All posts by Emanuele1975

Giornalista, cattolico, liberaldemocratico, cittadino d'Europa

“School’s out!” — As Europe restarts, opening schools should be among the main priorities

Julian Petrat, ALDE Individual Member, wrote about the impact of school closures caused by COVID-19 as well as the future of education

In response to the spread of COVID-19, schools have been closed in most European countries. Students across the continent have been denied access to adequate education for months. The impact on my generation will be destructive. Opening schools should therefore be a priority when easing restrictions.

When schools were shut throughout Europe in March, the arguments in favour of such measures were mostly based on the assumption that children would be rapid spreaders of the virus. While the science still is unclear, research suggests that children are at a lower risk of getting infected and spreading the virus. This indicates that the benefits of school closures in slowing the spread of COVID-19 could be minor.

What cannot be neglected, however, are the effects on development of children. Neither digital classes nor motivated parents can replace real-life lessons given by teachers. Children also cannot acquire important social skills by interacting with their peers. The long-term effect on my generation could be devastating. It is estimated that younger children could lose as much as one year of progress in some subjects.

To make matters worse, the poorest children are those who suffer the most. Many do not have the necessary equipment to participate in digital classes. While parents in richer families tend to be well-educated more often, poorer families might not be able to offer the same level of academic support for their children.

If schools remain closed, it will continue to pose a challenge to parents. They will continue to have to find someone to take care of their children and therefore likely to be less productive. At the same time, it is often mothers who are responsible for childcare. School closures are a serious concern for their professional lives.

It is by no means certain that the virus poses only a minor threat to young people. Nevertheless, the consequences of school closures are too severe to justify them in the long-term. The only reasonable conclusion is that schools must be one of the main priorities when reopening.

With the correct planning, this should be no problem. Young children who are not old enough to coordinate their own learning process should be allowed to return first. Older students could return later because they might be an increased risk but are more disciplined and can follow the hygiene rules.

Such plans are never free of risk. Policymakers might feel like exposing young people to the virus. The process of reopening schools should therefore be supervised by scientists. Schools need sufficient financial and material support to successfully manage this but we must keep in mind that education is the driving force of innovation and progress in our society. It is a risk we must take.

Meanwhile, some schools are beginning to carefully reopen in many European countries. This gives me hope for a quick recovery. If we get this right, we can avoid the worst consequences. My generation is full of bright minds who cannot wait to realize their potential. Do not abandon them.

The future of education

The pandemic also provides an opportunity for sustainable change towards better education, the foundation of a progressive society. In the 21st century, it is crucial that students acquire key digital skills to face a rapidly developing labour market.

This is an opportunity for schools to permanently adapt digital solutions to adjust to modern standards that have lacked attention in the past. We should not simply transfer real-life classes to the digital world. Instead, there is the need for dynamic solutions that work for all students. This situation has unforeseen potential for technological progress in education. Our schools deserve the resources to explore it.

During these times, it has also become obvious how important personalized learning is. School closures show how much a student’s academic success relies on their personal situation. When schools reopen, we should learn from these experiences and find ways for a more inclusive, self-paced learning environment.

It relies on the cooperation of all parties involved if we succeed in achieving sustainable improvements in education. Governments, teachers, parents, and students alike should work towards learning from this situation. The pandemic poses an incredible challenge to all of us. If we draw the right conclusions, it is an opportunity for a brighter future for coming generations.

Julian Petrat

EU Elections: get to know some +Europa italian candidates: Cristina Bagnoli and Inoussa Bara

he ALDE Party IM coordinator for North-West Italy Francesco Condò  submitted some questions to the candidates of +Europa, the Italian liberal party, at the next European elections in the North-West Italy constituency. You can read the full interviews (in Italian) on the Facebook page of the North-West Italy ALDE Party IMs:

Today we publish the answers of Cristina Bagnoli e Inoussa Bara

Why did you choose to run for the European Parliament?
CRISTINA BAGNOLI I  felt the need to undertake a path of civil commitment because of what is happening to our society. We are witnessing a closure towards civil rights, minorities, science, freedom, a dizzying growth of nationalist and sovereign movements, which determines a climate of fear and uncertainty in which hatred is stirring up. We notice a desire to exacerbate the contrasts between different social players, instead of seeking and finding a harmonious synthesis. I believe that courage is needed at a time like this: without fear there can be no courage. We must have the courage to admit and remind those who forgot what Europe has done for us so far and what it can still do

INOUSSA BARA I chose to run because I strongly support the programme of +Europa and I feel the desire to represent the many Italian citizens who became Europeans when they acquired Italian citizenship.

