Italian women: snapshot of a forgotten solidarity

“In the end, everything will be fine. And if anything goes well, then it won’t be the end.” John Lennon’s famous phrase, and its clear optimism, seems to sum up perfectly the emotions of the two months of quarantine just ended. The spread of Covid-19 and a new condition of isolation has led us to rethink the traditional relationship with the space surrounding us. We have been urged to reformulate our identity in both emotional and professional relationships, with both loneliness and the future. The messages of great hope and the perception of fighting against a “common enemy” have strengthened our willingness to becoming more tolerant and supportive. In a word, better persons. That the World at the end of the lockdown would have been different has always been a certain fact. Different, however, does not necessarily mean better. Just quoting Alexander Wendt’s formula: “the World is what men make of it”. Even if the political scientist in 1992 spoke of States and the international system, his phrase sounds as new nowadays, which shows us how much history tends to repeat itself, and mankind not to learn from his mistakes.

Everywhere in Italy, out of the balcony, people were showing rainbows and Italian flags like the one in the picture with the motto “everything will be fine” and the hashtag “Istayhome”

Several episodes, during these months, quickly revealed that the feeling of union and solidarity was just a mere advertising spot. People seem to have never stopped looking for a culprit, to make recriminations, to feed the fear of the other – the other as different from us or always identified in subjects considered as weak and fragile, recipients of accusations of all types. Once again, the virus of prejudice, far more dangerous than the much-feared Covid-19, has managed to lay solid roots in unexpected conditions. I think that women are among the main victims in this process. The haters, especially on the web, and quick, dirty and biased journalism go wild, often using a language that not only facilitates women’s discrimination and victimization, but, above all, removes the responsibility from those who write about them. This is true especially if we talk about free, brave, and strong women, whose worst fault is precisely the awareness of being all this. After all, what is more annoying than a woman who is not compliant but, on the contrary, firmly affirms her life choices? This is what emerged in the latest edition of the Amnesty International “Hate Barometer”, called “keyboard sexism”: users tend to attack women more than men, with hate speech comments 1.5 times higher.[1]

As a confirmation of all this, the recent release of Silvia Romano has catalyzed unprecedented levels of hatred. To be put in the pillory, the girl’s alleged cross-red spirit: she has been always determined to vigorously follow her life goal, that of helping children in difficulty in Kenya. Many of those who have always supported the “let’s help them at their home” mantra suddenly joined forces against a girl who actually wanted to help them at their home, and they used far worse clichés, such as that of “she brought this on herself”.[2] There was no lack of pornographic comments on how Silvia had fun with her captors during the 18 months of captivity, as well as comments about the Islamic dress worn when she returned to Italy or the decision to change her name in Aisha – among the main points of the controversy over her ransom. A ransom paid for a girl accused of being “ungrateful”, a converted woman who, for this reason, betrayed her country, to the point of being accused of neoterrorism, as stated by the Lega MP Alessandro Pagano.[3] Ironically, after the kidnapping of a year and a half, Silvia risks ending up under escort in her country, because she has become the privileged target of the verbal violence of her own countrymen. On the basis of everything, there is a gender issue, as always: the tendency to look with intolerance on a woman who freely chooses to follow her life goal and go to help in areas of crisis. As evidence of this, no comment has accompanied the release of Luca Tacchetto, an Italian kidnapped in Mali in 2018, an area as dangerous as that in which Silvia was located. No accusations of any kind followed the boy’s conversion to the Islamic religion and the payment of a ransom for his release: being a man, he has probably been exempted from certain types of insinuations.[4]

Sovereignism and sexism seem to have irreparably melded, transforming Silvia Romano into an anti-Italianness symbol, and any aspect has been used to carry on this type of narration. Some focused on her young age or others, obsessed with the dogma of “Italians first”, criticized her choice to do good outside national borders.[5] The reality is that in 2020, unfortunately, the duo woman-freedom is still scary, it triggers a sort of blackout in the mind of those who believe that women can be free only under a certain tacitly accepted condition: do not question male pre-eminence in the society. Network sexism aims to attack women in a personal and explicit way, making use of stereotypes and false representations. Comments concerning first of all the sphere of the physical appearance and how this one influences women’s role, – the girl is too eye-catchy or too little – comments inherent in the sphere of sexuality, – the girl gives herself too easily or not enough – the realm of professional or private life – the girl is excessively focused on her career rather than on matters of supposed “real” competence, domestic ones. Women can emerge and make a career, of course, but without exaggerating and thinking that is possible to compete with the male figure, otherwise, the widespread use of recommendations excludes her from progressing further in her career. Women can be among the best journalists on a national level, but if they appear on video with unkempt hair or tired face, they have to succumb to the flood of criticisms that will come on aesthetics; they have to accept the infinite irony on being un-attractive.[6]

 

The Italian journalist Giovanna Botteri, Rai correspondent from Beijing, has been a victim of jokes about her physical appearance for years; jokes aimed at making small irony about an experienced woman whose work, however, has little to do with aesthetics. As if the chosen dress or haircut could influence the ability and quality of information – the really important things, by the way; as if a journalist must necessarily respect certain aesthetic standards to do her job properly, to be unassailable. This kind of ironies, used to be sagacious and tear a smile, simply show up the absolute machismo and narrow-mindedness of their authors.[7] This kind of insults is not so far from those addressed to Carola Rackete, captain of the Sea Watch 3 who, in June 2017, forced the ban on entering Italian waters to disembark migrants on the island of Lampedusa and save their lives. The determination with which Carola has defended her identity and, above all, human lives, has given way to an endless spiral of sexist and misogynist comments: epithets anything but nice, insinuations about sexual intercourses with the shipwrecked on board, even wishes of rape. The paradox then lies in the fact that often politicians, ministers, and high state officials use sexist comments, demonstrating how much this type of language, often in the form of jokes, spread unchecked. Those who should guarantee and preserve freedom and individuality try instead to stem it as if it were a danger, a threat to the society.[8]

