Obviously assuming that the goal of the Italian Second Republic was to have “governments which could last a whole legislature”, it was certainly not reached.
Not even the goal of avoiding the multiplication and increasing power of the political parties represented in Parliament was achieved, considering that from nine, on average, they decreased to eight – not a great success for those who wanted a British-style bipartisan system?
But why a British-style bipartisan system? Our political history is much more complex than the history of a country, which only assassinated a king in 1642.
Not to mention the countless electoral lists.
It is worth recalling that the collapse of the First Republic occurred between 1992 and 1993, but its seeds had been sown long before, precisely in 1987.
At that time, the dissolution of Parliament led to a sort of “institutional gridlock” due to the coincidence of the election of the President of the Republic and Parliamentary election.
Finally, at the time, a representative of the Lombard League was elected to the Senate, while the Mafia in Palermo channelled its votes to radicals and socialists with a view to sending a signal to the Christian Democratic Party (DC).
It was the phase of the “maxi-trial” against Sicilian Mafia bosses, resulting from judge Giovanni Falcone’s investigations.
Later Italy recorded corruption, as well as the fragmentation and regionalization of political parties, the fall of the Communist Party – an unsaid pillar of the system – the metamorphosis of the judiciary power due to globalization and the increase in extra legem law sources.
Hence a new international Lex Mercatoria expressed directly by the markets and not focused on Parliament and courts.
Italy was collapsing as a result of corruption, of the ante litteram scrapping of political parties, of media-style cheap leaderism, of increased autonomy of markets and civil society. It was the Italy “born out of the Resistance movement” or, more exactly, of the political parties: the Christian Democratic Party (DC), which had been created in 1943, shortly after the “Camaldoli Code”; the Communist Party (PCI), which during Fascism remained underground, with all its leaders hidden in Moscow; the Socialist Party (PSI), which survived during the Fascist period; the Social Democratic Party (PSDI), which was created as a result of an anti-PSI split in 1947; the old Republican Party (PRI), which went into hiding during the Fascist period; the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a national right party which was founded in 1946, and other political groupings generated by Italy’s history, social struggles and life.
Matteo Renzi knows nothing about these parties and their history – not even about the history of the Christian Democrats, his party of origin.
Renzi, like his predecessors, is the result of the Italian structural crisis, but he is the result and not the solution.
As to the labour market and employment policy, Renzi implemented the Jobs Act and, with a provincial and narrow-minded mentality, he used English to define it – as if it were a law by Barack Obama, the true patron of Renzi’s naive Americanism.
The Jobs Act assumes that there is a matching between labour supply and demand, as if the two markets were potentially equal, but it is mostly based on a reduction of the tax burden for employers, with a view to shifting from fixed-term contracts to open-ended contracts.
Obviously the system will create new jobs as long as the tax relief lasts.
In early 2016, hirings with open-ended contracts fell by 33%, while the turning of fixed-term contracts into open-ended contracts decreased by 30.5%.
Once finished the doping of the tax rebate, everything will go on as before.
Last November, Minister Madia’s Public Administration reform was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court. Certainly it is a specific law on the relationship between the Ministry and the State-Regions Conference, but it is anyway a reform drafted by a former TV professional.
Moreover, civil servants will be obliged to return from holiday if the staff is missing. And this is only one facet of the problem.
Youth unemployment, Renzi’s real propaganda obsession, is equal to 44.2%, the highest level since 1977.
The increase of taxes, which were already so high as to block economic development even before the Florentine leader’s government, was evident, albeit hypocritically and surreptitiously hidden in wider-scope laws.
First and foremost, the VAT increase which, with the so-called regime dei minimi – a sort of facilitated tax system – will rise from 5% to 15%.
Moreover, before falling as a result of the mad and reckless constitutional referendum, Renzi’s government planned to increase the usual petrol excise duties, over and above increasing the regional tax on productive activities (IRAP) retroactively.
Not to forget the increased taxation on pension funds, raised from 11.5% to 20%, in addition to the duty on the many classic and antique cars.
