Tag Archives: Italy

Mayhem and murder usher in Italy’s new government

29 Apr

Italy finally has a new government, more than two months after the general election. It represents a balance of power between the center-left and center-right, includes a record seven women including a black minister, and is significantly younger than previous Italian cabinets

5New Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) faces severe political and economic pressures and will have to score quick successes in the coming months. He needs to satisfy voters who are sick of economic stagnation and cutbacks while meeting the demands of investors for painful structural reforms — and keeping the rival parties in his coalition happy.

Meanwhile, party grandees like Silvio Berlusconi of the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party will continue to pull strings in the background.

The swearing in of the cabinet on Sunday was overshadowed by a gun attack in which an unemployed man shot and injured two police officers and a passerby outside the prime minister’s office in Rome. Officials said the shooting was an isolated incident, but it highlighted the tensions Letta faces.


“This is another sign of despair,” said lower house speaker Laura Boldrini. “Politicians have to come back to providing concrete answers to people’s needs.”

Letta is due to speak in parliament ahead of the confidence vote on Monday afternoon.

The election in February, in which the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement led by comic Beppe Grillo became the strongest political force, amounted to a massive protest vote against Italy’s political elites and made the formation of a government a difficult, drawn-out process. Grillo’s 5-Star Movement is not represented in the government.

Given those challenges, the fact that Italy now has any kind of government at all is good news, write German media commentators. Whether it will last its full five-year term is quite another question though, they add.

Conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“The fact that Italy finally has a government again is good news in itself. The fact that it doesn’t consist of ‘technocrats,’ and that politicians are the ones taking political responsibility again, is equally positive. The wrangling during the second half of Mario Monti’s term showed that people without party affiliation can’t perform miracles either.”

“But doubts remain whether the new and younger cabinet will really be able to bring about the turnaround Italy needs. It’s just a detail, but it fans such doubts, that Letta wasn’t able to push through his plan to drastically cut the size of the cabinet. It has 21 instead of 12 portfolios because the Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s PdL refused to abandon ther ‘combinazioni.’ The reform of electoral law, one of the most important points in the task list formulated by (Italian President Girogio) Napolitano, will remain a stumbling block because it is so closely intertwined with the distribution of power. The failed attempts to elect a new president showed how riven the PD is by power disputes. Berlusconi’s people are subject to the mood swings of the capricious party patriarch who also finances them — and are likely to engage in power struggles and position-jockeying over who will take over from the ageing ‘Il Cavaliere.'”

“Prime Minister Letta had already made his European policy clear before his government was formed: He regards a policy focused on austerity as a dead end and will therefore reinforce the Southern European nations including France who are becoming increasingly open in their resistance to Germany’s recipe for saving the euro zone. That said, the reins have long since been loosened: first by the European Central Bank and its monetary policy, and now also by the European Commission which is allowing the debtor nations more time to implement their restructuring plans.”

Conservative Die Welt writes:

“Italy’s government doubtless represents a first. Prime Minister Enrico Letta, chosen by the elederly president, is very young by Italian standards, as is his cabinet. Even though, as was to be expected, there wasn’t a real reduction in the number of ministerial posts, it has some noteworthy features, such as the number of women and experts in the cabinet. Emma Bonino of the libertarian Radical Party has been made foreign minister — she is known for her unflinching stance on human rights and she’s likely to be a red rag to the obediently pious brand of Vatican Catholicism. Everything is balanced. The PD is represented, but not too massively. The cabinet contains a number of experts and in that sense follows in the footsteps of the technocrat government of Mario Monti, but without the authoritarian tone of the specialists.”

“Yes, this cabinet could turn into something. One should stress the word ‘could,’ however: Because there’s still not much to suggest that it will. The old godfathers stand behind the parties carrying this government. One finds it hard to seriously believe all of them that they are ready to step back and give the national interest priority over their own party political games. Let us be skeptically hopeful, though.”

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Letta’s PD and Silvio Berlusconi with his PdL refrained from dispatching their hardliners into the cabinet. That permitted the creation of a government that combines the old and the new and could therefore get the transformation going somewhat smoothly. It’s important that the new ministers embody the urgently required generational change, and that this cabinet has more women than ever (before seen in an Italian government), including a minister of African descent. Newcomers from the parties, a few established politicians, specialists with no party affiliation — with this cabinet, Letta is fulfilling the wishes of his voters and demands of the 5-Star protest movement of Beppe Grillo.”
“Letta could bridge the gap between the opposing camps of the center-right and center-left — that hasn’t been possible for the last 20 years. If Letta’s government can contribute to a reconciliation of the political camps, and to a more balanced tone of political discourse, the benefit would be enormous.”