The most worrying fact is that Silvia, Giovanna, Carola represent only the most recent cases of an absolutely widespread phenomenon that many strong and determined women live every day. Just think of the minister Teresa Bellanova, derided for her physical appearance and for the dress chosen for her oath at the Quirinale. Fatau Boro Lu, a former pro-European candidate, endured racist and sexist insults for having dared to criticize (she, a woman with dark skin) Salvini’s policies and management of the Sea Watch affair. An escalation of racist and anti-Semitic comments also touched Senator Liliana Segre, a survivor of Auschwitz and active witness of the Shoah, so much so as to be put under the protection of security detail. Also Laura Boldrini, former president of the Chamber of Deputies, since her assignment, has been the subject of a disparaging campaign, fake news, and slanders about herself and her family.

Such cruel comments create a sense of sadness and frustration because they are rooted in what these women represent: an image of solidity and firmness. It is as if patriarchal thought tends to consider such women as wrong, almost against nature. Their experience, on the contrary, should be the starting point for unhinging discriminating models that no longer have reason to exist. The lesson is to transform frustration into the desire to rise, to follow one’s own path, to be free to express oneself. Because there is always something annoying in a woman who uses her brain, who does not accept to be a sexual object; something that probably goes beyond simple actions: the ability to choose one’s destiny and carry it forward with determination.

Antonella Iavazzo

The digital trend, live events industry and covid-19

Digitalisation has been embedded in the realization of events for years now, but covid-19 has speeded up and expanded such trend. What is the kind of evolution expected?

 

                      Locked down in our houses for about two months, we have all experienced the power of the online as – trait d’union -, not only between people but also between people and institutions, services, brands… In brief, during the quarantine, the digitalisation became a sort of glue and a tool for the communication of emotions, ideas, information, goods and services. It became the primary channel of people’s participation to the world, the only possible “place” where to conceive, realize and spread events. Let’s give some examples: gyms started online trainings; delivery services got many more requests; although it is a bit restrained by restrictive measures,  the e-commerce made a leap forward, at least in terms of awareness; public figures and experts of any kind offered free courses; not to mention distant-learning and smart-working. Without neglecting some impactful real time marketing campaigns, such as the digital solidarity[1] offered by the government, the shared screen on Netflix or the remotely-shot Vodafone’ spot. Our daily life has been digitalized and it has turned – I’m taking the freedom to say it – into a sum of events.

However, if we want to speak of events, we should turn our attention to other, more interesting, ones.

We can think of cultural initiatives such as #Prendiamolaconfilosofia[2], a live streaming festival organized by Piano B in collaboration with Tlon that connected Italian and international philosophers and influencers. With the same format they also realized the celebration of the Earth Day and that of the Liberation Day (from Fascism), allowing the intervention of the spectators with an open live webcam[3]. We can also think of the launch of new products in an absolutely innovative and unconventional way as the performance of American rapper, Trevis Scott, for his new single inside the video game Fortnite[4]. Or again: the European Council of 23 April, the celebration of Easter, the tribute of Pesaro musicians to Mirko of the iCamillas band[5] – these are just some of all the events that have been digital reconverted. As a direct and, I would say, predictable consequence of the quarantine, this has led to further consequences in a sort of chain effect that calls for reflection on the future.

the tribute of Pesaro musicians to Mirko of the iCamillas band, who died of Covid-19

April 2020 Digital Report available on We are social aims to give a global overview about the trend of this “digitalisation” (the report is based on surveys carried out in almost all over the world, considering users from 16 to 64 years old[6]). The report highlights the widespread and constantly increasing use of the online with respect to both the number of users and the amount of time spent on devices. Digital activities range from the most popular, such as watching streaming movies and using social networks, to relevant others, such as using messaging platforms and listening to music. Then, there also are gaming, videomaking, podcasting. Concerning contents, the digital feature is closely linked to the possibility of information; nevertheless, some of the most required contents are tutorials, funny videos, memes and replicas of tv shows and sporting events. Interesting is the fact that many users intend to carry on the new behaviours at the end of social distancing, impacting both social relations and the type of entertainment and communication sought and requested.

At the threshold of the “Phase 2″ where it is now clear that no gatherings will be allowed, these data are more important than ever for rework and re-think of events, respecting the rules and satisfying the demand. Taking advantage of the digital trend, it will be necessary to develop a proposal with valid content and tailor-made, engage users and keep costs reduced, preparing for a reversal of the trend of some current behaviours, such as video calling and online spending, and to face greater challenges to the reopening, such as the climate change problem. Creativity and pragmatism will have to guide the creation of new formats – as Live Streaming 24 and Interactive Events 24 of 24OreEvents[7] – and new methods of fruition, in an attempt to plug the problems related to the monetization of digital events and the cancellation of others, such as concerts, impossible to reproduce with compromise solutions. In general, it will tend to maintain the line of social distancing both on the short-term – turning sports into e-sports or promoting branding values instead of the promotional one – and on the long-term – starting to design private live experiences or new contactless methods.