On the spending side, the same holds true for the endless forms of “pocket money” that Renzi offered as a gift to voters: 80 euros to everybody; 160 euros to low-income families with at least two children; a 500 euro bonus to the pensioners who had been subjected to unlawful deductions; a 500 euro bonus for the young people aged at least 18.
An indiscriminate all-round distribution of taxpayers’ money to all social groups that the former Prime Minister wanted to “buy”, with the disco-style habit of appearing youthful no matter what (500 euro to teenagers) and the buying of the elderly people’s votes with pension increases, rather remote indeed. Let us wait for them to die but, in the meantime, let us make them vote in “the right way”.
Two voting areas which, as is worth recalling, are more unstable than the others.
Hence we had a “child” in power, such as those described by Roger Vitrac in his 1928 surrealist play Victor, or Power to Children.
But, at least, in Vitrac’s play we were saved by the children.
Hence a group of Ministers cobbled together in a makeshift manner, yes-men or yes-women who only had to obey the orders of the leader or his Florentine coterie known as “Il Giglio Magico”.
Young Ministers of a children’s government, as in the 1938 movie Boys Town with Spencer Tracy.
A bunch of provincial and narrow-minded young people, who were so lucky to come to power, because in fact no one wanted that power or had the right stuff to gain it.
This is exactly the structural crisis of the Second Republic, much more severe and faster that the First Republic’s, which has been fully exposed by Renzi’s government.
Foreign Minister Gentiloni, born as the Former Minister and Rome Mayor Rutelli’s dogsbody or lackey, as indeed his Prime Minister, received with admirable handshakes all the Premiers of Third World countries, but he was superlative and unrivalled in his “political statements”.
He called for a war in Syria to rescue the Christians (on April 7, 2015); he made no assumptions about the Italians kidnapped in Libya (on July 20, 2015); he was severely ambiguous about Italian troops in Libya, initially described as at war there and later just entrusted with the task of “training Libyan forces” (which ones?) (on May 16, 2015); he ridiculously proclaimed Italy to be a “superpower ” (on April 4, 2016).
Not to mention the indescribable former Foreign Minister Mogherini, later hastily sent to Brussels as EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the worthy successor to the equally ineffable Lady CFSP, Baroness Catherine Ashton, who went to Al Sisi immediately after the coup that had ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt and asked him to “respect the election results” and restore the ousted President Morsi in power.
Federica Mogherini urged the political Islam to enter Europe, considering that “the radical Islam is a legitimate force of European politics”, and went on with many other pleasantries and nonsense (on July 7, 2015).
Fortunately, in Islam, there are no women who can rise to certain levels of power.
When I think of Federica Mogherini, I almost feel like appreciating the sharia.
With reference to the persecution of Christians by Isis, with her mere degree in Political Science, Mogherini said that “the issue needs to be clarified and tackled” (on January 20, 2016).
Not to forget her note according to which Turkey could enter the EU if only it abolished death penalty.
And what about the rest? Yet another concession to Chancellor Merkel’s diktats, considering that Angela Merkel had brilliantly stated the same. However, at least Chancellor Merkel is materially interested in Turkey’s EU membership, whereas this is not Italy’s case.
In short: a government made up of young people who, like all children, can also be extremely bad, with a Prime Minister who used the intelligence services to “blacklist” his enemies (Renzi’s enemies, not those of the intelligence services), with a former all-around basketball coach, Luca Lotti, and other Ministers, aides and associates literally found by chance in the street.
Therefore, like all the other governments of the Second Republic, Renzi’s was another step – probably final – towards Italy’s economic and social decline.
Time to Tackle the Stigma Behind Wartime Rape
The youngest capital city in Europe, Pristina, is the ultimate hybrid of old and new: Ottoman-era architecture stands amongst communist paraphernalia, while Kosovars who lived through the bloodshed of the 20th century share family dinners with a generation of young people with their sights set on EU accession.
This month, the capital’s Kosovo Museum welcomed a new force for change; Colours of Our Soul, an exhibition of artwork from women who survived the sexual violence of the Yugoslav Wars, showcases the world as these women “wished it to be.”
