Italy is one of the EU members located in south Europe. Protests erupted when a smoking ban was introduced in public places on January 10. Civilian-clad police and health inspectors sneaked around cafes and restaurants and handed out fines to visitors who broke the ban and to establishments that allowed guests to smoke.
In February, Sweden’s ambassador to Italy was called to the Italian Foreign Ministry to hear the government’s upset over a campaign in Swedish Television for Independent Television. The campaign said that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi controls 90% of the nationwide TV channels in Italy.
Four employees at Linate Airport in Milan were sentenced in March to prison sentences of up to just over four years for causing death to another in connection with the 2001 accident, when 118 people, including several Swedes, died when a SAS plane collided with a smaller plane on the ground. According to countryaah, Rome is the capital and one of the major cities within the country of Italy.
A serious diplomatic conflict erupted in the spring between the US and Italy following the death of Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari in Iraq on March 4. Calipari had been instrumental in the release of a kidnapped Italian journalist. The agent and the newly released journalist were traveling in a car on their way to Baghdad airport when American soldiers opened fire on the car and Calipari was shot dead. The Americans stated that the car was driving too fast and that the driver did not respond to warning signals. On April 26, an American investigation determined that the American soldiers had done no wrong. The Italian investigation a month later found that inexperience and stress contributed to an overreaction in Americans. The Italians claimed that the car was driving at legal speed and that no warning signals were given.
The shooting sparked strong feelings among the Italian public, with a majority opposed to the country’s troop presence in Iraq. Calls for Italian retreat from Iraq barked. The schism echoed somewhat since US President George W. Bush apologized and personally called Berlusconi to normalize relations.
Regional elections in April meant a loss of government for the parties. As a result of this, when the coalition partner Christian Democratic UDC chose to leave the government, Berlusconi was forced to submit its resignation application. However, President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi asked Berlusconi to form a new government coalition. A new right-wing government with small changes was installed on April 23.
Between June and September, arrest warrants were issued against 22 US CIA agents, accused of illegally removing 2003 terrorist Egyptian Abu Omar who had been granted political asylum in Italy. At the time of the kidnapping, an Italian investigation was already underway against Omar as a result of terrorist suspicions and the abduction would therefore having sabotaged ongoing police work. Rumor has it that Omar flew to Cairo where he was tortured during questioning. The tours around Omar and the CIA agents again stunned Italian-American relations.
In June, a referendum was held to alleviate I’s restrictive law against infertility treatments. A majority voted to lift the restrictions. However, turnout was so low (26%) that the result was invalidated. The Catholic Church had called for a boycott of the referendum, which was said to have affected the Italians.
The terrorist attacks in London’s subway in July caused Berlusconi to increase police and military preparedness for fear of terrorist acts on Italian soil. Anti-terrorism laws were tightened at the same time. Berlusconi also announced that 300 of the 2,700 Italian soldiers in Iraq would be taken home in September.
After several legal and diplomatic tours, in September 27-year-old Hussain Osman, suspected of participation in the failed terrorist attack in London’s subway on July 21, was extradited by Italy to Britain.
In July, central bank governor Antonio Fazio was accused of committing misconduct when acting in favor of an Italian bank, Banca Popolare Italiana, in front of the Dutch ABN Amro in the sale of the Italian bank Banca Antonveneta. Finance Minister Domenico Siniscalco and many others demanded Fazio’s departure. The political tug-of-war led to the departure of the finance minister in September. The new Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti was also sharply critical of Fazio, whose mandate was lifelong. Despite calls from Berlusconi to Fazio to leave, he chose to remain. An investigation of the banking business began and in December Fazio chose to step down as political pressure on him increased further. Due to legislative changes, the new term of governor Mario Draghi became only six years. In November, Parliament passed constitutional amendments that strengthen the regions vis-à-vis the central government and reduce the number of members of Parliament. The Prime Minister’s position is also strengthened. The changes will only take effect in 2012 and 2015.
In 2009, Italy continued its practice of deporting terror suspects to Tunisia despite the risk of mistreatment and torture by the authorities there. The European Court of Human Rights condemned in an order in February Italy for the deportation in June 2008 by Essid Sami Ben Khemais, despite the fact that the court had called on Italy to suspend the deportation while his case was being investigated. The Human Rights Court handed down 9 similar orders in 2009 condemning Italy for its deportation practice.
Racism and xenophobia are becoming a growing problem in the country – both in political discourse and in violent reactions. In 2009, thugs set fire to an Indian emigrant and punched 4 Romanians, sending 2 of them to the hospital. In July 2009, the government made a temporary scheme permanent under the name “Security Package”. The package makes irregular entry into the country punishable by a fine of up to € 10,000. At the same time, so-called “civic groups” were created, leading to strong public criticism of the state plan to create so-called “vigilante” groups or death patrols. A number of such groups are already linked to the fascist right wing. At the same time, elected politicians appeared extremely hateful towards minority groups. In May, it prompted President Giorgio Napolitano to warn of the xenophobic development, and that warning was followed by warnings from the Catholic Church. In April, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg had criticized the growing assaults on Roma in particular in Italy. Still, authorities continued to assault Roma enclaves around the country.
Italy was hit hard by the global economic crisis. In 2009, GDP fell by 5% and unemployment continued to rise throughout the year, reaching 8.8% in March 2010. However, it was still below the EU average of 10.2%. In contrast, youth unemployment reached 27.7%. The state budget deficit in 2009 was 5.3% – the EU only allows 3%. In the summer of 2010, the Berlusconi government announced a $ 24 billion savings package €:
- 400,000 posts within the public sector must be saved
- Wages are frozen in 2010-12
- The retirement age for women in the public sector is raised from 61 to 65 in 2012
- Italians who had retained the right to retire in the latter half of 2011 must work 6 months more
- The government saves DKK 400 million € in 2011 and € 1100m € in 2012
100,000 Italians demonstrated June 12 against the government’s savings plans, and on June 25, the national organization CGIL conducted a general strike against the plan.
From the beginning of 2010, an increasingly powerful power struggle developed between the new fascist Franco Fini and Berlusconi in their joint party, the Freedom People. In April, 52 MPs stood behind Fini. However, the party’s leading majority continued to support Berlusconi. The power struggle temporarily culminated in July, when Berlusconi sought to remove Fini as parliamentary chair of the Chamber of Deputies. He and 3 others were also excluded by the party. Instead, they formed a new party “Future and Freedom”. The opposition sought to take advantage of the situation and in early August put a vote of no confidence in the Berlusconi government, which however it survived by 299 votes against 229. The Finiblok and several others – a total of 75 – abstained. Fini would not mind overthrowing Berlusconi.