Can all this be enough to let the live events industry survive?

Of course not, even because this industry keeps together many different realities (including cinemas, theatres, exhibition spaces, etc…) with equally different needs. But they have a common element: the live experience, impossible to give through digital tools. The problem arises from the fact that the live experience is still a dream right now. So, what to do while waiting for the reopening but lacking certain dates and official indications to reassure, especially economically, the thousands of workers in this sector?

Data from AstraRicerche, available on ADC Group website, highlight that 30% of events has already been cancelled, 21,5% is at risk to be and only 14% has been postponed. Also, the reopening will not happen before October, provoking a loss of 50% of turnover for 74% of those involved[8].

In this regard, an initiative has been created and promoted by the Club of Events and the Live Communication, Events & Live industry #Italialive[9], which intends to make the voice of the live-events industry heard by the Government[10]. It is, in fact, a strategic sector of the Italian economy that must be valued in all its forms: about 1 million small and big events are organized every year, moving 56.4 million people who participate. Yesterday, 27 April, an open letter has been sent to the Government and signed by all those who joint #ItaliaLive, aiming to suggest and make certain a series of proposals available on their website. In the next weeks, we will see if and when this initiative, largely spread on social media, takes any effect. And now, let’s go to enjoy another live speech on Instagram!

Livia Corbelli

Links to further readings and contents (in Italian):

– music industry move together: http://www.adcgroup.it/e20-express/news/industry/industry/coronavirus-musica.html

– Marco Jannarelli, Presidente Next Group, on live entertainment industry: http://www.adcgroup.it/e20-express/news/interviste/coronavirus-jannarelli.html?ts=202004211247

– Salvatore Sagone at SkyTG24 talking about live entertainment industry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41QsxqX1lPc&feature=youtu.be


[1] https://solidarietadigitale.agid.gov.it/#/ 

[2] The Italian for “be philosophical”, “take it easy”

[3] https://lnkd.in/gnTn7JK  , https://lnkd.in/dTU_KiC

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g__AuDSfPkU&feature=youtu.be , https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6659403525161914368/

[5] https://primocomunicazione.it/articoli/cultura/il-piu-bel-saluto-mirko-e-questa-cover-de-la-canzone-del-pane

[6] https://wearesocial.com/it/blog/2020/04/digital-2020-i-dati-di-aprile

[7] http://www.adcgroup.it/e20-express/news/industry/industry/al-debutto-l-offerta-digitale-di-24-ore-eventi-due-i-nuovi-format-al-via-da-maggio-live-streaming-24-e-interactive-event-24.html

[8] http://www.adcgroup.it/e20-express/data-center/ricerche/aggiornamento.html

[9] https://www.eventsliveindustry.it/

[10] http://www.adcgroup.it/e20-express/news/industry/industry/nasce-italialive-events-live-industry.html

EU needs a joint reaction against the covid crisis

The covid-19 pandemic hit Europe violently. The new coronavirus, which infected the first human in the Chinese region of Hubei, is changing our lives, subverting the political and economic framework. In the initial phase, the response of the European countries was scarcely coordinated and, often, late. The impact of the virus has been particularly severe in the economically most developed regions: Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto in Italy; the Community of Madrid and Catalonia in Spain; the region of Paris, Ile de France; Bavaria, North Rhine Westphalia and Baden Württemberg in Germany; the Stockholm’s county in Sweden; Flanders in Belgium. Inevitably, the deep integration among the economies of the various EU countries was also an efficient vehicle of transmission for the virus. In absence of a joint strategy for the reopening, at European level, the risk of new spreading of the infections through these paths will be even higher in the next weeks.

 

Here you can see the diffusion of the virus on the interactive map

 

The most affected countries, Italy and Spain, have adopted very strict measures. They allowed to continue to carry out the production only to the companies producing essential goods and services or involved in strategic activities for the management of the crisis. On the other hand, the majority of EU countries chose a softer lockdown, closing commercial business in contact with the public, leaving most of the production companies open[1]. However, these restrictions, necessary to reduce the sanitary emergency, risk to undermine the European economy. The dimension of the crisis will diverge country by country. Indeed, the strictness of the measures, the direct and indirect damages of the epidemic and the financial capacity of each country to support its economy will make the difference. A precise and punctual intervention from the State is needed, providing the required liquidity to make it through the crisis.

 

The necessity to finance the spending with debt and its critical issues.

 

The main sources of financing for a State are taxation and the issuance of bonds on the markets. In the midst of a pandemic, a short-term increase in taxation is not a sustainable tool. The objective is to safeguard firms and to keep the productive and economic system alive. Instead, it is inevitable to increase the public debt to reduce the impact that an announced economic recession will have on every citizen’s life. As they demand loans on the markets to finance their spending, the States issue debt securities. Like any other loan, also government bonds embed the market risk – a reduction in the market value of the bond may cause losses to the holder – and, in extreme cases, the risk that the capital lent will not be completely reimbursed.
Generally, the more investors – banks, financial institutions, pension funds and households – will find it likely that the loan will not pay off, the more they will demand a high yield for the risk they are bearing. At the same time, the cost of the debt for the State will increase as the risk perception of the investors increases. Political and economic events together with the amount of debt outstanding affect the finances of the States. Moreover, they influence also the investors’ expectations and bond yields. A typical unit to measure the risk on public debt is the spread between a safe asset – usually in EU the reference is the German bund – and another government bond. Besides, to evaluate the dimension of a public debt it is common to use the Debt/GDP ratio (this topic was also discussed here).

