‘[...] Yo, Blair – what are you doing this time? He is pushing a huge global project in the name of some big guys who care less than nothing that the local people don’t want it.
The scheme is, as always, a case of powerful elites against ordinary people, and guess which side he is for? He is gazing now at Puglia’s southern coasts in his capacity of facilitator of Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s president, nominated in 2012 for Person of the Year by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the TAP consortium of energy, Trans Adriatic Pipeline, formed by British oil giant BP (20 percent), Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR (20 percent), Norway’s Statoil (20 percent), Belgium’s Fluxys (16 percent), France’s Total (10 percent), Germany’s E.ON” (9 percent) and Switzerland’s di Axpo (5 percent). It’s a 2,000-mile pipeline transporting gas from Shah Deniz-2, the biggest Azeri gas field in the Caspian Sea, across Turkey, Greece and Albania to Italy.’
Italy’s fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
‘They have clothed the world’s wealthy fashionistas and bejeweled Hollywood stars. Now, Italy’s kings of fashion are poised to give this nation’s crumbling monuments a makeover to restore them to their former glory, something the cash-strapped Italian government cannot do.
But as Italy courts private cash to rescue some of the globe’s best-known relics of the ancient world, a debate is raging over the commercialisation of history. The Italians have been careful to avoid, say, the kind of US-style rebranding that could lead to Prada’s Pompeii or the Leaning Tower of Gucci. But critics are already fretting about corporate exploitation of Italy’s national patrimony.’
‘The Italian economy shrank in the second quarter, according to an official estimate on Wednesday, taking economists by surprise and provoking concern that violence in Ukraine and tension with Russia could be pushing the broader eurozone back into recession.
Italy’s gross domestic product contracted 0.2 percent from April through June, compared with the first quarter of 2014, Istat, the Italian statistics office, said in a preliminary estimate. It was the second quarterly decline in a row for Italy, meeting the most common definition of a recession. In the first quarter, output shrank 0.1 percent compared with the previous quarter.
The decline dashed hopes that Italy, the third-largest eurozone economy after Germany and France, was finally emerging from a decade of stagnation. And it may be one of the first concrete signs of how tension with Russia is hurting the European economy, analysts said.’
- World’s oldest bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena reports heavy loss
- Italian Union Leads Campaign Against EU Austerity Compact
- Mayor asks for donations to restore Rome
- Italy’s public servants protest austerity in Rome
- Italy’s youth unemployment rises to 46 percent
- The Italian Disaster
- Survey: Support for EU plummets in Italy
- 823% increase in illegal immigration to Italy
- Politicians ‘wasted €2m’ on fine wine and caviar
- Italy: Hundreds of executive cars to be sold on eBay
- Italy’s UniCredit posts record $19 bln loss after writedowns
- Why we should all worry about Berlusconi’s return
‘[...] Over the last two decades – a period during which he has dominated Italian politics – Berlusconi has featured in at least 20 major court cases in which he has been accused, but, nearly always not convicted, of corruption, bribery, fraud, false book-keeping, money laundering, tax evasion and other crimes. This, thanks in no small way to dozens of ‘ad personam’ laws and the best lawyers his billions can buy. The only charges that have stuck are for a £300 million tax fraud charge, for which he’s doing a few hours of community service in a facility for Alzheimer’s patients, conveniently located near Milan.
The political repercussions of all this are rosy for Berlusconi. As leader of a major (if no longer the leading) party, he could yet mount a comeback. And Silvio knows he can count on a little help from his friends. In particular, Democrat leader and PM Matteo Renzi, who has publicly shown nothing but the utmost respect for the tax convict (for which Berlusconi’s TV channels and newspapers have amply rewarded Renzi with good press). Most importantly Renzi needs the media mogul’s support to push through his neo-liberal ‘reform’ process.
Berlusconi’s political death certificate has been signed by journalists, political opponents and commentators many times, most recently when he was ousted in 2011 for getting on the wrong side of the ‘markets’, and then when he was booted out of Senate in November, following his definitive tax fraud conviction. It is a fair bet that 77-year old Berlusconi will only really be ‘dead’ when he’s six feet under.’
‘Pope Francis has condemned the “moral decay” of the city of Rome, citing the child prostitutes that ply their trade and the busy soup kitchens of the Italian capital. In a broadside against declining moral standards in the West, the Pontiff cited the darker sides of the streets of his adopted home as an example of modern society’s failings.
