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Has the strategy of the “external constraint” (voluntarily limiting the country's policy-making discretion by tying it to the European mast) contributed to Italy's stagnation over the past twenty-five years? The existing literature is divided on this question. The dominant interpretation is that Italy's stagnation is due to insufficient liberalization, and that the external constraint has had no negative and even a positive influence. An alternative interpretation emphasizes the demand compression and supply-side effects of the external constraint. Based on three case studies of public debt management, privatization, and labor market policy, this paper reconstructs the process by which the external constraint has affected outcomes. It argues that it has had a negative impact, but more as a necessary condition than as a sufficient one. In other words, it would probably have been possible to manage the external constraint differently to produce better outcomes, but without the external constraint, the stagnation would likely have been less deep.