On 4 March, Italy will return to vote to elect new Members of Parliament. Some ALDE individual members are candidates with the liberal-democratic list + Europa with Emma Bonino. In these interviews we present the last two of them. We asked three questions to all of them and one different, about some important topics for Italy and Europe.
How Italy votes. The new Italian voting system has two levels of elections. 37% of Members of Parliament in both Chambers are elected in a “Uninominale” (single name list) college: single parties or coalitions express one common name. One wins the seat, others lose. 61% of MPs – in both chambers – are elected in a “Plurinominale” (more names list) college: each single party proposes from 1 to 4 candidates. The higher the percentage of votes obtained, the higher will be the number of elected candidates. There is also a minimum percentage to be obtained to elect candidates. The remaining 2% of seats are for Italian candidates who live abroad.
Candidates we present today:
Marco Ferraro, born in Genova in 1975, lives outside Italy since 2003, before in Belgium, Morocco andTurkey, now in Ukraine where he works for the EU in the field of reforms relating to the rule of law and justice. He is member of Radicali Italiani and ALDE Individual Member. He runs as a candidate for Deputees Chambers for Europe Constituency.
Alessandro Massari, born in Rome in 1966 is the president of National Committee of Radicali Italiani. He is member of Legislative office of Deputees Chamber, journalist and ALDE Individual Member. He runs ad Candidate for Senate at Plurinominale (More name list) in Umbria.
You are running as a candidate with Più Europa/+Europa. What exactly does “More Europe” mean to you?
Marco Ferraro. Più Europa”, more Europe, means that Europe is still the answer to most of Italy’s problems. Whether it is economic growth, immigration, international trade or international security, we think that Italy would only lose by leaving a European path. Italy was a founding member of the European Community, it has greatly benefitted from European integration, and it should continue along this path. Europe has today become a scapegoat used by populists and demagogues to harvest votes and media attention, but we need to reject this line of thought. We are here to show that Italians still understand the importance of Europe for their lives. We want to show that you can actually gather popular support, and votes, around a pro-European platform, rather than an anti-European one.
In these years of spreading anti-Europeism this is something that needs to be repeated and which we need to prove in practice and in actions in order for us to be reminded of it.
Alessandro Massari: Italy was not yet a Republic and already, it has been imagined a free state in a united Europe. +Europa with Emma Bonino, for me and for Italy, means to restart – with decision, courage and foresight – the European project which has always been present in the Radical DNA. Italy had an important role in Europe’s Birth. The Ventotene Manifesto, edited by Rossi and Spinelli in 1941, which gave birth to EEC was signed in Rome in 1957. +Europa con Emma Bonino is a project that seeks to guarantee welfare in freedom, integration in safety, more rights for all and more safeguards for environment. It is an instrument for promoting peace, prosperity and democracy, which is needed here and now, not only for Italy but all of Europe.
What is, in your opinion, the biggest problem Italy faces at the moment and what will your contribution with +Europa be?
Marco Ferraro: At a very general level, Italy’s fundamental problem is the lack of mutual trust among the political actors who have a stake in determining our future. For example the political parties and the electorate: people who go to vote. “Social trust” is a public good, and we don’t have much of it in Italy. This is why the years of what we call the “Second Republic” have been so inconclusive in terms of reforms.
While this is not a particularly new analysis about the Italian society, we have been seeing a new element in recent years: the appearance of a kind of populism which is more aggressive and which is based on a more fundamental rejection of “mainstream” values. This means, to offer an example, that issues which once seemed settled and consensual, have been politicised: one is the issue of vaccinations. Surprisingly as it may seem, populist discourse in Italy is going well beyond economic claims but it is attacking what we used to consider uncontroversial issues, like science and medicine.
We came to the point where, in political debate, the objectivity of the scientific approach can be questioned very easily – and here we are not talking about a learnt discussion with scholars who might have read Jaspers or Latour: we are talking about arguments put forward with the soundness of pub-like talk. Of course this does not happen only on “hard” scientific facts relative to medicine, but it spreads very easily into “softer” fields like economics, and then politics and international security.
Answering to this degeneration will require offering a message of hope and of trust in the future. And the message needs to come from a credible source. Più Europa is the right actor to do this. Emma Bonino is a guarantee of that: she is one of the most well known politicians in Italy and her story, like that of the “Radicali Italiani”, is an example of what we need: generosity in devoting oneself to others, coherence between words and actions, and courage in speaking the truth even when it is not popular.
Alessandro Massari: In my opinion, the biggest problem is the lack of intergenerational equity. The enormous public debt which Italy has accumulated causes loss of some rights for almost two generations, overwhelmed by poverty, insecurity in work, welfare for some. Italy’s Constitutional Chart provides that for each expense the means to deal with it must be identified but during the last 50 years, Italy has instead resorted to heavy debt. The main problem is the failure to respect the rule of law, because rights have a price, and debt is not the right way to guarantee them. +Europa is way of securing more economic, social, political and civil growth. The new industrial revolution needs more digital infrastructures, more public services, less tax evasion and a more equal fiscal system. A ‘right’ justice, a universal model of welfare which could guarantee each worker and the work market that guarantees individual right to continuing education. Beyond this, we need more democracy, more effective sovereignty in the hands of the citizen, thanks to the strengthening of direct democracy and referendums, which also utilizes digital technology. We can realize all these things only if we stop unproductive public expense, eliminate the debt and all the money we lose in interest repayments. In this way, we will have more resources to invest in competitive businesses that provide jobs while guaranteeing, at the same time and for all, European unemployment benefit and a guaranteed minimum hourly wage.
