Sunday, 26 September 2010

Italian Parliament For Sale

(sean_hickin, Horse Trading)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - A few weeks ago, while asking for early elections, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi claimed that the Parliament Speaker Gianfranco Fini - his former ally and present rival - had to resign (1). His request was far from legitimate, the Speaker as well as any other member of the Italian Parliament being free from imperative mandate (2).

On September 10th, speaking at a conference on democracy in Russia, Silvio Berlusconi reported that the Italian Parliament, the President of the Republic and the Constitutional Court hold too much power and make the Government powerless (3).

Quite surprisingly, then, he concluded that early elections were not needed, the Italian Government being able to easily find support within the Parliament (4). Thus highlighting a usual attitude, he continuously changed position in a very short time (5).

In order to preserve power and escape justice, the Italian Prime Minister now relies on transformism (6): a bunch of MPs - calling themselves the 'Accountables' -  would indeed be ready to replace Gianfranco Fini's Future and Freedom votes to keep the Government alive (7).

Imposing party lists whose order cannot be changed by voters, the Italian electoral law has actually turned "the representatives of people into servants at their bosses' command" (8).

According to many observers, Silvio Berlusconi is allegedly buying support from new MPs: as outlined by Massimo Giannini, "the Parliament is used by the Prime Minister as his personal horse trading market, instead of being the place where people's sovereignty really expresses itself and where the elected serve the people" (9).

Silvio Berlusconi is bound to speak at the Italian Parliament next Wednesday, September 29th: every Italian MP has now the duty to listen to his conscience and prove that in Italy justice is still equal for all (10).


(1) Stefano Rodotà, "Le regole calpestate",, September 8th 2010.

(2) Giovanni Sartori, "Populismo costituzionale",, September 9th 2010.

(3) Andrea Bonanni, "L'esportazione del comizio",, September 11th 2010.

(4) Eugenio Scalfari, "Perché il Cavaliere non vuole più le elezioni",, September 12th 2010.

(5) Filippo Ceccarelli, "I quattro Cavalieri",, September 13th 2010.

(6) Massimo Giannini, "La lezione del Presidente",, September 15th 2010.

(7) Tito Boeri, "Gli irresponsabili",, September 18th 2010.

(8) Curzio Maltese, "Dal dietrofront al mercato dei seggi",, September 5th 2010.

(9) "la Repubblica muore e il senso civico deperisce, quando un'istituzione come il Parlamento viene usata da un presidente del Consiglio come il suo personale 'mercato delle vacche', invece di essere il luogo in cui si estrinseca concretamente la sovranità degli elettori e in cui gli eletti 'servono il popolo'" (Massimo Giannini, "Il mercato del Premier",, September 18th 2010). Massimo Giannini is vice-editor-in-chief at la Repubblica.

(10) Giuseppe D'Avanzo, "Cavaliere, ci dica se la legge è uguale per tutti",, September 21st 2010.


Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Roma Connection

(Nick-K., gipsy kid portrait)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - In an interview to the French newspaper Le Figaro, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gave his support to the French President Nicolas Sarkozy concerning his policy on immigration: "Ms Reding had better dealt with the issue privately with the French executives before speaking in public as she did. This problem of Roma is not just French. It involves every country in Europe" (1).

Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, had publicly expressed her astonishment since this year the French government has deported to Romania and Bulgaria about 8,000 Roma, who actually are European citizens, as if they could be defined criminals just on grounds of their ethnic origin: "This is a situation - she said - I thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War" (2).

On the one hand, as outlined by Barbara Spinelli, Mr Berlusconi's invitation to keep the debate private reveals the idea of a 'secret' Europe, where single States take their decisions privately notwithstanding the EU laws and principles (3). On the other hand, by forcibly repatriating Roma, France is simply following the path opened by Italy in 2002 (4).

Unfortunately, Ms Reding was not pointless in recalling the Nazi genocide of Roma people: the comparison looks indeed not inappropriate if you realize how political parties supporting extremist positions on immigration have been growing in Europe (5).