In your opinion, how can we make the European Union closer to its citizens and more effective in responding to their needs?

CRISTINA BAGNOLI: Certainly starting right from the needs and desires of the citizens. Therefore, in this perspective, it is necessary to reinforce the cooperation between local institutions, which are the first contact with the citizens and the territory, the local associations, which gather the actors of the different sectors operating on the territory, transferring the demand to the higher levels and creating a virtuous process. In this way, ad hoc policies can be drawn up that look at the different needs of different urban, rural, mountain and remote areas.

INOUSSA BARA  I  don’t think the European Union has to answer citizens’ questions. The European Union is “the answer” to the wishes of European citizens: a large market where everyone’s dreams can be realized, a heritage of culture and values ​​to be proud of and shared with the world and with the new European citizens.

Which are the three priority areas in which the European Union should do more with the powers that its institutions have at present?

CRISTINA BAGNOLI:Greater education in European citizenship through the strengthening of cultural integration programs, in particular for the new generations: they are not only tools with a strong symbolic value, but authentic and powerful means to form a European identity

Greater attention to social issues: in the last decade the European Union has been seen, partly unfairly, partly motivated, as an institution far from the needs of individuals. It takes courage and foresight to reaffirm human dignity, freedom and well-being as key values ​​of the European renaissance.

Making European decision-making bodies stronger. The United States of Europe project is seen as an ideal but very distant dream: it must become a common and shared goal. A united Europe is the only utopia for which it is worth hoping.

INOUSSA BARA: I would say the foreign policy, from which economic policy choices derive.

If you will be elected to the European Parliament, which will be your priorities and what policies / sectors would you like to focus your work on?

CRISTINA BAGNOLI: Research and innovation. Strengthen research funding to compensate for the steady decline by national governments to support the excellence of our research centers, maintain and increase jobs in the sector. Promote measures aimed at creating hubs between research centers and companies, so that research takes into account the productive reality in which it operates and, at the same time, companies can benefit from those research products aimed at improving processes and quality.

Agriculture. The draft of the next framework program (2021-2027) provides for a reduction for the funds to be allocated to agriculture. With this premise, I would like to commit myself to favoring measures aimed at supporting our territorial agricultural realities, but also at implementing innovative and sustainable techniques for the environment and for human health, especially in relation to food products.

Gender equality and young people. Being part of the first generation that was overwhelmed by the short-sighted measures that created a watershed between the guaranteed rights of certain age groups and those reallocated by the younger age groups, I would like to pursue the concept of intergenerational equity both in terms of employment, both at the pension level, extending it also to the environmental level. Furthermore, as a woman, I would like to carry out effective measures that favor the increase in female employment, which in Italy is well below the European average. Measures that allow women real opportunities to choose, rather than forced choices. Because even women can be free to dedicate themselves exclusively to the family, but also free to pursue a professional career, because they are supported by personal services, without the influence of cultural heritage.

INOUSSA BARA :My desire is to become the “spokesperson” of Italians and new Italians in Brussels.

Full interview to Cristina Bagnoli is available in italian here.

Full interview to Inoussa Bara  is available in italian here.

Francesco Condò

EU Elections: get to know some +Europa italian candidates: Silvja Manzi and Lia Orfei

The ALDE Party IM coordinator for North-West Italy Francesco Condò  submitted some questions to the candidates of +Europa, the Italian liberal party, at the next European elections in the North-West Italy constituency. You can read the full interviews (in Italian) on the Facebook page of the North-West Italy ALDE Party IMs:

Today we publish the answers of Silvja Manzi and Lia Orfei

Why did you choose to run for the European Parliament?
SILVJA MANZI This is a key event. Perhaps never like this time the European elections represent a crucial challenge, between those who want a greater European integration and those who would like to go back in time. I not only want more Europe, but I also want the United States of Europe, because that is the goal: the way to go for a future of peace, greater wellbeing, openness, hope. And that’s why I’m running with +Europa.

LIA ORFEI  After graduating in Statistics in Rome, I felt the need to engage and gain experience abroad in other academic research realities. Thanks to European agreements, I had the opportunity to study and work in various countries: Eurostat in Luxembourg, the University of Lancaster, the University of Cambridge and the Joint Research Center in Ispra. For me and many people of my generation, Europe represented an opportunity and I would like it to continue being an opportunity for others and future generations of young people. We must absolutely contrast the feeling of closure and protectionism that is taking place in different sections of the population and which risks endangering the European project. I am working to transfer this conviction to young people but also to other age groups, because Europe can give so much to everyone.