You are already an Individual Member of ALDE Party. Don’t you think that’s enough to push for changes in European level? What was your motivation to run as a candidate?
Marco Ferraro: My motivation to run as a candidate is the desire to be part of the solution to the problems of our country; and the appreciation for the role that Emma Bonino and Radicali Italiani have had and continue to have in our society. Radicali Italiani are well known in Italy for having campaigned for civil rights in Italy in the past – on issues like divorce and abortion – and even today they are leading struggles that are fundamental for our living together. For example, the issue of granting Italian citizenship to the children of immigrants who are born and grow up in Italy. This is what we call “ius culturae” (citizenship by upbringing), but has wrongly and often been presented as “ius soli” (citizenship by place of birth).
Another personal reason, and a very strong one, is that I have been living outside of Italy, and for a long period in Turkey and Ukraine, and I have seen there the results of populist policies and propaganda. This gives me a perspective on what the future may hold for Italy if we don’t change course.
In relation to ALDE individual members; I have first joined it several years ago, as I saw and see it as a great opportunity for activism on a pan-European scale. Then I re-joined the ALDE individual members group as I was enthusiastic about Radical Italiani having joined ALDE in the meantime. I think that membeship of ALDE individual members and of a national political party can offer synergies and more opportunities for engagement.
Alessandro Massari: I think EU has to be reformed. In 1996, I proposed to Marco Pannella, historical leader of Italian Radical Party, the idea of Trans-national lists as the Maastricht Treaty allowed them. Pannella was an Italian political giant known for his forward-looking and anticipatory visions.
I believe in Europe as a common homeland to live in law, freedom and equality, and I fear the rebirth of the Europe of homelands. In 1995, the time was not ripe but now I think it is. I regret that at next EU elections it is not possible to be candidates ourselves in trans-European lists but Brexit demonstrates to us that no rights and no institutions, no progress is forever if you do not commit yourselves to its maintenance and to feeding it.
Today the presentation of transnational lists is not only timely but also necessary. It must be realized Pan-European parties to realize a “light” Federal Europe.
As for my candidature, the reason is very simple: I always believed in the United States of Europe as starting point, not arrival one. In the last year with Radicali Italiani, I promoted with conviction the presentation of a pro-European list which includes not only Radicali Italiani, but everyone.
Why, in your opinion, has a real liberal democratic culture in Italy struggled to emerge, while in the rest of Europe ALDE-affiliated parties have greater visibility?
Alessandro Massari: In Italy, the combination of the liberal principle of individual rights with the democratic one of popular sovereignty has always been difficult. History demonstrates that both were most enunciated rather than respected. Independence wars left united Italy with a lot of debt. Historical right-wing politicians which led the country in these years represented elites, not ordinary people. The transformation that destroyed the historical right, the end of the prohibition for Catholics to participate in political elections and the entry of popular forces into parliament were all determining factors for the rise of fascism, which looked at democracy as the evil to be treated with the nationalist dictatorship, centered on mass worship to the detriment of the individual. Republican parties – apart from Partito d’Azione – have been suffocated. Only the Radical party was able to preserve a liberal democratic project in Italy, with referendums which made Italy more democratic, more modern, more right with enormous results. This despite a small number of MP electeds and despite attempts of obstruction by reactionary forces such as the Catholics, Stalinlists, collectivists. I think today there is a space for liberal democracy, for a Europe of rights, and personal freedoms, federal but united in the differences. We can reform Italian institutions and be protagonists in the route towards United States of Europe.
With Italian people abroad being able to vote in this election, do you think +Europa should appeal directly to Italian people in Britain with Brexit looming? How will this happen?
Marco Ferraro. Più Europa is definitely reaching out to Italians who live in the UK; there are hundreds of thousands of them and London is a traditional destination city for many Italians who move to live abroad. Just in London there are about 250,000 Italians living there.
Più Europa has set up a committee in London – like similar ones in more that 50 cities across Europe – and several meetings have been carried out during the past weeks to reach out to the Italian communities there. Two of our candidates for the political elections, Davide Rubini and Claudio Radaelli, are themselves Italians who live and work in the UK. There is a strong interest among Italians in the UK for Più Europa, we are perceived as being different from other political parties, and specifically also in our understanding of the condition of the Italians who live outside Italy.
We don’t think there is a problem in the fact that many Italians chose to go to live and work abroad, we instead think that the problem is in the obstacles that Italy raises when and if they want to return back to Italy. We have put forward specific proposals in this regard, which aim exactly to remove these barriers: the proposals revolve around the idea that the Italian state shall take into account and recognise experiences and rights acquired by an individual during his or her years spent abroad. This is to include the automatic recognition of degrees acquired abroad, professional qualifications, pension rights, and family rights acquired in another EU member state – this is of particular relevance for same-sex couples who marry in another country and have the legitimate expectation of still being married when they move back to Italy.
We therefore propose not some kind of cumbersome public policy supporting Italians abroad, we ask a simple thing, to give full application to the principle of the freedom of movement as foreseen by the European Union. I think that in any future Brexit deal, citizens’ rights shall be treated as a separate issue, they cannot be approached like the UK contributions to EU programmes or budget. I am convinced that this matters very much for preserving London as an international metropolis, one of the world’s capitals, and downgrading the rights of Europeans living there would be self-defeating for the UK.
Kevin Mc Namara and Emanuele Lombardini