“Given the unpredictability of Italian politics, it’s impossible to forecast how long Letta’s government will last. It could be anything from a few months to a few years. It won’t be an easy time, the PdL is likely to make blackmail attempts and complicate policymaking especially in areas affecting Silvio berlusconi’s interests — in particular regarding the introduction of a wealth tax or a new anti-corruption law. Besides, Letta isn’t safe from traitors in his own party. His political life will depend on how quickly and constructively this experimental cabinet can deliver results.



Sweden is no longer neutral; drones are ‘totally illegal’

7 Feb

In part 2 [ Download] of an interview with the Voice of Russia, Agneta Norberg, Vice Chair of the Swedish Peace Council, Member of Steering Committee in International Peace Bureau and a member of the board of directors of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space discusses the facts surrounding Sweden’s non-neutrality and the country’s involvement in NATO and Western military expansion. Ms. Norberg gives her views on drones which she calls “murder machines” and the development and testing of drones in Sweden, including a new drone being developed in a joint European project.

Part 1 of the interview

Robles: How does Sweden officially explain that they allow these installations? And do you think all these maneuvers are designed to intimidate Russia or to try to exercise sovereignty on the Arctic?

Norberg: Well, when we drift to Arctic, I think there are two things going on here. When they are interviewed, those who are in charge of these maneuvers, they always answer that this is for the Arctic, they openly express this – these maneuvers are for the Arctic and the resources which will be available when the ice is melting.

But the NATO maneuvers are so seldom covered in the news, in media, specifically not here in the south, I live in Stockholm, up in the north, in the local newspapers they are covered rather extensively. And they used to send quotes from the newspapers for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have known it, because the media doesn’t cover it in the south, in Stockholm, where most of the people live.

So, it is, a sort of: secretly hidden from the public to understand what is really going on. But when they are asked, they say: this is for the Arctic.

And also one thing I think you’ve mentioned is that Sweden is neutral. Forget that! We are not neutral! We have for long abolished the neutrality. We are not non-aligned; we are nothing, because we are openly conducting war games with NATO.

But there is one difficulty because the people in Sweden and in Finland are against. It is only about 19% of the Swedish population that accept NATO, the others don’t. So, they have that problem here.

But I can see the lust, how they try to form an enemy out of Russia, and you should understand this: how Russia now is demonized, again. And I’m so old, so I remember how they were demonizing the former Soviet Union, always, and almost on daily basis. And now we are there again.

So, we have here in one of the latest (Names Swedish newspaper in Swedish) a picture of Putin and Russia is arming, here, and how the Russian bear now starts showing its muscles. So, at the same time, as you have these military maneuvers and military flexing of muscles, you seldom get information to the public here.

I was speaking in Norway last summer and they didn’t know about these things. I’m very often on speaking tours in the north. I was in Finland last autumn and they didn’t know about these military maneuvers either. They were really shocked when I told them.

So, here we are again, from the Cold War days, gradually Russia is the threat. And when I talk to Russian people they are not aware of this. It is like when I was travelling in the former Soviet Union, they were not aware of how you were depicted and described as a big-big threat. And I think we are there again, hiding what the NATO is doing in our country and in the north, and describing the threat of Russia coming. There we are again.

Robles: Would you say it is worse than it was in the Soviet times?

Norberg: It is about the same now. We are in square one, we are back in the Cold War sentiment in a way. But it is even worse now because during the Cold War, at least Sweden had a posture that we are non-aligned and neutral. Not anymore! We have left our neutrality, we have left our non-aligned posture.

Not openly, the neutrality we have left openly, but not the non-aligned posture. I can give you an example: they are now training in the North America (for) war in Nevada.

They were training together with the US in 2006 in Alaska. They went with 6 or 7 war planes to Alaska and made a huge maneuver outside North Korea together with the US.

So, we are actively joining in different parts of the world. Of course we are in Afghanistan now.

And so I think you have to start to understand that Sweden has quite another position now and we are a NATO country. It is only a document that is left to be done. That’s the situation now in Sweden.

Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about what you think the US and NATO’s plans are for the Arctic?

Norberg: I can see that they are making a lot of war games together up in the north.

And I also know that the US and Canada are the same, I mean they are in the same organization. Canada has lost much of what they had before. I have a map in front of me where I have all the installations, and the North American-Canada Command had merged together.

So, up in the north you have a very strong militarization from Canada’s point of view and they are building up their military as never before.

And one thing that I think is important to mention is the drones. Canada is planning for a huge drone fleet, and so is Sweden. Now we have one of the world’s biggest drones which is ready in the North European Airspace Test Range which is one of the biggest in Europe for training drones.

