Italian Elections 2006 (4)
[UPDATED MARCH 22, 10:00 am] The Dutch government is still furious after Italian Parliamentary Relations Minister Carlo Giovanardi told a radio programme on Friday that “Nazi legislation and Hitler’s ideas are re-emerging in Europe through Dutch euthanasia laws and the debate on how to kill ill children.” (Holland has recently adopted the recommendations of the Groningen Protocol, a committee that will regulate doctors in the killing of seriously ill children. Within a few weeks, it will be legal to kill children who are suffering from terminal illness with no hope of recovery.) “This is scandalous and unacceptable… it is not the way to get along in Europe,” said Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende. But Giovanardi, who is a member of the centre-right Christian Democrat party (UDC), refused to apologise and repeated his remarks. Balkenende said he would raise the issue with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at an EU meeting next week, while Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot said he would talk to the Italian ambassador. In turn, a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms
that the Ambassador of Italy to The Hague was asked to explain some statements made by Italian Minister Giovandardi regarding Dutch legislation on Euthanasia in the course of the “Radio anch’io” radio programme yesterday.
Ambassador Pensa explained that Minister Giovanardi’s opinions were based on similar ones expressed by authoritative Dutch medical, religious and professional representatives.
Also noteworthy is the comment made a few hours ago by Italian Minister for Community Policy, Giorgio La Malfa, speaking outside a conference on the south in Naples, where he recalled that during election campaigns there can be "moments of bitter exchange" and how it is wrong for the opposition—which called on Parliamentary Relations Minister to apologise to the Netherlands—to attribute to Giovanardi a lack of sense of institutional responsibility:
"What if we insist on making an issue out of the fact that they have a politician that aspires to a government position, who claims publicly that the US has it’s hands dripping with blood like the terrorists? Accidents can happen at all levels."
Just what we needed to enliven a dull election campaign? Well, not really. As it was not enough on Saturday the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, displayed his fighting spirit making a surprise appearance at a conference of Confindustria, Italy’s employers’ association, after having previously announced that he could not attend because of a back problem. Here is a report by The Guardian:
He then launched into a typically flamboyant performance, flattering his audience, launching a blistering attack on his centre-left rival, Romano Prodi, and lambasting the Italian newspapers who say he has lost the confidence of voters. He was greeted mainly with applause and cheers, but also with some boos.
‘I couldn’t miss this appointment with those who, like me, are entrepreneurs, who are the engine of Italy,’ he told his audience. ‘After hearing what Prodi told you yesterday, I decided I couldn’t leave it without a reply.’ He continued: ‘Don’t believe these newspapers that talk of decline, a businessman has a duty to be optimistic.’
It was a positive end to a bad week of campaigning for the controversial media tycoon who was also criticised for his performance on the first live television debate of the election campaign.
There are also reports by the Corriere della Sera …
In his speech, Mr Berlusconi criticised the business community fiercely. ""Any businessman who aligns with the Left and hides behind [leftwing magistrates’ association – Ed.] Magistratura democratica does so because he has skeletons in the cupboard and something to hide”
They say it’s alwaysa good idea to “sleep on it”.And 24 hours after the premier’s own harsh accusations, the Confindustria employers’ association has decided to reply. “We find unacceptable the arrogant attempt to undermine the status of Confindustria and the tens of thousands of entrepreneurs who manage to combine civil and social commitments with the market success of their businesses, contributing decisively to the health of the economy in difficult times”. The message was delivered in a note from Confindustria’s presidency committee after the storm that followed the speech by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the association’s Vicenza conference.
and the Financial Times:
Andrea Pininfarina, vice-president of Confindustria, said Mr Berlusconi “was in a confused state of mind, perhaps caused by tiredness. We are not pessimists, we are realists, and the fact that Confindustria wants to know the true facts of the economic situation isn’t defeatism.”
[See also the following FT articles by Adrian Michaels ("Business yearns for stability and strong leadership after elections") and Tony Barber ("Italy‘s woes expose political flaws")]
But yesterday a front page banner headline of right-wing daily newspaper Libero was—quoting the title of Oriana Fallaci’s famous book—“The rage and pride of Silvio.” And in the inner pages, to clarify the concept: “Miracle, Berlusconi is resurrected” and “Welcome back Silvio.” Meanwhile, news from ISTAT (Italian Central Statistics Institute) seem to do justice to Berlusconi’s optimism:
(AGI) – Rome, March 20 – The figures published today by Istat are very encouraging, commented Industry Minister , Claudio Scajola, to Istat figures that showed an increase in January over the same month last year of 8.4 pct for industrial turnover and a 9.8 pct growth in orders. "The optimism that Berlusconi the other day in Confindustria told industrialists to have seems to have met a response. The Prime Minister did well to tell businessmen to look to the future with confidence."(AGI) – Rome, March 21 – ISTAT figures on employment "prove that the labour market is improving, including more people than in the past" said Welfare Undersecretary Maurizio Sacconi, pointing out that "despite the economic growth zero in 2005, employment increased, and the year-on-year trend is good. Part-time jobs on the rise, after the contract was reformed by the Biagi law, which makes the market more flexible". Thus, "despite all the manipulation attempts and the alarm for precarious jobs, permanent, full-time contracts account for 87.3 pct of overall jobs, 12.7 pct of which are part-time and fixed-term, and also include apprenticeship. In a difficult year for labour such as 2005, the labour market hence reacted well, especially regarding employees. Freelance work dropped slightly because some small enterprises went out of business".