Saturday, September 29, 2012

Berlusconi: "No tragedy if Germany leaves the Euro"

Mr. B. isn't even back yet, but he is already causing damage to the whole country.
A few days ago Renato Brunetta, Minister during the last Berlusconi government, presented his new book “The Big Swindle”. Speaking at the event, Silvio Berlusconi said that “the big swindle” is actually the Euro, because it was introduced without the proper support of a central bank.
He also claimed that the austerity plans introduced by many European governments are not the answer to solve the economic crisis. I have to admit that so far I might even agree with him (and believe me, this is the first time in my life I have agreed with Berlusconi).

If only he knew when to stop talking… No, he couldn't just stop there. He had to say something more. And what did he say? He said that Germany is imposing her “hegemony” in Europe, and that there are two possibilities to end the crisis: either the ECB has to act as a lender of last resort, or Germany must leave the Euro zone  He concluded splendidly by adding that if Germany left the Euro it wouldn't be a tragedy.
Thank you, Mr. B. I myself couldn't think of a better way to make Germany angry.
Indeed, Angela Merkel’s spokesman promptly replied that only the idea of Germany leaving the Euro is absurd.
I guess that by now I should be used to Berlusconi’s absurd statements, but somehow he always surprises me.
Meanwhile, the possibility of a “Monti bis” (a second mandate for Mario Monti) is becoming real. While he was in New York, Monti indicated that, if the political parties wanted him to, he might run in the next general election, to be held in 2013.
Personally, I really don’t want to think about the next election: I simply don’t have a clue about a candidate I might want to vote for. Thinking about the options makes me want to cry… 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Corruption scandal in Lazio: Governor Renata Polverini resigns

Necessary update about the corruption scandal in Lazio: Governor Renata Polverini resigned, following the loss of support from the UDC (Union of Centre) party. UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini, who had been on the side of her party “People of Freedom” so far, suddenly claimed that, according to him, she had to go. Later on, all the UDC councillors resigned.

Picture: former Lazio governor Renata Polverini

Councillors from opposition “Democratic Party” and “Left, Ecology and Freedom” had already hand in their resignations altogether.
Circumstances clearly made it impossible for Polverini to hold on to her seat; anyways, she still denies her involvement in the scandal, which led to the investigation for embezzlement of former councillor Franco Fiorito.
Polverini stated: “I had to resign because of other people’s mistakes”.
However, two documents have been found, which seem to nail the ex-governor. Those two documents allowed the use of party funds for the various MPs’ dinners and parties, and they were both signed by Luca Fegatelli, Polverini’s right hand man. According to accusers, if he signed the documents, Polverini was clearly aware of the situation.
Investigations are still going on. Meanwhile, elections will be held, possibly in November, to elect the new regional administration. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fiat: waiting for the “right time” to invest in Italy

Yesterday the Italian government (represented among the others by PM Mario Monti and Labour Minister Elsa Fornero) held a long-awaited meeting with Fiat bosses (chief executive Sergio Marchionne and President Lapo Elkann).
The debate about the Italian carmaker company has been going on in Italy for years now. The issue is that Fiat chief executive Marchionne (now chief of Chrysler too) is taking more and more production abroad, leaving many Italian factories on the edge of shutdown. Many workers have lost their job, many more have been put on cassa integrazione (something like a unemployment insurance).

Picture: Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne

Workers and trade unions were all waiting for yesterday’s meeting, hoping that the government would somehow force Fiat to invest more in Italy.
But after a five hour meeting, absolutely nothing was achieved. As we say in Italian, tutto fumo e niente arrosto (literally: all smoke, but no roast).
The official result of the meeting is that Fiat ought to invest more resources in Italy, but that they are waiting for the right time, so that they can take advantage of the European recovery. Translated: maybe they will invest in Italy, but only when the economic crisis magically solves itself.
Pierluigi Bersani, Democratic Party leader, stated that the meeting was worthless, as it did nothing to solve the main issue: employment. I agree with him, for a change.
Meanwhile, trade unions are also calling for a meeting with the government. Unfortunately, I guess, it will take more than a couple of meetings and some empty words to solve the problem. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Corruption scandal in Lazio: former councillor under investigation for embezzlement

The latest scandal in Italy brings us to Rome, and involves the whole region Lazio. Main characters of the scandal: Governor Renata Polverini and former regional councillor Franco Fiorito, both from “People of Freedom” (Berlusconi’s party).