The current situation of Public debt in the main EU countries

http://sdw.ecb.europa.eu/home.do;jsessionid=3EE7A0FCAD10FF1B716097B51DEA188E

It seems clear that the European States are not all in the same condition. Spain and Italy currently are facing the hardest consequences from the pandemic, but they are also the States with the highest debt. In the last years Italian GDP grew slowly[2], and its debt reached 134% of GDP in 2018[3]. Similarly, Spain had a Debt/GDP ratio equal to 97.6%[4] in the same year. However, recently Spanish GDP had a consistent growth, 2% in 2019 and an average growth of 2.8% per year since 2015[5]. Nonetheless, before the financial crisis in 2007 Spain had a debt/GDP ratio equal to 35%[6]. The huge increase in debt due to the crisis forced the Spanish government to reduce the public spending and to enforce several additional reforms to increase its competitiveness and maintain the possibility to raise funds issuing debt on the markets.

 

Therefore, Spain and Italy are caught in the crossfire. On one side they are facing an unprecedented sanitary crisis, on the other they have to spend massive amount of money for the reconstruction of their economies. In addition, they may not be able to benefit of cheap borrowing on the markets.

 

Already as 21st April, the yield on 10 years Italian government bond (BTP) was 2.02%[7]. The equivalent yield on Spanish bonds was 0.97%[8]. As a comparison, it is interesting to see that the yield on 10-years German bonds is negative, equal to -0.481%[9]. Germany had a Debt/GDP ratio of 61.9%[10] in 2018. While, Netherlands has a yield of -0,177%[11] and France has 0.06%[12]. Following the increase of these debts, also the related yields will grow. The cost of financing will increase for all the EU countries, but this effect will be much bigger for the States that already have a high debt.

http://sdw.ecb.europa.eu/home.do;jsessionid=3EE7A0FCAD10FF1B716097B51DEA188E

 

The debate about the EU measures against the crisis

 

The sanitary crisis is a global emergency. In front of covid-19, there is no virtuous country, nor vicious. It makes no sense to blame the most affected countries with moral judgements. This crisis is symmetric, differently from the financial crisis of 2008. Notwithstanding, its impact and the timing will be different country by country. Since the beginning of the emergency, there has been a hard debate in the EU. The two factions were the supporters of a joint issuance of debt as common response to the crisis – among them Italy, Spain, France – and the opponents – among them Germany and Netherlands. At least in the initial phase, the opponents, confident on their ability to face the economic crisis on their own, were available to help the other countries only under strict conditions. Their proposal involved rigid rules on the repayment of the public debt and on the duration of the loans – European Stability Mechanism (ESM) with enhanced conditions credit lines.
Meanwhile, the European institutions gave their support to the most damaged countries with the specific Pandemic Emergency Purchasing Programme (PEPP) of the European Central Bank (ECB). So far, this intervention allowed to all the countries to maintain a low yield rates on their bonds. This is especially true for Italian BTP. Additionally, EU allocated other 540 billion euro to support the economy (more info here). Unfortunately, the dimension of the crisis requires further interventions. Issuing common debt – Eurobond or European recovery bonds – to finance the economic reconstruction can be the correct solution. Eurobonds would allow to the countries in difficulty to borrowing low cost from the market, making a step further in the European integration process.

 

Why a joint intervention is in the interest of the whole EU?

 

It’s not only a matter of European solidarity. Facing a recession of Eurozone GDP estimated as 7.5% by the IMF[14], no one is stable. There are not solid countries and individualism is not a feasible option. Furthermore, the European Union is a supranational organization that has shared for many years the benefit of being an open economic area. Freedom of movement for workers, goods and capital generated an interdependence among the member States. This is also confirmed looking at the destination countries for the export of Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany and Italy in the figures below.

http://sdw.ecb.europa.eu/home.do;jsessionid=3EE7A0FCAD10FF1B716097B51DEA188E

The export is a fundamental component of the GDP for all the countries above. Especially for Netherlands that accrued an export/GDP ratio of 82.5% in 2019. Instead, Germany had a export/GDP of 46,9%[15]. Analysing the destination of this export it is extremely evident that the biggest share is directed to other EU countries. Italy is the fifth country for the percentage of goods and services received by the Netherlands and the sixth for Germany. While, Spain is the seventh destination country by dimension of export for Netherlands and the eleventh for Germany. Moreover, Germany and Netherlands are also destination of a significant share of Italian and Spanish export[16].

The European economies are deeply connected. Now it’s time for the European leaders to find an agreement for common and strong measures against the crisis. It will take time. It may require changes in the treaties and the EU budget has to be increased with additional contribution from every single country. This is in the interest of all the member States. Otherwise, the economic crisis will follow the same paths as the epidemic. The risks are an economic depression and the rise to the power of Eurosceptic parties, which may lead to the end of the European project.

