Posts tagged ‘Berlusconi’

Immigration fears stalk Europe

Fears of a new wave of immigration are stalking western Europe. The row between France and Italy is symptomatic of the tensions. Today’s meeting between President Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi was intended to calm the situation, and an agreement was reached to modify Schengen to allow for “exceptional circumstances”, but France is the clear demandeur that the Schengen agreement must be modified to allow stricter cross-border controls.

France argues that it already faces a major crisis. It took tough measures when the train between Ventimiglia and Menton, carrying Tunisian refugees who had been granted residence permits by the Italian authorities, was held up at the French border for seven hours. French officials refused entry for around 1,500 would-be entrants.

It seems that up to 30,000 people from Tunisia and Libya have already been registered by Italian immigration, most of them having fled via Lampedusa, and there is widespread concern that these numbers could swell in the backwash of revolutions across the Arab world, and especially the conflict in Libya.

All the emphasis is currently on France and Italy. Sarkozy must contend with the surging popularity of the Front National, while Berlusconi requires the support of the fiercely anti-immigrant Northern League to sustain his government. But of course the refugee issue has a political impact right across Europe.

Belgian immigration minister Wathelet has taken a tough line. The True Finns party in Finland, which has won 19 per cent of the seats in the recent elections, is calling on Finland to quit Schengen, while the prospect of Bulgaria and Rumania joining the Schengen agreement has become more problematic.

There are also major implications for the UK, although outside the Schengen agreement. British governments need no reminder of the squatter camps in northern France which refugees used as launching pads for illegal immigration to Britain. Indeed, it was Sarkozy, when he was a minister, who closed the camps – an act for which London is eternally grateful. If Italy is in the front line of the refugee pressure, France is not far behind. It is reported that already 1,000 refugees have gathered near the Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to London.

The European Commission is reluctant to accept that there is a refugee crisis and has turned down Italy’s request for special help – so triggering the decision to grant residence permits to the Tunisian travellers and send them on to France. Commission policy is to press the Tunisian government to speed up the homeward return of its nationals. Indeed, President Barroso has scolded Tunis for not doing enough to control the flow. A further €140m from EU funds is being allocated to Tunisia over three years to assist repatriation in addition to €257m already committed to help the country’s reconstruction.

The nub of Europe’s problem is that nobody knows how each of the Arab revolutions will turn out, nor what the implications will be for neighbouring countries. Civil war, for instance in Libya or Syria, could drive many thousands to leave their home countries, while economic stagnation in say, Egypt or Tunisia could cause other migrants to join those already travelling from sub-Saharan Africa in search of work.

The European Union must get its act together, supporting EU countries which face the biggest immediate challenges, and providing help for Arab neighbours (once it has identified their differing needs) to stabilise their societies and stimulate their economies, which is the only long-term remedy for the refugee issue.


April 27, 2011 at 6:53 pm 1 comment

From Rome to Tehran: democracy goes online

In one of our last posts we helped you understanding the apparently complicated Italian political scenario (we hope we succeeded). Now, your burning passion for the Peninsula’s politics will find other tools to better follow what happens in the ‘boot’.

A brand new web site to track down Italian MPs’ activities in the national parliament was launched yesterday. The web site has been created by a non-profit organization (Openopolis) which already launched in the past two initiatives, one to identify your political positioning by answering a set of questions on different topics and the other one to provide a wide range of information on politicians.

The new portal will help discovering, for example, that MP Antonio Caglione (Partito Democratico), is at the bottom of the attendance rate list (only 11.33% of sessions attended) and Furio Colombo (PD again) is the most rebellious MP, voting 394 times against the indications of his party. Berlusconi’s MPs are the most reliable in terms of presence and 16 of them are above the 99% threshold.

As you know this is not the first tool of this kind that was launched in a European country and it just show how the Internet is becoming an increasingly used tool by both politicians – FH digital survey docet – and voters or the society as a whole, all over Europe. People need and want the information that traditional media is not able to provide: a few minutes after the launch of the web site, visitors started receiving messages saying that the server was slowed down because of the massive traffic.

Digital democracy or e-democracy is not the future anymore, it is the present. An example? The protests in Tehran: with the government obscuring the telecom network, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube compensate the spread out of information and someone already defined this ‘ the first digital revolution’.


June 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

Ahh Italians!

“Ahh Italians!” This is the most common comment that I get when I talk about the European election in Italy with friends and colleagues.

But what do they actually mean by stressing this plural noun, “Italians”?

It seems almost that all the Italian national political habits and stereotypes can be summed up in one word; at least this is the common feeling here in Brussels.

In that “Ahh Italians” there are all the things people in Europe expect to be typical features of Italian politics: opaqueness, confusion, easy shifting alliances, unreliability, and instablity. People take them as normal, as a matter of fact. Therefore…”ahh Italians”!

Is it really like that? Is Italian politics so difficult to understand for non-nationals? Well, we must confess that sometimes it is even difficult for us Italians!

Nevertheless the forthcoming election might change something in the way Italian politics is perceived in Europe…as far as confusion and instability are concerned. In fact, when it comes to the candidates of the different parties the issue has been used, in Italy and in Europe, to add a different stereotype to that “ahh Italians”. I want to leave this issue out my post because I think it is not correct to deliver judgments a priori.

Let’s instead focus on confusion and instability. Since the last political election in 2008 the Italian political spectrum has achieved a sort of bi-polar maturity with the consolidation of both a center-right and a center-left party: Il popolo della Liberta’ (PdL) led by Berlusconi, and il Partito Democratico (PD) led now by Dario Franceschini after Walter Veltroni’s resignation.

Just three other major parties gained seats in the Italian Parliament: Lega Nord, Italia dei Valori, and Unione di Centro. The left wing (communists and greens) went through a historical defeat without gaining any seat in the two branches of the Parliament.

This situation is likely to be reiterated in the next European election. According to polls Berlusconi and his party (PdL) should take more than 40% of votes and the PD around 30%. The rest will be distributed amongst the other parties which have also gained seats during the last political election. The polls foresee another exclusion of the left wing which should not be able to pass the 4% threshold provided by the new electoral law. However, prevision can also be denied and the left wing could have some more chances to reach the threshold in a situation where the turnout is consider being really low.

Moreover the PdL is likely to become the first or the second most representative party in the EP, and Berlusconi is working hard to win the EP Presidency for Mario Mauro, current MEP. On the other hand the new PD representation in the PES will be joined by former ALDE Italian MEPs as result of what happened at national level with the creation of the PD itself. Thus the Italian representation in the EP center-left wing will grow too (voices in the PES suggested even a change of the party’s name to welcome the former ALDE representation).

The conclusion is that the Italian representation in the EP as whole will be distributed more between the two biggest European parties. This distribution reflects a national one.

Hopefully now the situation is less confusing for everybody.


May 19, 2009 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

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