Despite it being the home of the Vatican, Pope Francis said, “The Eternal City, which should be a beacon to the world, is a mirror of the moral decay of society.” In a wide-ranging interview with Rome daily Il Messaggero, he also lashed out at political corruption, joblessness and Europe’s low birth rates. He claimed that many Europeans found it easier to own pets than raise children.’
‘The recollection of Italy’s 1938 World Cup first-round match with Norway by the national team coach Vittorio Pozzo encapsulated fascism’s single-minded, uncompromising approach to retaining the trophy it had won at home four years earlier.
Aware of the game’s cross-national appeal and powers of propaganda, the fascist regime invested hugely into rationalising and regenerating the Italian game. Slow to industrialise, Italy was a latecomer to football with the game’s boom coming either side of the first world war. Winning the war but losing the peace brought widespread disaffection which, combined with the threat of communism, fuelled the rapid rise to power of Mussolini and the fascist regime.
Having established dictatorship Il Duce turned his attention to trying to mobilise the nation behind the regime. Sport was fundamental in this and despite his initial lack of enthusiasm and unquestionable deficit in talent, football, or calcio as fascism’s linguistic nationalism demanded, became its keystone.’
‘The mayor of the Italian city of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, has resigned amid a wider investigation into alleged corruption over new flood barriers. He and 34 other officials were arrested last week on suspicion of embezzling around 20m euros ($27m, £16m) in public funds earmarked for flood defences. Mr Orsoni stepped down a day after being released from house arrest under a plea bargain. He agreed to a four-month sentence but is unlikely to go to prison. The sentence still requires court approval.’
Italy will include prostitution and illegal drug sales in their GDP calculations to boost stagnant economy
‘Italy will include prostitution and illegal drug sales in the gross domestic product calculation this year, a boost for its chronically stagnant economy and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s effort to meet deficit targets.
Drugs, prostitution and smuggling will be part of GDP as of 2014 and prior-year figures will be adjusted to reflect the change in methodology, the Istat national statistics office said today. The revision was made to comply with European Union rules, it said.
Renzi, 39, is committed to narrowing Italy’s deficit to 2.6 percent of GDP this year, a task that’s easier if output is boosted by portions of the underground economy that previously went uncounted. Four recessions in the last 13 years left Italy’s GDP at 1.56 trillion euros ($2.13 trillion) last year, 2 percent lower than in 2001 after adjusting for inflation.’
‘Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi repeated accusations on Wednesday that he was forced out of office at the height of the euro zone crisis in 2011 as the result of a “plot” by European Union officials. Berlusconi’s comments followed the publication in Italy of extracts from a new book by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner which suggested that EU officials had approached the U.S. government with a project to force Berlusconi to resign.
“They wanted us to refuse to back IMF loans to Italy as long as he refused to go,” Geithner’s book “Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises,” was quoted as saying by daily La Stampa. Geithner said the United States rejected the approach, saying “We can’t have his blood on our hands”.’
Italian right-wing activists have reportedly had to be rescued from drowning, after a stunt attempting to show how easy it is to cross between Italy and Tunisia went embarrassingly awry.
Last week, seven hapless members of the anti-immigration party Lega Nord attempted to make a point about the volume of asylum seekers coming from Africa to Europe, by sailing a rubber dinghy from Italy to Tunisia, flying the party’s flag.
But just off the cost of Malta, the dighy’s motor caught fire and the men were forced to call for assistance, according to Malta’s Independent newspaper.
Several thousand protesters from across the continent turned out today [March 30th] in the European Union capital city of Brussels. Several nations were represented, none of them currently recognized, and all had the same message: secession now.
Officials like to portray secession as a fringe tactic that comes up only in places like Crimea, and then only at the behest of a foreign power hoping to capitalize on it. That’s less and less the case, as secession grows in appeal across Europe.
Scotland aims to separate from Britain, and Catalan hopes to leave Spain. Even Brussels itself is in the midst of a major secession fight, as Flanders hopes to reassert itself as an independent nation, with Brussels as its presumptive capital.
Italy is the king of secessionist movements though, with three distinct major movements going on at once. Venice has already held a referendum on resuming its independence, while Tyrol is mulling a similar division, and Sardinia hopes to go the route of Crimea, ditching Italy in favor of Switzerland.