 

Michele Corio

 


References:

 

[1] https://osservatoriocpi.unicatt.it/cpi-archivio-studi-e-analisi-coronavirus-e-blocco-delle-attivita-cosa-succede-all-estero

 

[2] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locations=IT

 

[3] http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=gov_10dd_edpt1&lang=en

 

[4] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&language=en&pcode=teina225&plugin=1

 

[5] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locations=ES

 

[6] http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=gov_10dd_edpt1&lang=en

 

[7] https://www.investing.com/rates-bonds/italy-10-year-bond-yield

 

[8] https://www.investing.com/rates-bonds/spain-10-year-bond-yield

 

[9] https://www.investing.com/rates-bonds/germany-10-year-bond-yield

 

[10] http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=gov_10dd_edpt1&lang=en

 

[11] https://www.investing.com/rates-bonds/netherlands-10-year-bond-yield

 

[12] https://www.investing.com/rates-bonds/france-10-year-bond-yield

 

[13] https://jeuneurope.com/ue-e-coronavirus-il-punto-della-situazione/

 

[14] https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2020/04/14/weo-april-2020

 

[15] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/TET00003/default/table

 

[16] https://oec.world/en/

EU and the virus: what did actually happen?

Dear readers, at this moment in history it is very difficult to keep a clear head and analyse facts with reason. It is difficult not to be influenced by natural concerns, which in some cases evolve into real family dramas. However, I believe that, today even more than yesterday, it is necessary to make a critical effort and evaluate the facts outside of rhetoric or, even worse, propaganda.

Italy’s relationship with the European Union in these weeks of health emergency has been severely questioned and Eurosceptics are on the rise [1]. Undoubtedly Europe plays a fundamental role in the society in which we live, as well as in the political and economic current affairs of our beautiful country, whether we like it or not [2].

©️ Comitato Ventotene
Italy export worth 533 billions €, of these 52% is towards EU, 2% Russia, 3% China, 5% UK, 9% USA, 20% other countries, 9% towards countries that have commercial agreements with EU

Since the beginning of the crisis, the European Union has responded in a fragmented and inconsistent fashion. For this reason, last Thursday the President of the European Commission publicly apologized to Italy on the behalf of the European Union as a whole. A powerful as much as a necessary political gesture. In the last two months, there have been unpleasant episodes, not up to a Union whose founding values are respect and solidarity between peoples. Let us think of the case of the medical devices blocked at the border by Germany and France, the unfortunate phrase Mrs. Lagarde said that sent the FTSE MIB index nosedive, or the inappropriate comments from the Dutch Finance Minister [3]. It is clear that the European Union project is still far from being completed.

In the same way, however, we cannot forget everything that has been done at the European level to help Italy and how much is now under study. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the EU has proposed the suspension of the Stability Pact and it has given the green light to state aid. Both initiatives have been widely approved by the Eurogroup. Moreover, the European Central Bank has launched the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme for an amount of 750 billion euros, substantially lowering interest rates [4] on Italian treasury bonds. In addition, the re-use of unused European funds in 2019 has been authorised, freeing up a fund of 37 billion for businesses in the fight against the virus. All this while Germany started receiving Covid-19 patients in its hospitals, taking care of transportation, and becoming the first country in the world to help the Lombardy region (even before many other Italian regions). Sure, an airplane with the Chinese flag printed on the side is more impressive, but the EU has never been very good at communication (perhaps because of the bad memories that propaganda evokes among its Member States).

Picture by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0 The European Parliament in Strasbourg

Let’s now turn to the proposals that are being prepared and the negotiations underway in Brussels.

On 9 April, the Eurogroup approved a coordinated response at the European level for about 540 billion, with the commitment to implement a Recovery Fund for the future economic restart which would amount to about another 500 billion once this first phase is over. The first tranche of aid approved is divided into 200 billion for companies to be disbursed through the European Investment Bank, 240 billion through the European Stability Mechanism (with the only condition of being spent on the health emergency) and 100 billion of a European fund to support workers who risk losing their jobs (the SURE fund). Once we sum these instruments to the responses taken at the national level by individual member states, we obtain an amount of 430 billion in fiscal stimulus and 2,240 billion in liquidity injections [5].

As Adriana Cerretelli writes on -Il Sole 24, April 15th edition- “In simple terms, this means that Europe is ready to help Italy with 80-82 billion in loans from the EIB (20), Sure (15), unused structural funds (10-11) and Mes (36, with savings of 1.5 billion interest rates). All of this while waiting for the European relaunch plan which, with or without Eurobonds, it is known that it will take time to build. Hard not to call it solidarity.”

But let us return for a moment to the instruments agreed by the Eurogroup. Last April 17, the European Parliament approved both the Recovery Fund and a new credit line of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), while it was said no to the Corona Bonds. As Carlo Cottarelli points out in the press, these instruments (SURE and EIB loans included) are all based on a concept very similar to that of the Corona Bond. That is, the disbursement of common debt, guaranteed by a fund made available jointly by all Member States, basically a mutualisation of debt. This is also written black and white by the Italian Office of the European Parliament [6].

Last Friday’s vote is also important for another reason. With its vote against Corona Bonds, the League party has made its position clear before the eyes of the Italian electorate. After weeks of bitter controversy over the ESM, the League refuted any doubt that the problem is not the ESM, but solidarity within the European Union. For a certain kind of rhetoric to continue, the EU must show no signs of solidarity. Not even if such gestures are directed towards our country. Unfortunately, the idea of blaming Europe for all Italian evils and the nostalgia for a weak currency, which would be catastrophic for Italy at this time, remain very much in vogue among many Italian voters – and the two main opposition parties are well aware that such beliefs must not be contradicted -. Their political future would be at stake. Be very well aware, dear readers, of alleged economists who call for a return to monetary sovereignty and at the same time speculate on the condition of political instability in our beautiful country, perhaps while they are in government [7].