Colours of Our Soul isn’t the first art installation to shine a light on the brutal sexual violence thousands of Kosovar victims suffered throughout the turmoil of the conflict which raged from 1988 to 1999. In 2015, Kosovo-born conceptual artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa transformed a local football pitch into a giant installation, draping 5,000 dresses over washing lines to commemorate survivors of sexual violence whose voices otherwise tend to go unheard. “I started questioning the silence, how we could not hear their voices during and after the war and thought about how to portray the women in contemporary art,” said Xhafa-Mripa at the time.
Victims, and their children, pressed into silence
The silence Xhafa-Mripa speaks of is the very real social stigma faced by survivors of sexual violence in the wake of brutal conflict. “I would go to communities, but everyone would say, ‘Nobody was raped here – why are you talking about it?’”, remarked Feride Rushiti, founder of the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT).
Today, KRCT has more than 400 clients— barely a scratch on the surface given that rape was used in Kosovo as an “instrument of war” as recently as two decades ago. Some 20,000 women and girls are thought to have been assaulted during the bloody conflict; the fact that the artists whose work is featured in the Colours of our Soul exhibition did not sign their work or openly attend the installation’s grand opening is a sign of how pervasive the stigma is which haunts Kosovar society to this day.
As acute as this stigma is for the women who were assaulted, it is far worse for the children born from rape, who have thus far been excluded from reparation measures and instead dismissed as “the enemy’s children.” In 2014, the Kosovar parliament passed a law recognising the victim status of survivors, entitling them to a pension of up to 220 euros per month. Their children, however, many of whom were murdered or abandoned in the face of community pressure, are barely acknowledged in Kosovar society and have become a generation of young adults who have inherited the bulk of their country’s dark burden.
A global problem
It’s a brutal stigma which affects children born of wartime rape all over the world. The Lai Dai Han, born to Vietnamese mothers raped by South Korean soldiers, have struggled for years to find acceptance in the face of a society that views them as dirty reminders of a war it would rather forget. The South Korean government has yet to heed any calls for formal recognition of sexual violence at the hands of Korean troops, let alone issue a public— and long-awaited— apology to the Lai Dai Han or their mothers.
In many cases, as in the case of Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, the very existence of children born from rape has often been used as a brutal weapon by government forces and militants alike. Official estimates indicate that a mammoth 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped by the Pakistani military and the supporting Bihari, Bengali Razakar and al-Badr militias in the early 1970s. The children fathered, at gunpoint, by Pakistani men were intended to help eliminate Bengali nationhood.
Their surviving mothers are now known as “Birangana”, or “brave female soldier,” though the accolade means little in the face of a lifetime of ostracization and alienation. “I was married when the soldiers took me to their tents to rape me for several days and would drop me back home. This happened several times,” one so-called Birangana explained, “So, my husband left me with my son and we just managed to exist.”
No end in sight
Unfortunately, this barbaric tactic of rape and forced impregnation is one that is still being used in genocides to this day. The subjugation of the Rohingya people, for example, which culminated in a murderous crackdown last year by Myanmar’s military, means an estimated 48,000 women will give birth in refugee camps this year alone. Barring a major societal shift, the children they bear will suffer ostracization similar to that seen in Kosovo, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
Initiatives like the Colours of Our Soul installation in Pristina are not only central in helping wartime rape survivors to heal, but also play a vital role in cutting through the destructive stigma for violated women and their children. Even so, if the number of women who submitted their paintings anonymously is anything to go by, true rehabilitation is a long way ahead.
EU–South Africa Summit: Strengthening the strategic partnership
At the 7th European Union–South Africa Summit held in Brussels Leaders agreed on a number of steps to reinforce bilateral and regional relations, focusing on the implementation of the EU-South Africa Strategic Partnership. This includes economic and trade cooperation and pursuing the improvement of business climate and opportunities for investment and job creation which are of mutual interest.
Leaders also discussed common global challenges, such as climate change, migration, human rights, committing to pursue close cooperation both at bilateral level and on the global stage. A number of foreign and security policy issues, including building and consolidating peace, security and democracy in the African continent and at multilateral level were also raised. Leaders finally committed to work towards a prompt resolution of trade impediments affecting smooth trade flows.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, represented the European Union at the Summit. South Africa was represented by its President, Cyril Ramaphosa. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström also participated, alongside several Ministers from South Africa.
