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INTERVIEW WITH THE ITALIAN AMBASSADOR IN SPAIN

 

Stefano Sannino, Italian ambassador in Madrid, after graduating in 1983, covered varied and important roles, both in Italy and in the European Commission.

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At the first question about what had been the path to get his position he laughed answering: “Well, two main things: luck and hard work”.

He started his career with a diplomatic formation course and immediately he became secretary of the Minister of Foreign Affairs; “Renato Ruggero, (Italian politician and diplomat), played a fundamental role in my career: he helped me to meet important and relevant people who taught me the basis of diplomacy and Renato in particular transmitted to me a strong Europeanist feeling which convinced myself of the importance of trying an International career, living it with passion and commitment.” That’s the main reason why his training and experience were “atypical” as he recognized: “I spent only little time in Italy because the whole of my work was abroad, in Brussels or in the Balkans”.

 

Getting more inside the interview, I asked him what his daily activity consists of:” This is a bilateral embassy, the other headquarter is in Barcelona so that the work is shared”. He realized during this year of activity that Madrid is like a “melting pot, so that I have the daily part of ordinary work, for instance the defense of the economic, political and socio-cultural interests of the Italians, and a more innovative and operative part in which I am constantly looking for new ideas to make his activity smarter and more intriguing”.

The embassy addresses its work as well to the Spanish society and that’s the reason why he wants to “create strong connections and friendly bonds between Italy and Spain”.

“I take care of two main sharing currents: business to business, which means linking the Italian business activities with the Spanish ones trying to make possible that each of them can enrich thanks to the other, and people to people, namely melting both cultures and trying to appreciate the extraordinariness of each one”.

He revealed the most important issue he takes care of is the defense of the fundamental human rights and in particular the ones of the LGBT community: “here in Spain people are definitely more open-minded that Italians and the protection of the LGBT rights has been my goal since I settled here”.

Talking about relations and differences between Italy and Spain, he said: “I can recognize two main level of interaction. One is about the civil society, regarding the economic, cultural and entrepreneurial part where I find a strong penetration of ideals and common values: people know and understand each other. The other one is the political level and the sharing is more difficult due to different political traditions; I would say that the strength of social relations doesn’t reflect in the political ones”.

 

The top question was about to know if he has never had to solve any special diplomatic case or crisis in his career and he started his long memory about the amazing diplomatic mission in the Balkans: “during the 90s the Balkans where the powder keg of Europe. They used to represent a big and uncomfortable problem: Milosevic’s Serbia was the image of threaten and danger for the human rights and this inevitably led to sanctions and isolations not only of Serbia but of all Yugoslavia too”.

“My role was trying to keep contacts with no-governmental organization and the tortured minorities in order to maintain communicative channels open with those parts of the society which finally achieved to win, starting the democratic process.”

 

His moving words showed me the passion he had for his work and the experience thrilled him so much that he was sent once more to Yugoslavia in 2001 as leader and coordinator of the OSCE mission in Yugoslavia. “I was there trying to help the Kosovo government to restore the democracy in the region by supporting the police, the public television and giving Kosovo a democratic electoral law”.

His was as well a mission of crisis management: “We needed to solve the problem of three Southern Serbian provinces, with an Albanian majority, which wanted to separate themselves from Yugoslavian Serbia and annex to the Albanian Kosovo and we succeeded avoiding the fragmentation and developing an electoral law which evaluated all the ethnical connotations”.

Another project he concluded satisfactorily was the 2003 European Council of Salonica in which he and the other members of the mission were able to open for the first time a European perspective for the Balkans, beginning the process of European integration of the former Yugoslavia.

 

Summing up, he told me he’s very satisfied with his career: “the key is always interpreting new challenges positively, fitting each situation”.

This interview really amazed me, not only for the attitude he has to his work but also because it’s the career I would like to undertake and his words really convinced me.

NICOLA BERTOLI

Constitutional referendum in Italy: the first time for a concrete change

On December 4th Italy will cast its vote for the Constitutional Referendum. Since 1948, when the Constitution was approved and entered into force, Italy has never changed: this will be the first opportunity for Italy to change its outdated system and open the way to the reforms. Italian PM Matteo Renzi proposed the vote and is confident that Italy will get the change.