To save itself from this health emergency, which is quickly turning into an economic drama, Italy must instead hope for a stronger, more supportive and more united Europe. Within this European Union we not only have our shoulders covered by a central bank that is doing our interests and a single market that will soon allow us to return exporting without duties and customs, but also, and above all, the political and economic support of 26 other friendly countries thanks to which we can jointly face the difficulties we are facing. Of course, some of these countries are not living up to the enormous crisis that has hit us. That is why we hope that we will continue to work towards the development and profound renewal of the European Union, which is an enormous guarantee for the well-being of all of us citizens. We should probably take as an example the 136 teams of international researchers who, funded by the EU, are joining their forces in trying to synthesize a vaccine against the virus.

I do not know what will be decided at the European Council on the 23rd, but I know for certain what to hope for.

Giovanni Sgaravatti

Chronicle of the EU and its approach to the coronavirus

  • On January 29th the first two cases of Coronavirus were reported in Italy (in Rome)
  • On 21 February, the first cases of local broadcasting (from people who had not recently travelled to China) were recorded
  • On March 4, the painful threshold of the first 100 deaths is crossed
  • On 6 March at an extraordinary European Council the Italian Minister of Health denounced some countries, including France and Germany, to prevent the export of health equipment
  • On 6 March the EU announces a package of 140 million, of which 47.5 million for 17 research projects involving 136 teams of scientists focussed on the development of a vaccine and 50 million for Italian companies producing medicinal products
  • On 9 March the Prime Minister signed the decree (Dpcm) “I stay at home”, asking all Italian citizens not to leave their homes except for compelling reasons
  • On 10 March the EU allocates a 25 billion euro fund to counter the emergency (10 billion SURE guarantee).
  • On March 11 the President of the European Commission publicly condemned the behaviour of some Member States to restrict the free movement of goods and in a video she addressed the European citizens saying “Today we are all Italians”.
  • On March 11 China sends a team of doctors to Italy
  • On 12 March Lagarde says that it is not within the ECB’s mandate to decrease spreads (the Italian spread soars)
  • On 13 March, the European Commission announces 37 billion in public investment using EU structural funds
  • On 15 March, the single market returns to be a de-facto single market again and shipments are allowed to transit freely
  • On 16 March the Eurogroup meeting happens online
  • On 16 March the “Cura Italia” was approved, with which the government authorized 25 billion in debt to deal with the emergency
  • On March 17, the USA NGO Samaritan’s Purse installs a field hospital in Cremona with 60 beds, 8 of which are equipped for intensive care and 60 doctors and health personnel
  • On 18 March the European Central Bank launches the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme for an amount of 750 billion euros (the spread returns to normal levels)
  • On 19 March, the European Investment Bank announced that it was working on a pan-European investment plan worth 250 billion euro for companies and especially SMEs. The underlying guarantee should be a fund of 25 billion euro
  • On March 20, the Stability Pact is suspended
  • On March 22, the government closes all non-essential production activities
  • On March the 22nd, 52 Cuban doctors land in Malpensa
  • March 24th, Germany is the first country in the world to receive COVID-19 Italian patients
  • 24 March, the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs confirms that the member states that will be able to use European funds to deal with the emergency 
  • March the 25th, China sends 30 lung ventilators, 20 sets of health monitors, 3,000 protective suits, 300,000 masks (plus another 20,000 of type N95) and 3,000 face shields
  • On March 26, 120 doctors, equipment and pharmaceutical products and 122 military personnel arrive from Russia. A journalist from “La Stampa” is later threatened by a spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Defence via Twitter for an inquiry into the type of aid granted and the reasons behind it
  • On 26 March the European Council meets to put in place a joint fiscal response to the pandemic. The first opponent of this response is the Netherlands, whose Finance Minister asks why countries like Spain cannot respond independently after 7 years of economic growth in the eurozone. The Portuguese Prime Minister will label the phrase as “repugnant”
  • On March 27, French President Macron gives a series of interviews to Italian newspapers where he publicly sides with Spain and Italy in favour of the Corona Bonds
  • March 28th Von Der Leyen gives an interview to the German newspaper DPA where he defines the Corona Bonds a slogan
  • 29 March, Albania sends a medical-health team to Italy to reciprocate gestures of solidarity of the past
  • On 2 April the European Commission formally proposes the SURE, a 100 billion euro fund to support unemployment caused by the emergency.
  • 8 April, Mauro Ferrari leaves the European Research Centre
  • April 8th, Schroder opens Eurobonds
  • 9 April, the Eurogroup agrees on the measures to be taken (ESM, SURE, EIB, Recovery Fund)
  • 10 April, Conte announces that Italy will be locked-down until the 3rd of May
  • On 17 April, the European Parliament approves the Recovery Fund and the new ESM credit line, no to Coronabonds

[1] Coronavirus: Is Europe losing Italy?