In France, Nicolas Sarkozy actually looks like adopting ineffective solutions in order to gain popularity at the expense of the Front National (6). As for Italy, at recent elections the racist Northern League got 30% in Veneto and 26% in Lombardy and is decisive in keeping Silvio Berlusconi in power (7).

Instead of fomenting racism, France and Italy should start investing to integrate Roma within their societies (8).


(1) "Mme Reading aurait mieux fait de traiter le sujet en privé avec les dirigeants français avant de s'exprimer publiquement comme elle a fait. Ce problème des Roms n'est pas spécifiquement français. Il concerne tous les pays d'Europe. Il faut donc ajouter ce sujet à l'ordre du jour du Conseil des chefs d'Etat et de gouvernment européens pour que nous en parlions tous ensemble afin de trouver une position commune. Cette question des Roms n'est d'ailleurs pas la seule qui se pose à l'Europe: il y a également l'immigration clandestine. L'Italie est particulièrement exposée du fait de l'étendue de ses côtes. L'Europe n'a pas encore compris complètement qu'il ne s'agit pas d'un problème uniquement français ou italien, ou grec, ou espagnol. Le président Sarkozy, en revanche, en est pleinement conscient. Nous espérons que la convergence franco-italienne aide à secouer l'Europe et à affronter le problème par des politiques communes." (Richard Heuzé et Etienne Mougeotte, "Silvio Berlusconi: 'Je soutiens Nicolas Sarkozy en Europe, au G8 et au G20'",, September 16th 2010).

(2) Stanley Pignal, Nikki Tait and Scheherazade Daneshkhu, "Brussels condemns France over Roma",, September 15th 2010.

(3) Barbara Spinelli, "I nemici del diritto europeo",, September 17th 2010.

(4) According to law n. 189 of December 31st 2002, also known as Bossi-Fini law, in Italy immigrants who are not able to prove that they have a job or a suitable income are not entitled to a permit of stay (Read also Elisabetta Provoledo, "On Roma, Italy acts more quietly", International Herald Tribune, September 4th 2010).

(5) Kevin O'Rourke recently recalled how the Nazi Party got 2.6% at the German elections in 1928, while in recent years the Dansk Fokepartio got 13.9%, the Dutch anti-islamic Party for Freedom got 15.5% and the Jobbik in Hungary got 16.7%. Kevin O'Rourke is Professor in Economics at the Trinity College in Dublin (Kevin O'Rourke, "La recessione aiuta i partiti estremisti",, September 16th 2010).

(6) Christopher Caldwell, "Roma reveal a rootless Europe",, August 28th 2010.

(7) Rachel Donadio effectively described the recent meeting of Umberto Bossi's party: "The Northern League gathered [in Venice] this past weekend under a blazing sun to celebrate a peculiar late-summer ritual. Stalwarts, dressed in emerald green and some wearing T-shirts with anti-immigrant slogans, poured a vial of water drawn from the Po River into the Venetian lagoon" (Rachel Donadio, "Berlusconi ally savors its rise", International Herald Tribune, September 16th 2010).

(8) Estimates say that about 10 million Roma live today in Europe: in France they are 400,000 (0.62% of total population), while in Italy they are 145,000 (0.24% of total population). According to the World Bank, the annual cost of not integrating Roma in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and the Czech Republic amounts at € 5.7 billion ("Hard travelling",, September 4th 2010).

Sunday, 12 September 2010

In the Spotless Name of Giorgio Ambrosoli

(genuine nerd, crack)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - The Italian lawyer Giorgio Ambrosoli was shot dead in Milan on July 11th 1979 by a hired killer landed from the United States.

Giulio Andreotti, Senator for Life and Italian Prime Minister in 1979, declared in a TV programme this week that Giorgio Ambrosoli "went and searched for his death" (1).

An expert in compulsory liquidations, Giorgio Ambrosoli had been chosen in 1974 by the Bank of Italy to collect in the assets and settle all claims concerning Michele Sindona's Banca Privata Italiana.

