets for the country’s downturn in the past decade.

The European Central Bank, bowing to Germany pressure, demanded tight budgets and painful reforms from Italy as the price for a massive bond-buying program that convinced investors that runs on fragile eurozone countries won’t be repeated.

But continued economic pain in Italy, despite a broad recovery in Europe, has sowed doubts about the euro. The Italian economy is 5% smaller per capita than it was in 2001, the only EU country, other than Greece, to have shrunk over that period, according to think tank Promotor. Across the EU, per capita GDP rose 18%. Youth unemployment is slightly more than 30%.

Write to Giovanni Legorano at and Marcus Walker at

Appeared in the May 29, 2018, print edition.

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Trump Says June Summit With North Korea ‘May Not Work Out’

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said a planned June 12 summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “may not work out,” adding if it doesn’t happen then “maybe it would in the future.”

Mr. Trump, speaking from the Oval Office as he greeted South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said he believed Mr. Kim was serious about talks. The president said he was willing to “guarantee his safety” and predicted Mr. Kim would be “extremely happy with the outcome.”

Mr. Trump also said he believed that North Korea had an “opportunity to be a great country” and that South Korea, China and Japan were willing to invest “large sums of money” to that end.

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Top diplomats and government officials discuss risks, hopes and the future of North Korean relations at the WSJ CEO Council in Tokyo ahead of the planned Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore.

The president said he had been disappointed by a second meeting between Mr. Kim and Chinese premier Xi Jinping, adding, “I can’t say I’m happy about it.”

He said Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon could meet soon.

Mr. Moon, replying to Mr. Trump, urged him to move forward with the planned talks, saying he believed the U.S. president would make the summit successful and “establish permanent peace.”

“The person who is in charge is President Trump,” Mr. Moon added.

Mr. Trump replied that reunification of the Korean Peninsula would be “up to them” and that talks on that topic could happen in the future but “not now.”

Mr. Moon’s visit to Washington came as the historic planned meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim looked increasingly at risk. With three weeks to go until the scheduled event in Singapore, doubts have emerged about North Korea’s commitment to the U.S.’s longstanding demand that Pyongyang undertake complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

Last week, North Korea lobbed three aggressively worded statements at the U.S. and South Korea through its state media. One of them, attributed to Kim Kye Gwan, Pyongyang’s longtime leading figure on nuclear negotiations, threatened to pull the plug on the June 12 summit if the U.S. was going to focus on North Korea’s “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”

If that were the case, “we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

At the time, the White House said in response that it had fully expected such harsh language and added: “The president is very used to and ready for tough negotiations.”


—Louise Radnofsky contributed to this article.

Write to Michael C. Bender at and Jonathan Cheng at

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Popbar – Handcrafted Frozen Treats on a Stick Opens in Richardson, Texas

RICHARDSON, Texas: Popbar, the maker of customizable popGelato, popSorbetto, and yogurtPops, founded in New York City in 2010 opened its first location in Richardson, Texas. Dedicated to serving ‘the best’ in frozen treats, Popbar serves handcrafted gelato, sorbetto, and yogurt in a new way – on a stick. All pops are made in-house daily with all natural ingredients.

On the menu, you’ll find 40+ rotating flavors ranging from classics (Chocolate, Vanilla) to the more unique (Green Tea, Passion Fruit), and even seasonal ones too (Watermelon, Pumpkin Pie). You can enjoy your pop as-is, or customize to your liking. Premium dippings and toppings include dark, milk, and white chocolate, nuts, sprinkles, waffle cone, caramel corn, and more!

At Popbar, a mouthwatering experience awaits everyone, even those looking for vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free options. All popSorbettos are vegan-dairy-gluten-soy-free, and all popGelatos and yogurtPops are gluten-soy free. Other indulgences include Hot Chocolate on a Stick, Frozen Hot Chocolate, the Double Shake (Popbar’s take on a milkshake, made with any two pops), and the newest addition to the menu, popWich, a gelato sandwich on a stick!

All this decadence can be attributed to Italian roots and a love for supremely delicious treats. Blending authenticity, innovation, and high quality ingredients, Popbar became a recipe for success, and the contemporary concept has been changing the way we enjoy our favorite Italian desserts since – on an international scale.

Popbar currently has 17 stores in the US in states like AZ, CA, FL, NC, NY, and TX, and 11 stores internationally in countries like Canada, Panama, Singapore and Russia, but this is just the beginning. There are currently 4 stores under construction in new territories, and many more to come. Popbar Richardson is the third to open this year.

"It’s an exciting day! We’re officially open and I couldn’t be more thrilled," says Raymond Nguyen, Popbar Richardson franchisee. "Our pops are so incredibly delicious and all natural too. My personal favorite is hazelnut popGelato with white chocolate, and crushed waffle cone, but what makes us special is the option to customize your own!"

While Popbar is expanding rapidly, the brand maintains a ‘mom and pop’ feel at all locations with the help of its hand-selected franchisees. Each store prides itself on Popbar’s original values – superior quality, in-house production, outstanding service, authenticity, and family-friendly fun. New stores quickly become classic neighborhood spots, and supplies like fruit and milk are purchased locally.

Popbar is a perfect treat for anyone – baby to adult, and for any occasion – dessert date to post-game celebratory treat to midnight snack. With so many flavors and combinations to try, just one visit won’t do. You’ll definitely want to stop in for a "love at first bite" experience, but if you’re a foodie, don’t forget to snap a picture of your pop first – that is, if you can wait.

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