[2] Economics – Let us trade

[3] https://www.portugalresident.com/repugnant-pm-costa-launches-extraordinary-attack-on-dutch-finance-minister/?fbclid=IwAR2IVazHYsGqYpq_7HXTqHFAsN2qY1S2p_DKFvZYef1KEIx5kseslzq70fQ

[4] https://tradingeconomics.com/italy/government-bond-yield

[5] Economia | Commissione europea)

[6] https://europarl.europa.eu/italy/it/succede-al-pe/cosa-sta-facendo-l%E2%80%99ue-per-rispondere-all%E2%80%99emergenza-covid-19

[7] Italy’s Top Euroskeptic Made Hefty Profit From Salvini’s Bad Bet

Further readings

https://www.repubblica.it/economia/2020/03/10/news/ue_von_der_leyen_un_fondo_da_25_miliardi_per_il_lavoro_e_la_salute_-250887782/

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_386

Riprende l’export di mascherine verso l’Italia: Germania e Francia costrette a piegarsi alla Ue

https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/regulation-coronavirus-response-investment-initiative-march-2020_en.pdf

https://www.corriere.it/esteri/20_marzo_06/mascherine-dividono-ue-germania-francia-bloccano-l-export-30087c42-5fd6-11ea-96d2-d1c7db9c0ec3.shtml

https://eurohealthnet.eu/COVID-19

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/it/headlines/economy/20200323STO75617/coronavirus-il-parlamento-europeo-approva-la-misura-da-37-miliardi

https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/support_to_mitigate_unemployment_risks_in_an_emergency_sure_0.pdf

http://www.mpifg.de/forschung/forschung/themen/baccaro_coronabonds_en.asp?fbclid=IwAR1BgN3iOyf3e22fzGYzoSGr1QP4TuXISqRnbAyS1S8r2QK02tssdU-oRU8

https://www.lastampa.it/cronaca/2020/03/16/news/un-ospedale-da-campo-davanti-all-ospedale-di-cremona-1.38600421

https://www.tgcom24.mediaset.it/cronaca/dalla-russia-con-amore-nel-team-di-medici-destinato-a-bergamo-anche-militari-russi-esperti-in-guerra-batteriologica_16573710-202002a.shtml

https://www.ft.com/content/d19dc7a6-c33b-4931-9a7e-4a74674da29a

https://www.corriere.it/esteri/20_aprile_07/coronavirus-ferrari-lascia-cer-deluso-dall-approccio-dell-europa-811d1a72-7915-11ea-ab65-4f14b5300fbb.shtml

https://europarl.europa.eu/italy/it/succede-al-pe/cosa-sta-facendo-l%E2%80%99ue-per-rispondere-all%E2%80%99emergenza-covid-19

https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/health/coronavirus-response/economy_it


The advantages for Italy of being in the EU

 

It is really difficult to explain the advantages of being within the European Union and the monetary union to those who have seen their wages remain the same in the last twenty years, when services and the cost of living have generally increased. Nevertheless, at Jeune Europe we believe it is important trying to do it because the European Union is our only hope, and we should keep this in mind. Below you will find a list, inevitably incomplete, of the advantages that Italy gets from being in Europe. Some of the benefits of being inside the EU are very well known (as the 70 years of peace, or Erasmus), so in the following articles we tried to focus only on those known the least.

Giovanni Sgaravatti, Michele Corio

  1. The least known advantages for Italy of being in the EU
  2. A dream of unity
  3. Monetary union, the Italian case.
  4. Banking Union: a step for more stability.
  5. Let us trade.

The social culture and its leftovers: the Manduria’s (Italy) baby gang case

Do you remember the Stano affaire happened in Manduria (Apulia, Italy)? It was not long time ago when a baby gang haunted Antonio Stano, dead in April. After his death, they discovered that the pensioner was not the only victim of this group and that the roughly clear knowledge of violence went beyond this little group of young people committing them, many other people were aware.

During these months, I read several articles reporting news about this fact: I have been touched by some expressions as “checking for silence”, “confirmed culture”, “criminality”. This kind of events must not be minimized, on the contrary we must say that they represent the most explosive outburst – so, the most (apparently) unexpected and destructive outburst – coming from a cultural substratum rotten for a long time and, still, not uprooted, no matter how much directly stoked.

            Stano the mad, Stano the weirdo, Stano the solitary – Stano was a man who was subdued to the violence much earlier than that moment when the youngsters raised their hands on him. A violence that melts with the silence and acceptance of the status quo: sometimes due to the lack of the courage to change it, sometimes due to its hidden subscription. Antonio Stano is an example of forgotten leftovers’ destiny in this country: they are the embodiment of a crisis to get through – but it’s a crisis concerning the contrast between greatness dressed with arrogance and inadequacy, fragility, deficiency. These problems are the ones no one actually want to realize so not to engage in the seek for solutions, a self-defence for keeping on feeling good and – above all – powerful, stating a social order where the weakness that falls out of what is considered to be “normal” is not allowed. In this country, the forgotten leftovers are scapegoat. In this way, the retiree from Manduria is a pharmakos.

            In Plato’s pharmacy, Derrida talks about pharmakos as someone excluded from the social space and defined by a double ambivalent nature of cure and poison : his singularity discloses society’s ailing side letting inadequacies and anomalies emerge and, for this reason, he “must die”. So, Stano-the-outsider is a man becoming a man – which means someone who is recognized as a human being – only when forever gone. Stano dies for real, but in general the “must die” identifies the need of not to trouble the social order and this – in Italy – happens with anyone being a part of troublesome social categories (I could mention the homosexuals, the disabled, the immigrants… but what would this mean after all?). Nevertheless, always taking Derrida as reference, what is not openly said is that pharmakos’ life as we described it is fostered by the social community itself. It needs to face the pharmakos in order to silence him and, thus, keeping power and cohesion – both more or less aware final aims of a society gripped by a collective neurosis leading to constantly feel under attack. In this way, diversity is the top threat.