Michele Sindona, a banker deeply involved with the Sicilian Mafia and a key member of the masonic lodge Propaganda 2, had built an empire by money laundering and investing customer deposits to make business through hundreds of shell corporations throughout the world.

Taking control of Franklin National Bank, the 20th largest bank in the U.S., in 1972 Michele Sindona had become one of the most influential world bankers: at that time, Giulio Andreotti labeled him "the saviour of the Italian Lira".

In 1974 Banca Privata Italiana and Franklin National Bank went bankrupt. Michele Sindona was accused of fraud by the American and the Italian justice. Not only did Giorgio Ambrosoli worked bravely to defend the interests of legal creditors and Italian citizens, but also his deposition at the Franklin National Bank default trial was decisive to prove that Michele Sindona was guilty.

In Italy, Giorgio Ambrosoli was regularly threatened and had to work lonely: while the Italian Government made pressures to save Michele Sindona's empire (2), the Governor of the Bank of Italy Paolo Baffi and the Vice Director Mario Sarcinelli who supported Giorgio Ambrosoli had fallen under accusation for non-existent reasons (3).

In March 1986 Michele Sindona was convicted to life-emprisonment for the murder of Giorgio Ambrosoli. A few days later a mysterious cyanide coffee put an end to his life.


(1) "Certo era una persona che, in termini romaneschi direi… se l'andava cercando" (Giulio Andreotti, interview with Giovanni Minoli, "Qualunque cosa succeda, la storia di Giorgio Ambrosoli", La Storia Siamo Noi, RAI DUE, September 9th 2010).

During the same TV programme the former President of the Italian Republic and Director General of the Bank of Italy in 1979 Carlo Azeglio Ciampi thus remembered Giorgio Ambrosoli: "He has been rightly named the 'Bourgeois Hero', an Italian citizen who puts himself at the service of the State, humbly and overtly accomplishing his duty" (E' stato giustamente chiamato l'Eroe Borghese, Un cittadino italiano che si mette al servizio dello Stato e assolve con umiltà, con semplicità, il proprio compito).

In a letter that he never gave to his wife, Giorgio Ambrosoli proved to be fully conscious of his destiny: "Anna my dear, it is February 25th 1975 and I am ready to deposit the report on the passivity of Banca Privata Italiana. Obviously this act will not satisfy many and it cost me a very hard work. There is no doubt that I will pay a huge price for this. I knew it before accepting this task and as a consequence I do not complain at all, because for me it has been a unique opportunity to do something for our Nation. Remember the days of the Italian Monarchic Union: we aimed, never succeeding, to make politics for Italy and not for the political parties. Well at forty, all of a sudden, I made politics in the name of the State and not for a political party. Whatever will happen, however, you know what you have to do and I am sure that you will be able to do it extremely well. You will have to raise our children and bring them up respecting those values in which we believed. It will be a hard life for you, but you are so skilled that you will always get away with it and, as always, will do your duty whatever the cost".

(Anna carissima, è il 25 febbraio 1975 e sono pronto per il deposito dello stato passivo della Banca Privata Italiana. Atto che ovviamente non soddisferà molti e che è costato una bella fatica. E' indubbio che in ogni caso pagherò a molto caro prezzo il carico. Lo sapevo prima di accettarlo e quindi non mi lamento affatto perché per me è stata un'occasione unica per fare qualcosa per il Paese. Ricordi i giorni dell'Unione Monarchica Italiana, le speranze mai realizzate di far politica per il Paese e non per i partiti? Ebbene, a quarant'anni di colpo ho fatto politica e in nome dello Stato e non per un partito. Qualunque cosa succeda, comunque, tu sai che cosa devi fare e sono certo saprai fare benissimo. Dovrai tu allevare i ragazzi e crescerli nel rispetto di quei valori nei quali abbiamo creduto. Sarà per te una vita dura, ma sei talmente brava che te la caverai sempre e farai come sempre il tuo dovere, costi quel che costi).

Umberto, the youngest son of Giorgio Ambrosoli, narrated the story of his father in the book "Qualunque cosa succeda", Sironi, 2009.