President Juncker said: “The European Union, for the South African nation, is a very important trade partner. We are convinced that as a result of today’s meeting we will find a common understanding on the open trade issues. South Africa and Africa are very important partners for the European Union when it comes to climate change, when it comes to multilateralism. It is in the interest of the two parties – South Africa and the European Union – to invest more. It will be done.” A Joint Summit Statement issued by the Leaders outlines amongst others commitment to:
Advance multilateralism and rules based governance
Leaders recommitted to work together to support multilateralism, democracy and the rules-based global order, in particular at the United Nations and global trade fora. South Africa’s upcoming term as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council in 2019-2020 was recognised as an opportunity to enhance cooperation on peace and security. As part of their commitment to stronger global governance, Leaders stressed their support to the process of UN reform, including efforts on the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council and the revitalisation of the work of the General Assembly. Leaders reiterated their determination to promote free, fair and inclusive trade and the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core and serving the interest of all its Members.
Leaders agreed to step up collaboration in key areas such as climate change, natural resources, science and technology, research and innovation, employment, education and training including digital skills, health, energy, macro-economic policies, human rights and peace and security. The EU and South Africa will, amongst others, explore the opportunities provided by the External Investment Plan. Linked to this, Leaders committed to exploring opportunities for investment, technical assistance including project preparation, and the improvement of business and investment climates to promote sustainable development. Leaders welcomed the conclusion and provisional implementation in 2016 of the EU-Southern African Development Community (SADC) – Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Leaders also committed to find mutually acceptable solutions to impediments to trade in agriculture, agri-food and manufactured goods. They agreed to work towards a prompt resolution of these impediments.
Leaders welcomed the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs put forward by the European Commission. They exchanged views on foreign and security policy issues, addressed a number of pressing situations in the neighbourhoods of both the EU and South Africa, and welcomed each other’s contribution to fostering peace and security in their respective regions. Leaders agreed to explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on peace and security, conflict prevention and mediation.
Leaders confirmed common resolve to reform the future relationship between the EU and the countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. To this end they are looking forward to the successful conclusion of negotiations for a post-Cotonou Partnership Agreement, that will contribute to attaining the goals of both the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the long-term vision for African continent – Agenda 2063.
Macron so far has augmented French isolation
French President Emmanuel Macron has recently criticized the unilateral pullout of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) but at the same time expressed pleasure that Washington has allowed France and the other JCPOA signatories to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.
In an exclusive interview with the CNN, Macron said that he has “a very direct relationship” with Trump. “Trump is a person who has tried to fulfill his electoral promises, as I also try to fulfill my promises, and I respect the action that Trump made in this regard. But I think we can follow things better, due to our personal relationship and talks. For instance, Trump has decided to withdraw from the Iran pact, but at the end, he showed respect for the signatories’ decision to remain in the JCPOA.”
There are some key points in Macron’s remarks:
First, in 2017, the French were the first of the European signatories to try to change the JCPOA. They tried to force Iran to accept the following conditions: Inspection of military sites, application of the overtime limitation on nuclear activities, limiting regional activities, including missile capabilities within the framework of the JCPOA.
Macron had already made commitments to President Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push Iran to accept the additional protocols to the deal, and he pushed to make it happen before Trump left the JCPOA.
Second, after the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, although France expressed regret, they had secret negotiations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the JCPOA.
The result of the undisclosed talks was deliberate delay on the part of the European authorities in providing a final package to keep the Iran deal alive. In other words, after the US unilaterally left the JCPOA, the French have been sloppy and maybe somewhat insincere about making the practical moves to ensure it would be saved.
Third, France has emphasized the need to strengthen their multilateralism in the international system and has become one of the pieces of the puzzle that completes the strategic posture of the Trump Administration in the West Asia region.
Obviously, French double standards have irritated European politicians, many of whom have disagreed with the contradictory games of French authorities towards the US and issues of multilateralism in the international community. Also, France’s isolation and its strategic leverage in the political arena has grown since the days of Sarkozy and Hollande. Some analysts thought that Macron and fresh policies would stop this trend, but it has not occurred.
First published in our partner MNA
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