            Here is then, if we want to talk about “confirmed culture”, we have to have a 360° thinking and to wonder which culture we are talking about. In this case, we could fairly enough say “the culture of pharmakos”, but in the most bare and devious sense which do not hold anything of its ancient holiness.

We are in the midst of a sacrificial crisis (Violence and the sacred, Girard) where we are struggling with the detection of types of violence and where we enable impure, infectious and mutual violence to spread all around. This means we are in the midst of a crisis of difference concerning the cultural order in general, so that machismo and intolerance become the expression of a kind of power which wants to be shown. And the more this expression of power is spread, the more it feeds the ego and the prestige of the one performing it. A prestige that never gets to be an attribute of the one committing the violence, this being because his condemn (if not just for simple moralism) moves faster than him especially when it comes from an authority that is socially (and politically) higher.

The Manduria’s baby gang in a picture from the Italian Police

Is it clear the paradox? The sneaky game made of incentivating and hitting the problem? The Manduria’s baby-gang performed a criminal action. Despite being a despicable and condemned one, nevertheless it has its roots in the fertile ground of a social and cultural context that keeps on stigmatising deviances and weaknesses without integrating nor solving, but fostering them increasing the space in between.

Being reached this point, if the pharmakos was the “cure-posion” tool used by the community to keep its cohesion, today it seems it no longer belongs to the to the community (being the sense of community lost nowadays) but to the individual that needs these behaviors to find oneself. This, anyway, means not to get out of one’s own perimeter. Hence, maybe, the root problem leading us to reach a new, powerful, different and effective reaction to this violent individualism is “what is the meaning of the community today?”

Livia Corbelli

– Derrida J., The Pharmacy of Plato in « The dissemination », Paris, Collection ‘Tel Quel’ at Editions du Seuil, 1972

– Girard R., The violence and the sacred, Paris, Pluriel, 2010 

https://www.lagazzettadelmezzogiorno.it/news/taranto/1154039/manduria-dopo-caso-stano-altro-disabile-picchiato-dal-branco-2-ordinanze.html

https://www.ilsussidiario.net/news/cronaca/manduria-caso-stano-oggi-minori-davanti-a-riesame-marziale-bulli-no-criminali/1884799/

http://www.today.it/cronaca/antonio-stano-manduria-nuovi-arresti.html

http://www.trnews.it/2019/06/28/caso-stano-lautopsia-vessazioni-subite-concausa-di-morte/257124

https://www.tarantobuonasera.it/news/cronaca/70669/caso-stano-alcuni-si-pentono-altri-negano/

https://notizie.virgilio.it/baby-gang-manduria-9-arresti-569474

  •  

 

Monetary Union, the Italian case

In Italy, the monetary union is often taken as a scapegoat for all the ills of the last twenty years. To verify the factuality of this criticism we must weigh the disadvantages of the single currency with the advantages. Furthermore, a critical effort to verify the counterfactual (i.e. what would have happened if we had not adopted the euro) is paramount.

euro One euro Italian coin, picture by Alberto Moglioni


The disadvantages reiterated by the discontented is in having lost the monetary sovereignty and in the unfavourable exchange rate. Let’s start with the first topic. What was once the role of the Bank of Italy has now passed to the European Central Bank (ECB). The advantage of being able to print money lies in the possibility of using expansive monetary policies and devaluation. With the former, the central bank aims to lower interest rates, favouring consumption and investment. While with devaluation export is favoured and the cost of labour is lowered.

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A dream of unity

The European Union is the largest peace project in history. As such it must be understood, defended, strengthened and undoubtedly improved. Talking to someone who has lived through the war is all it takes to understand that peace cannot be taken for granted, not even in the twenty-first century. History teaches us that we Europeans have been one of the most stubborn and abusive people on the face of the earth. Probably, considering a war in Europe today as unlikely to result almost ridiculous, is already the greatest victory of the European Union.
Free movement, pic by Hungary Today

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A brief summary of Cottarelli’s “Seven Sins of the Italian Economy”

I have recently finished reading the book “the seven sins of the Italian economy” published by Feltrinelli and written by the Italian almost-premier Carlo Cottarelli. For those who don’t know him, he is an Italian economist and former Director of the Fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund.

 

 

In the book, Cottarelli describes seven “sins” of the Italian economy, responsible of slowing down the country’s economic growth. I have found the book of particular relevance for both its objectivity and for the author’s clarity of thought. These seven sins can be divided into two categories, the long-standing ones and those more recent. Those that are within the Italian economy’s DNA make most of the list, these are: tax evasion, corruption, slow justice, excessive bureaucracy and the disparity between the North and the South. On the other hand, the most recent ones are: the fast aging of the population and the difficulty of Italy in adapting to the common currency. In this brief article I will only focus on the first sin, the one on tax evasion.

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Tensions and extremism in Italy, the Macerata wound

The titles of all the newspaper talk about the cruel murder of Pamela, a young Italian girl. It is not clear yet what happened to her, seems that a Nigerian pusher gave her some heroin before killing her, cut her body in pieces and tried to hide her corpse.

Luca is holding the newspaper in his hands, put his pint of beer on the table of the pub where his friend Matteo is sitting. The pub is one like many others in Italy nowadays: there is a slot machine room in the back and people meets there after work (for those who still have it) or at anytime for those who do not.

“Have you seen what the hell have they done, these animals?” he says to his friend

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