A general view of the Italian Senate is seen during a debate in Rome

From Reuters

Different aspects for a tangible change are included in the vote of the referendum.

Firstly, the entire reorganization and composition of the Senate which has the same representative and legislative power of the Chamber of Deputies

Secondly, the simplification of the election process of the President of the Republic, the main premiership of Italy: a process requiring months of negotiation and tactics which will be finally redesigned.

Thirdly, the executive power prerogatives: the referendum tries to achieve the possibility for the government to accelerate the legislative iter avoiding the tedious proceedings to make a proposed law effective.

So what if the people vote no and Renzi leaves politics? The departure of Renzi given a failure of the referendum concerns investors because, it could slant the country back to political chaos and commence a wider crisis in the EU economy, having debts up to 132,7% of GDP. Appearing exasperated with the European austerity policies has double advantage: structure Italy’s absent economic performance elsewhere and gives Mr Renzi an air of fashionable euro-skepticism.

But, what if the ’yes’ vote succeeds? The adoption of this new constitutional reform would offer an opportunity for voters to register a protest against his left-right coalition and, in particular, rely on the failure to revive the economy. The central and regional governments overlap has also been arguments to why this reform needs to be accomplished. The latest poll, for Eumetra, a research institute, estimated that when undecided voters and likely abstainers were stripped out, the opponents of the reform had increased their lead to 10 percentage points

Notwithstanding, the problem remains on the Senate and the House of Representatives having the same power condition. The jurisdiction concentrates in a single chamber and, therefore, decision making will drag out and legislation would outlive unresolved. Additionally, the reduction of  the number of Senators from 315 to 95, the abolition of the CNEL (the National Committee for Economics and Work which has always been a non binding institution expressing its opinion to the government with recommendations) and the stakes set for councillors and regional groups will reduce the cost of politics.

The aim is to make Italy a more governable country after it has had 60 different government in a period of 70 years, therefore, the new camera will be qualified to ratify amendments to the Constitution, international treaties, popular referendum, among others.

Moreover, vote ’yes’ would expect and increasing participation of the citizens of Italy by providing a more participatory democracy by lowering the quorum required for the validity of the outcome of referendums demanded at least 800,000 voters, but, just the 50% plus one in the number of voters at least.

This is a unique occasion for Italy to change its old and static system, trying to launch the country in the era of economical, and socio-political reforms and that’s the reason why all the European political partners recognize the positivity of the change as well.

«La partita è adesso e non tornerà. Non ci sarà un’altra occasione. Sono certo che non la sprecheremo». “The challenge is now and it won’t come back never again. There won’t be another chance and I am sure we won’t waste it” said the PM Matteo Renzi.

Dreams broken by fear of insecurity and political strategies

The clearance and demolition of the refugee “Jungle”camp of Calais, on the English Channel, began on Monday 25th and the situation got immediately drastic.

The demolition of the makeshift camp in Calais began on Tuesday. As charities said, the measures were unacceptable while children remained and calls were made for all the children to be registered and taken to safety.

Crews wearing hard hats and orange jumpsuits began tearing down tents, sheds and other temporary buildings as refugees and migrants continued to board buses for relocation centers elsewhere in France.

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Workers begin the demolition of the refugee camp in Calais. From The Guardian.com

The workers, who were escorted by scores of French police, used electric saws to take down wooden shelters, and mechanical diggers to remove debris from the sprawling site where an estimated 6,000-8,000 people have been living.

2,318 refugees of which over 400 are minors, passed the registration point of this notorious camp,which has become the symbol of Europe’s failed refugee politics. “As the demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’ start, the French authorities must ensure that they don’t bulldoze through the rights of refugees and migrants, many of whom are likely to be extremely vulnerable”, said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director.

The main problem will be for children living in the Camp and being forced to leave it. The clearance operations represent for them an absolutely dangerous menace: the charity Unicef UK said it was unacceptable for demolition to begin while children remained in the camp.

“The children waiting to go into converted shipping containers are still in danger and keeping them safe must be the No 1 priority” said Lily Caprani, the charity’s deputy executive director.

This decision was taken by the French government in order to guarantee safety  for businesses and people movements between UK and France, reducing the problem of clandestine migrants trying to get to the British land by hiding themselves in lorries or naval containers.