At the core of all these movements is a single question: is there an inherent right to self-determination, or is secession only acceptable when the major world powers feel it is convenient. It’s an argument that officials are likely to continue to bicker about, but which the secessionist movements see as obvious.
- Crimean annexation does Europe’s separatists no favors
- Scottish independence: ‘Yes’ vote carries substantial risk, says Weir Group
- Italy Troops Crack Down on Secessionists Nationwide
- Italy police seize makeshift tank built by Venice separatists
- All roads lead…out of Rome? Sardinia plans secession referendum
- Spanish court says Catalonia sovereignty claim illegal
- Italy’s separatist spirit takes new shape as Sardinians push to become Swiss
- Venice seeks independence from Italy in unofficial poll
- Catalan Independence Push Gains Steam Amid Spain’s Financial Woes
- Secessionist wave sweeps Belgium
- Dealing With Secession in Europe
- List of active separatist movements in Europe
has made his strongest attack to date on the mafia, telling organised crime bosses they will end up in hell if they do not “convert” and give up their lives of “bloodstained money [and] blood-stained power”. In an echo of John Paul II’s appeal to mafia dons to renounce their “culture of death”, the Argentinian urged mafiosi to “stop doing evil” as he held an unprecedented meeting with hundreds of victims’ relatives in Rome.
“I feel that I cannot conclude without saying a word to the protagonists who are absent today – the men and women mafiosi,” he said, quietly but forcefully. “Please change your lives. Convert yourselves. Stop doing evil.”
The meeting in a church near Vatican City was the first time a pontiff had taken part in events tied to a day of commemoration held annually by the anti-mafia organisation, Libera. During a prayer vigil, the names of 842 victims were read aloud.
An online referendum is being held in Venice this week on whether the city and its surrounding region should separate from Italy. Over two-thirds of the area’s four million voters favour independence, according to recent polls. The non-binding referendum was organised by local politicians and activists who want to break from Rome, the BBC reports. Prior to its conquest by Napoleon in 1797, Venice was an autonomous power for more than 1,000 years. Campaigners have been inspired by Scotland’s vote on independence, the Daily Telegraph says. Analysts say that those in favour of separation hope to distance themselves from the more profligate south of the country.
Italian police in Genoa have opened an investigation into the use of Skype to trap victims into online sexual indiscretions, which are recorded and used as a pretext for extortion. A first complaint was lodged with the police last September by a Genoese businessman, said Alessandra Belardini, a deputy police chief with the postal and communications police. Magistrates in the northwestern port city of Genoa are now investigating a total of 11 examples of a growing worldwide phenomenon that is rarely reported to the authorities.
The Genoa case involves four attractive young women who allegedly struck up online friendships using social media, such as Facebook, Badoo and Chatroulette, and then enticed their victims into increasingly explicit sexual behavior to be recorded by webcam on Skype. Police are investigating the possibility that the scam was organized by a male resident in another European country.
Near-Bankrupt Rome Bailed Out As Italy Unemployment Rises To All Time High, Grows By Most On Record In 2013
A few days ago, we reported that, seemingly out of the blue, the city of Rome was on the verge of a “Detroit-style bankruptcy.” In the article, Guido Guidesi, a parliamentarian from the Northern League, was quoted as saying “It’s time to stop the accounting tricks and declare Rome’s default.” Of course, that would be unthinkable: we said that if “if one stops the accounting tricks, not only Rome, but all of Europe, as well as the US and China would all be swept under a global bankruptcy tsunami. So it is safe to assume that the tricks will continue. Especially when one considers that as Mirko Coratti, head of Rome’s city council said on Wednesday, “A default of Italy’s capital city would trigger a chain reaction that could sweep across the national economy.” Well we can’t have that, especially not with everyone in Europe living with their head stuck in the sand of universal denial, assisted by the soothing lies of Mario Draghi and all the other European spin masters.” And just as expected, yesterday Rome was bailed out.
As Reuters reported, Matteo Renzi’s new Italian government on Friday approved an emergency decree to bail out Rome city council whose mayor had warned the capital would have to halt essential services unless it got financial help.
The decree transfers 570 million euros ($787 million) to the city to pay the salaries of municipal workers and ensure services such as public transport and garbage collection. Renzi, under pressure from critics who say Rome is getting favorable treatment, attached conditions to the bailout.