Robles: What’s your opinion on drones?

Norberg: They should be banished, abolished or banned because they are terrible murder…, we call them “murder machines”. They are conducted from Nevada test site. They sit there in front of computers and kill people in Yemen, in Pakistan and many places.

We have a huge training area: as big as Macedonia, called the North European Airspace Test Range in the northern part of Sweden where they train these drones. So, we are in this arms buildup, it’s rather dangerous I think.

The newest one is Neuron. It is a cooperation between Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland on one of the world’s biggest drones Neuron. That is a prototype that is now ready this year.

Robles: What is your opinion on the legality of drones because the users face no risk?

Norberg: They are totally illegal. You sit in a bunker, you don’t see anything, you just sit in front of a screen and see the target. We call them “murder machines” because these are murders. They “say” they kill Al-Qaeda.

Agneta Norberg is the Vice Chair of the Swedish Peace Council, a member of the Steering Committee in International Peace Bureau and on the board of directors of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Voice of Russia.

Two Russians, Italian kidnapped in Syria

18 Dec
Russian Italian Kidnapping Syria


The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed today that two Russian citizens and an Italian have been kidnapped in Syria late on 17 December.

According to the available information, the three men were abducted on the way from the town of Homsa to Tartus, in the western part of the country.

The ministry announced that one of the kidnapped men had a dual citizenship: Russian-Syrian. It also said that the three men worked for a private company, named ‘Hmisho & Co’.

The unknown abductors of VV Gorelov, Abdessattar Hassoun and Mario Belluomo demanded over the phone ransom whose amount was not specified by the Russian MFA.

The Russians concluded by saying that their embassy in Damascus ‘has immediately began taking the necessary proactive actions and was in contact with the Syrian side’ in order to accelerate the rescuing of the kidnapped Russian and Italian citizens. New Europe.

Italy: Prison sentences for defamation violate freedom of expression · Article 19

14 Aug



ARTICLE 19 calls on the Italian Parliament to repeal the provisions of the Penal Code on defamation and bring its legislation in compliance with the international standards on freedom of expression in response to a recent court decision in a criminal defamation case convicting an Italian journalist and the former director of a newspaper to prison sentences.

ARTICLE 19 has sent requests to both chambers of the Italian parliament urging them to review and amend the provisions of the Penal Code dealing with defamation. Our request was prompted by the prison sentences given by the Bolzano Tribunal to the journalist Orfeo Donatini and the former director of the newspaper Alto Adige, Tiziano Marson.

The criminal defamation case against Donatini and Marson was initiated by a member of Bolzano’s Provincial Council, Sven Knoll. Knoll complained that the defendants had defamed him in an article published in Alto Adige in 2008. The article, written by Donatini, reported that Knoll had participated in a neo-Nazi summit in Val Passiria, Italy. This information, which first appeared in the national weeklyL’Espresso, was taken from a police report.

Knoll did not contact Alto Adige in reaction to the article. Instead, he lodged a criminal defamation complaint with the Bolzano Tribunal. At the prosecutor’s request, the journalists were initially acquitted but the case was reviewed by the Court of Cassation which referred it back to the Bolzano Tribunal.

On 20 June 2012 Donatini and Marson were convicted of ‘defamation through the press’ and sentenced to four months in prison and were asked to pay 15,000 Euros (18,500 USD) in compensation.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the decision taken in this case. We believe that the presence of criminal defamation provisions in the Penal Code and its continued application as in this case is incompatible with basic democratic ideals, as well as international guarantees of freedom of expression.

ARTICLE 19 is alarmed that Italy is one of the two last remaining countries in Europe where journalists still receive prison sentences for defamation. It is disturbing that one of the founding member states of the Council of Europe and the European Union uses sanctions regarded in the rest of Europe as archaic, anti-democratic and a disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression. The second country in Europe is Belarus, which is currently suspended from the Council of Europe because of its lack of respect for fundamental human rights.

The recent case as well as the prison sentences given by the Court of Chieti to the journalists, Valter Nerone, Lattanzio and Vicinanza in 2011, highlight the need for an immediate response at a legislative level.

We call on the Italian Parliament to repeal the defamation provisions of the Penal Code in order to comply with international standards on freedom of expression. The criminal sentence against the Alto Adige journalists must be reversed accordingly.


  • For more information, please contact Boyko Boev, Senior Legal Officer at boyko@article19.org or +44 20 7324 2500;
  • ARTICLE 19 policy document, Defining Defamation: Principles on Freedom of Expression and Protection of Reputation is available here
  • For previous ARTICLE 19’s statement Italy: Criminal defamation legislation must be repealed, see here


Article 19.



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