(2) Giorgio La Malfa, "Ambrosoli. Nuovo sgarbo di Andreotti",, September 10th 2010.

(3) Mario Sarcinelli, "Ambrosoli un eroe tragico",, September 10th 2010.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A Man Is Known by the Company He Keeps

(Olmovich, Refugees in Malta)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - The Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi and the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met in Rome last weekend to celebrate the second anniversary of the Italian-Libyan Friendship Treaty (1). During the meeting, Colonel Gaddafi allegedly asked the European Union € 5 bn every year to stop illegal immigration from Africa (2).

According to the Friendship Treaty, indeed, Libya was granted the same amount in 20 years as a compensation for colonial occupation (1912-1942): Italy has thus promised to build  a 1,700 km highway on the Libyan coast (3). Two routes out three from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe going through Libya, Colonel Gaddafi has in exchange enforced a severe crack-down on immigration to Italy via the Libyan Sea.

As outlined in a report by Human Rights Watch, regularly “Italy intercepts African boat migrants and asylum seekers, fails to screen them for refugee status or other vulnerabilities, and forcibly returns them to Libya, where many are detained in inhuman and degrading conditions and abused” (4).

Moreover, Libya was granted a privileged access to Italian businesses. Along with several other interests, Libyan sovereign funds presently hold a 7% share in UniCredit, the Italy-based and pan-European banking Group, and a 1% share in ENI, the Italian oil and gas multinational corporation (5).

Given the world financial crisis, formerly worldwide banned Libyan petrodollars were a godsend for Italy, an industrial country traditionally lacking in private capitals and facing a staggering 115% debt/GDP ratio. All the more reason, Italian businesses are said to have been granted new contracts for about € 70 bn (6).

Is there an alternative? Instead of arming Libya against naked hordes of migrants (7), Italy and Europe should invest in local development. Microcredit, healthcare and education are actually able to seed wealth and democracy (8).


(1) Adding disgust to shame, the visit of the Libyan dictator rose particular concern on the Italian media because Colonel Gaddafi gave a lesson on Islam to 500 Italian young women who had been paid by a recruiting agency to attend the event (Associated Press, "Italian models praise Gadhafi",, August 30th 2010).

(2) Nicoletta Picchio, “Gheddafi: con le aziende italiane altre commesse nella difesa”,, August 31st 2010.

(3) Sergio Rizzo, "Ma gli investimenti in Libia sono ancora a corrente alternata",, August 30th 2010.

(4) Human Rights Watch, "Italy/Libya: Migrants Describe Forced Returns, Abuse",, September 21st 2009.

(5) Ettore Livini, "Un business da 40 miliardi per la Berlusconi-Gheddafi spa",, August 28th 2010.

(6) Vittorio Feltri, "Non si fanno affari con Gheddafi? Ma andate a Ramadan", il Giornale, August 29th 2010.

(7) Antonella Rampino, "Armi e aerei per lo shopping del colonnello",, August 29th 2010. Read also Luisa Leone, "I tre assi di Finmeccanica in Libia", MF, September 1st 2010.

(8) Those who think the local development approach to be naïve should instead reflect on how important where UNRRA and Marshall Plan to promote the democratic development of Western Europe and grant the American world leadership following World War II (Read, for instance, William I. Hitchcock, Liberation - The Bitter Road to Freedom, Europe 1944-1945, London, Faber and Faber, 2009, pp. 446).

Even if present conditions are different, Europe might as well profitably lead the development of new economies and internal markets in Africa, a role which - at that moment - has actually been fully taken up by China. As a mere example, the adoption and implementation of agroforestry systems is pushing back the desert and dramatically improving living conditions in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.

The effects of these techniques, which happen to be costless and need nothing but farmers' education, are clearly visible from the satellite: it is estimated that in the sole Niger farmers were able to grow 200 million of trees, thus restoring and fertilizing  3,125 sq km of previously wasted land (Read Mark Hertsgaard, "Comme le Sahel reverdit", Le Monde diplomatique, August 2010, p. 19).