Rome must spell out how it will rein in its debt, justify its current levels of staff, seek more efficient ways of running its public services and sell off some of its real estate, the government decree said. Rome’s finances have been in a parlous state for years and it has debts of almost 14 billion euros which it plans to pay off gradually by 2048.
The city has around 25,000 employees of its own with another 30,000 or so working for some 20 municipal companies providing services running from electricity to garbage collection. ATAC, which runs the city’s loss-making buses and metros, employs more than 12,000 staff, almost as many as national airline Alitalia. Rome’s administrators say it needs help with extra costs associated with housing the central government, such as ensuring public order for political demonstrations, and to provide services for millions of tourists.
Here is the punchline, about Rome’s viability, not to mention Italy’s and Europe’s solvency:
The city of some 2.6 million people has been bailed out by the central government each year since 2008.
What is certain is that this year will not be the last one Rome is bailed out either. In fact, it will continue getting rescued for years to come because contrary to the propaganda, the Italian economy continues to get worse with every passing month, yields on Italian bonds notwithstanding.
2014 has barely dawned, and I’m standing in a cold, rainy evening at the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, staring at the round plaque on the floor – ignored by the throngs of Chinese tourists – celebrating the hanging and burning of the monk Savonarola in May 23, 1498, accused of conspiring against the Florentine Republic.
Yet I’m thinking – how could I not – of Machiavelli. He was only 29 on that fateful day. He was standing only a few feet away from where I am. What was he thinking?
He had seen how Savonarola, a popular Dominican preacher, had been hailed as the savior of the republic. Savonarola rewrote the constitution to empower the lower middle class; talk about a risky (populist) move. He allied Florence with France. But he had no counterpunch when the pro-Spanish pope Alexander VI imposed harsh economic sanctions that badly hurt Florence’s merchant class (a centuries-old anticipation of US sanctions on Iranian bazaaris).
Savonarola had also conducted the original bonfire of the vanities, whose flaming pyramid included wigs, pots of rouge, perfumes, books with poems by Ovid, Boccaccio and Petrarch, busts and paintings of “profane” subjects (even – horror of horrors – some by Botticelli), lutes, violas, flutes, sculptures of naked women, figures of Greek gods and on top of it all, a hideous effigy of Satan.
In the end, Florentines were fed up with Savonarola’s hardcore puritan antics – and a murky papal Inquisition sentence sealed the deal. I could picture Machiavelli exhibiting his famous wry smile – as the bonfire had burned exactly one year before at the very same place where Savonarola was now in flames. The verdict: realpolitik had no place for a “democracy” directed by God. God, for that matter, didn’t even care. It was only human nature that is able to condition which way the wind blows; towards freedom or towards servitude.
So this is what happened in that day at the Piazza della Signoria in 1498 – in the same year Lorenzo the Magnificent died and Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic on his third voyage to “discover” the New World; no less than the birth of Western political theory in the mind of young Niccolo.
Enrico Letta has stepped down as Italy‘s prime minister after the leadership of his centre-left party deserted him for Matteo Renzi, a telegenic and smooth-talking rival who cites Tony Blair as a role model and now looks likely to become the country’s youngest premier in modern history. At the conclusion of a power struggle between the two Democratic party (PD) heavyweights, Letta tendered his resignation to the president, Giorgio Napolitano, on Friday at the Quirinale palace. A statement from the head of state’s office said Letta’s resignation had been “irrevocable” and that Napolitano would begin consulting parties on the next government on Friday afternoon.
The PD’s national committee voted on Thursday to back a motion put forward by Renzi, the party leader and mayor of Florence, calling for a new government capable of opening “a new phase” of reform and pulling the eurozone’s third-largest economy “out of the quagmire”. While it did not directly refer to Renzi, there was no doubt who the party would be backing as Letta’s successor. Although the outcome is not certain, Renzi, 39, is now expected to be asked by 88-year-old Napolitano to form a new government without Italy returning to the polls for the second time in as many years.
A 4,000-pound British bomb is to be defused, hauled away and blown up in the springtime, officials say.
According to Italian news accounts, the bomb, discovered in October, was dropped in November 1944 on what was then Dal Molin Airport. Defusing and removing it will require moving some 45,000 people from the area at a cost of about 1.5 million euros, Italian media have reported.
The all-Italian effort, called “Operation Old Lady,” apparently because the bomb has been in the ground for 69 years,is to be carried out by the 2nd Regiment of the Julia Alpine Engineers.