Picture: Franco Fiorito and Renata Polverini

Franco Fiorito is under investigation for inappropriate use and embezzlement of electoral funds. As party councillor, he had easy access to party accounts, and he abused his power. The money, according to Fiorito himself, was used to pay for cars, parties and various expenses refunds (included gasoil and cash withdrawals) for several party members. Although admitting using money to pay various colleagues, Fiorito denies having taken any himself. From 2010 up until now, the Lazio region spent almost 6 million euro (all coming from the taxpayers, worth noticing).
The role played by Governor Renata Polverini is still unclear. She claims she had no idea how the party money was spent, but that’s really hard to believe. She apologised, and she announced a spending review and a cuts plan (which were approved today) to redeem the image of the administration.
Yet, she hasn’t resigned; she actually stated that she wants to go on. Berlusconi backed her decision not to resign.
The case is quite similar to a corruption case in Lombardia, involving again the region Governor Roberto Formigoni. He is under investigation for basically the same charges, and he hasn’t resigned yet. Probably he never will.
That’s an Italian classic: it doesn’t matter what you have done or what you are accused of, you just won’t resign.
It’s hilarious to see that, here in the UK, they want Minister Andrew Mitchell to resign only because of his outburst at a police officer.
In Italy there was a moment of panic when it seemed that Renata Polverini was actually going to resign. It would create an extremely dangerous precedent.
To quote Hacker, from my beloved sit-com “Yes Minister”:  “If we do the right thing this time, we might have to do the right thing again next time”.  
God forbid that happens in Italy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

So, the Queen is naked. Can I get a "Who cares"?

Yesterday morning, when I turned on the BBC news channel, all they were talking about was the publication of Kate’s topless pictures.
Besides the fact that I really couldn’t care less about what Kate Middleton does when she’s on holiday, I once again felt ashamed. So far, the magazines that published the pictures are the “Irish Daily Star”, the French “Closer”, and the Italian “Chi”.
“Chi”, which is usually released on Wednesdays, printed a special edition on Monday. The front page showed some of the incriminated photos under the (extremely original) headline “The Queen is naked”. According to the editor Alfonso Signorini, they published them “to give Kate an element of modernity”, “because the royals are human beings who do not sunbath wearing a burka” (see the English subbed video at the link below for Signorini’s words).

Who could “Chi” possibly belong to? Maybe to the same guy who practically owns the whole country? Yes, “Chi” is part of the Mondadori group, owned by Silvio Berlusconi. The English media indeed talked about a “betrayal” by Berlusconi.
The fact that the pictures were taken in the first place is wrong, of course. A privacy violation which certainly gives the royal couple all the reasons to press charge.
Also the publication is despicable. But after all, the tabloids were just doing their job. That’s what they are supposed to do: supply people with scandals involving famous people.
The thing that disgusts me most is that people actually buy that stuff. If it were for me, those tabloids could starve. And I also don’t like that the English media are making such a big deal about it. I understand their pride and their respect for the Crown, but now they are just exaggerating. I actually feel sorry for Kate, because I can’t even image what her royal relatives will do to her, now that she got caught topless by the paparazzi.
Anyway, if you ask me, as famous and beautiful as Kate is, her bosom still doesn’t deserve all this noise.  There are other things going on in the world, people. You know, silly things such as wars, riots, various crises. Can you leave those royal breasts alone?

Guardian interview to Alfonso Signorini, editor of "Chi" magazine:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sardinia: aluminium maker Alcoa on the edge of shut-down

First the Ilva case, now the Alcoa case.
Aluminium maker Alcoa is a massive source of employment in the region Sardinia.
Unfortunately, the factory is to be shut down unless a new buyer steps up. Workers are on strike; three of them also climbed on a silo as a sign of protest and spent a few days there, despite the rain (one of them had to get down because he was feeling sick).
Today Corrado Passera, Minister of Economic Development, met the executives of the factory and the unions in Rome, but the situation is still really problematic. Many Alcoa workers travelled to Rome, and fighting with the police has been going on all day. So far, 14 people between protesters and policemen have been injured, and the meeting had to be suspended for two hours.
It is still unclear whether there any buyers interested in buying Alcoa or not. According to the Italian government Alcoa will have to deal with Klesch, which seems to be the bidder for now, but the factory denies to have received any offers so far.
Our only hope is that an agreement with the Swiss group Klesch is actually possible. Sardinia is one of the most troubled regions of Italy in terms of employment, and the shutdown of Alcoa would be disastrous for the economy of the area.
Ironically, Sardinia is, like Puglia, a treasure in Italy: the landscapes and the beaches are stunning, it really is a beautiful land. And it breaks your heart to see it sinking instead of flourishing. 

Source (in Italian):

Picture of the sign shown by the workers on the silo saying "Willing to do anything"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012