“Closing the ‘jungle’ migrant camp in Calais will help secure the future of the Le Touquet agreement which allows British officials to check passports in France and vice versa”, British interior minister Amber Rudd said on Monday.

But there’s more below the cover of security: France’s government is determined to keep the evacuation orderly. The Calais “Jungle”, which has been home to an estimated 6,500 people trying to reach Britain, is an eyesore for locals and a source of embarrassment for a country that has taken so far fewer refugees than Germany.

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From the Daily Mail

By closing the camp on “humanitarian” grounds, President François Hollande’s government hopes to deal with an issue that was bound to dog his Socialist camp in an upcoming presidential election. The closure of the camp is largely being driven by French domestic politics, and any long-term solution is likely to be dependent on the outcome of next year’s presidential election.

OLD PHANTOMS, NEW MENACES: THE EXTREME RIGHT COMES BACK IN EUROPE

The extreme right wing German party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), grows in the most powerful European country throw nationalism, anti-migration, Euro-skepticism and all over the Europe nationalist parties get votes exploiting the difficult economic situation and the migrant crisis.

 

Angela Merkel’s ‘open-door’ policy in Germany’s immigration politics has an increasing popularity of the right-wing parties, which will vote out the CDU and SPD grand coalition in the next 2017 elections. The growing xenophobia and misanthropy born from the German citizen’s insecurity for the future, is the toughest debate happening in Germany at the time. Far right-wing parties successfulness in suggesting an alternative from Merkel’s policy, denotes that the 2017 elections will definitely be hard-fought.

The German citizenship is mainly worried about the flow of immigrants into their country, because for the first time, the right-wing parties have gained a huge amount of support. Populism and right-wing parties, especially extreme ones, have been a ‘taboo’ in Germany because of its Nazi-history.

‘The beginning of the end’ has started for the grand coalition for next year’s state elections. Right wing parties for instance, the AfD (Alternative for the Deutschland) founded by Franke Petry, favourite to win the upcoming elections, have gone from as low as getting only 4,7 percent of the votes to winning seats from Germany’s 16 state parliaments. We could attribute this to the failure of the  German federal government to handle the Eurozone currency crisis. In consequence, the nation has lurched to the right due to the rising anti-immigrant sentiment.

AfD is not the first right-wing party after Second World War, nor the first anti-immigrant party in Germany. In 1960 the neo-Nazi party NPD gained some support when masses of foreign labour came to Germany.  Although AfD, NPD and the republicans share somehow their same ideology in relation to the immigrant policy, AfD has carefully tried to distance itself from the rightwing extremism and labelled itself as a socially respectable unlike NPD. 56-year-old Social Democrat leader, Sigmar Gabriel, said this summer: ‘Everything that these people say, I have already heard…from my own father, who was a Nazi to his last breath’. Also German authorities have put the AfD under official watch, even though they did not do it for NPD or republican parties.

 

Marcel Fratzscher,president of the German Institute fro Economic Research, states that the economic superiority of Germany is indisputable but at the same time, if we look at the socio-economic development ,the Teutonic state is one of the most unequal in the OECD. The growing inequality is only in favour of those who better can fit to the economic development whereas those who fit worse need to get their subsistence from the state.

The huge arrival of migrants feeds the fear of seeing the public aid reduced in order to fulfill the necessities of  migrants. One of the milestones on which the Afd bases its policies; understand the fear of the people and show themselves as the protectors of the national ideals and services by identifying the enemy in the weakest.

Another reason explaining this incredible increase is the failure of the traditional model of communication of the “old politics”. The traditional European system is guilty for getting further from the people’s requests, and extreme right wing parties have been filling up this lack; the new norms of the EU have sometimes damaged the national resources of the member states or simply they have removed a part of the national sovereignty. What happened? the populist and nationalist parties took sides against EU showing a strong Euroskepticism. Think of  the case of Alba Dorata, whose policy is totally against the European Troika and Brussel’s impositions

The phenomenon does not only concern Germany but Europe, which assists to the spreading of the populisms and nationalistic movements.

If we look at other countries, the economic crisis accelerated the process of extremism; the Front National in France, the UKIP movement in the UK and all the nationalist parties of the Balkans. The crisis increased the social differences and cultural distances among different ethnic groups; the fear of possible future terroristic attacks is giving to the French FN the possibility to lead the government.