Operation Old Lady is expected to last for several hours. The plan is for citizens within 3 kilometers of the site, and soldiers from Del Din, home of the 173rd Infantry Combat Brigade Team (Airborne), which is adjacent to the site, to leave their abodes starting at 6 a.m. on a yet to be determined Sunday morning. Everyone is expected to be able to return to the area by the afternoon.
The woman who kissed a riot policeman during protests near the northern Italian city of Turin in November has been detained for “sexual violence” and “offence to a public official”.
Franco Maccari, the Secretary General of Coisp, the Italian police officers’ union, said during an interview on Radio24 that he had pressed charges against the demonstrator who kissed an officer’s helmet. The kiss took place during a protest march against controversial plans for a new high-speed TAV train line.
He explained that if it had happened the other way round, with a police officer kissing a protestor, “World War Three would have broken out.”
- Protesters block Italy-France border
- Italy’s Non-Recovery Recovery
- Naples unemployed clash with cops, break into PD offices
- “It’s A Massacre” – Each Day 134 Retail Outlets Close In Italy
- Enrico Letta is fighting for the survival of his government
- Italian PM Letta wins confidence votes, vows reforms
- Italy to abolish state funding of political parties
- Berlusconi says arresting him would incite revolution in Italy
- Berlusconi Bribed ‘Bunga Bunga’ Women to Keep Quiet: Court
- Italy’s Tony Blair? Meet Matteo Renzi, the rising star of Italian politics
With Italy’s unemployment at an all-time high of 12.5% and youth unemployment at a dismal 40.4%, young Italians might well think that now would be a good time to go back to school.
They might well be wrong.
A college or advanced degree may actually put young Italians at a higher risk of unemployment, according to economic data gathered by the European Union’s statistical agency, Eurostat.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will not grant Silvio Berlusconi a pardon, the office of the head of state said Sunday, three days before a Senate vote on the former prime minister’s expulsion.
Italy’s upper chamber is expected to kick out Berlusconi, because of a law that excludes convicted members from Parliament. The conservative leader has been found guilty of tax fraud and is due to serve one year of community service.
Napolitano’s press office told the ANSA news agency that “conditions have not arisen” to grant Berlusconi a pardon. It also criticized the scandal-prone politician’s inflammatory remarks from a day earlier.
Nicola Gratteri, who has battled Calabria’s shadowy ‘Ndrangheta mafia, said on Wednesday that Francis’s attempt to bring transparency to the Vatican was making the white collar mobsters who do business with corrupt prelates “nervous and agitated”.
He told the Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano: “Pope Francis is dismantling centres of economic power in the Vatican.
“If the bosses could trip him up they wouldn’t hesitate. I don’t know if organised criminals are in a position to do something, but they are certainly thinking about it. They could be dangerous.”
The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency.
The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
The files also make clear that GCHQ played a leading role in advising its European counterparts how to work around national laws intended to restrict the surveillance power of intelligence agencies.
- NSA chief Keith Alexander blames diplomats for surveillance requests (Guardian)
- US envoy to Germany says no laws broken in spy affair (AFP)
- US surveillance has gone too far, John Kerry admits (Guardian)
- Spy chief Clapper: We’ve been snooping on our friends for years (NBC)
- U.S. tells U.N. it won’t spy on world body (Reuters)
- Rand Paul: NSA may spy on Obama (The Hill)
- Finland says it was target of “massive” digital spying (AFP)
- Report: French and Spanish intelligence aided NSA spying (RT)
- Spain announces inquiry into alleged surveillance of citizens by NSA (Guardian)
- U.S. spying on Europeans a symptom of a paranoid government, Germans say (McClatchy)
- NSA Official: Obama Was Informed of Spying on Merkel’s Cellphone, Let It Continue (FDL)
- Rep. Mike Rogers: France should be ‘popping champagne’ over NSA spying (AFP)
- US ‘used its Yorkshire base to spy on Merkel’ claims whistleblower (Daily Mail)
- UK signs EU statement rapping US spying activities (Press TV)
The U.S. deployment of 200 Marines to a naval base in Sicily for possible operations in Libya, a short hop across the Mediterranean, underlines how the Americans have been building a network of bases in Italy as launch pads for military interventions in Africa and the Mideast.
The signs are that 20 years after the American military’s first, and costly, encounter with Muslim militants in Mogadishu, Somalia, U.S. operations in Africa are growing as the Islamist threat expands.
Another key factor is U.S. President Barack Obama‘s switch in his counter-terror strategy from drone strikes against al-Qaida to pinpoint raids by small Special Forces teams, as seen in Somalia and Libya Oct. 5.
Italian centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi pulled his ministers out of the ruling coalition on Saturday, effectively bringing down the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta and leaving Europe‘s third-largest economy in chaos.
The announcement, which will likely lead either to new elections or the formation of a new coalition, came a day after Letta challenged Berlusconi’s party to support him in a confidence vote in parliament following weeks of tension.
Late on Friday, the cabinet failed to agree vital fiscal measures to bring the budget deficit within European Union limits, leaving the fragile coalition of traditional rivals from the left and right near total breakdown.
[...] The recent Report on Global Rights 2013 found that financially related suicides increased by 40 percent in the first three months of the year, compared with the same period in 2012. Half of those deaths were attributed to the “precarious” economic situation in the country, and 28 percent because of loss of employment.
The figures mirror a worsening economic situation across the country: According to Italy’s National Institute for Statistics (Istat), in 2012 a quarter of Italians lived in “deprived families”, up from 16 percent in 2010. The unemployment rate also reached 12.2 percent in May – a record high for the country.
Financial hardship is having a tangible impact on people’s mental state, says Maurizio Pompili, director of the Suicide Prevention Centre at the Sant’Andrea Hospital, Sapienza University of Rome.
#1 The unemployment rate in Italy has risen to 12.2 percent. That is the highest that it has been in more than 35 years.
#3 An average of 134 retail outlets are shutting down in Italy every single day. Overall, approximately 224,000 retail establishments have closed since 2008.
#4 Italy’s economy has now been contracting for seven quarters in a row.
#5 It is being projected that Italy’s GDP will shrink by 1.8 percent this year.
#6 Industrial production in Italy has declined for 15 months in a row. It has now fallen to its lowest level in about 25 years.
#7 Overall, factory output in Italy has fallen by about one-fourthsince 2008.
#8 In May, automobile sales in Italy were down 8 percent compared to one year earlier.
#9 The number of people that are considered to be “seriously deprived” in Italy has doubled over the past two years.
#10 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of 130 percent.
#11 It is being projected that Italy will need a major EU bailout within six months.
- Italy’s central bank sees even steeper decline for economy (CNBC)
- Italy’s credit rating has been downgraded by S&P (BBC)
- Silvio Berlusconi supporters take to the streets of Rome (Guardian)
- Silvio Berlusconi asks for reform of Italian justice (Channel 4)
- Italy’s fragile coalition bickers over Berlusconi conviction (Reuters)
- Sicily’s first openly gay governor wins support with anti-mafia crusade (Washington Post)
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy‘s longest-serving postwar prime minister, has been handed his first definitive criminal conviction in more than 20 years of legal battles but the country’s supreme court spared him the immediate prospect of being barred from public office.
In a long-anticipated ruling, the five judges of the court of cassation emerged from more than seven hours of deliberations to issue a verdict confirming a four-year jail term for the leader of the Freedom People party (PdL), a vital part of Italy’s coalition government.
That sentence had already been cut to one year according to a 2006 amnesty, and, owing to Berlusconi’s age – he will be 77 in September – it will be served through house arrest or community service.
Some of Italy’s top politicians on Saturday rallied behind the country’s first black minister, a target of racist slurs since her appointment in April, after a spectator threw bananas at her while she was making a speech.
Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, who is originally from Democratic Republic of Congo, was appearing at a political rally in Cervia in central Italy on Friday, when someone in the audience threw bananas towards the stage, narrowly missing it.
Kyenge has faced almost daily racial slurs and threats since joining the government. Earlier this month a senator from the anti-immigration Northern League party likened her to an orangutan and only apologized after a storm of criticism.
Last month, a local Northern League councilor said Kyenge should be raped so she understands how victims of crimes committed by immigrants feel. The councilor has received a suspended jail sentence and a temporary ban from public office.
Shortly before Friday’s incident, members of the far-right Forza Nuova group left mannequins covered in fake blood near the site of the Democratic Party rally in protest against Kyenge’s proposal to make anyone born on Italian soil a citizen.