In your opinion, how can we make the European Union closer to its citizens and more effective in responding to their needs?

SILVJA MANZI: We should start from an electoral system that really brings the voters closer to the elected and from the direct election of the President of the Commission. It would also be essential, even as an antidote to rampant misinformation, to promote European public media, radio and television, to have a common and accessible source of information for all the European citizens.

GIULIA PASTORELLA I believe that the greatest effort to bring citizens closer to the EU is to accelerate towards political and social union; these, together with the single market and the free movement of people, will help to make citizens feel more and more European, because they are included in a community of people where they can have opportunities and, above all, safeguards. In this last field, a form of European unemployment benefit must be introduced as an instrument of economic stabilization.

Which are the three priority areas in which the European Union should do more with the powers that its institutions have at present?

SILVJA MANZI: Enforcing the internal rule of law: the authoritarian tendencies within the EU are not admissible and tolerable, since they undermine the sense and foundation of the European institution;  policies on migrants and asylum; social policies.

LIA ORFEI: Starting from the current situation of powers, the EU could act towards the taxation of commercial transactions of international digital companies in the European continent, towards the harmonization of direct and indirect tax regimes, and towards new objectives of regional funds and social cohesion towards the areas of southern Europe and urban suburbs.

Last,  Innovation: a European public fund to support new and good business ideas by investing an amount equal to those granted to companies by venture capital and private equity funds and a better coordination and support of national Industry 4.0 plans.

If you will be elected to the European Parliament, which will be your priorities and what policies / sectors would you like to focus your work on?

SILVJA MANZI: On the one hand I would work on internal reforms, on the areas I mentioned. On the other hand, I would work on the promotion of human rights: on this topic the Parliament can do a lot and we worked a lot in the years when I was in the EP with the Radical MEPs.

LIA ORFEI: I want to defend the values ​​I believe in: honesty, competence and solidarity. I will carry forward proposals on the topics that I believe most contribute to achieving these values. In particular: innovation, environment and social protection.

Full interview to Lia Orfei is available in italian here.

Full interview to Silvja Manzi is available in italian here.

Francesco Condò

Italy and the anesthetization of consciences: if humanity becomes a crime

In this contribution, our blog coordinator explains the Italian situation, where it’s only propaganda that leads the political action. Former MEP now minister Salvini bans humanity and those who practice it

The building of consensus: by doing nothing and using weapons of mass distraction so that the people do not notice. Matteo Salvini and his way of doing politics is the most evident symbol of the decadence to which the political debate in Italy has deteriorated and how easy it is to create a leader in a country where voters are highly disappointed by the past. Berlusconi indicated the way but his problems with justice stopped him. Renzi succeeded only partially. Former MEP now Italian Interior Minister and Deputy Premier is – unfortunately-  the one who had better ride the wave.

Salvini did that so good as to have overshadowed the Five Stars Movement, government ally and first Italian party and made the Italians forget the fact that Lega not only did not win elections but it came third also beaten by the Democratic Party.

The media, but above all social media, are the best way to get people engaged. Salvini and his team know it well and so “live” on Facebook, quickly making it his chosen weapon of mass persuasion:  through them he has been able to convince an ever-larger part of voters and made mainstream his point of view on certain topics.

Italian Populists (1)Moreover, the average voter – the Italian, in particular – has a short memory.  Submerging them with words and images makes them happy; it takes little to make them forget, for example, that the same politician that went around with  “Padania is not Italy” t-shirts, conducting stadium choirs against the inhabitants of Naples, is now the one who screams  #primagliitaliani (“italiansfirst”).

The strategy is simple and can be summarized in a few simple concepts: never stop propaganda, create an enemy, direct the mass to a single thought, and delegitimize the contrary voices. Thanks to these tactics and, at the same time, to a meticulous construction of an image (fake) of  a ‘man close to the people’ (for example posting images of his own dinner on Twitter), Salvini has managed, like a good snake charmer, to take credit into a part of people.

There is nothing that cannot be useful to this purpose. Is Italy a Catholic country? So, he presents himself to the political meetings holding the Gospel and the Rosary and makes battles for the crucifix and the nativity scene in schools. Italy was an obstacle to Padania? Now the southerners are needed and so those to be fought are ‘others’: migrants –  ‘loafers and bearers of terrorism’ – and the NGOs that help them, Doctors without Borders (he calls them ‘deputy smugglers’), and even the Pope, who redirects the Catholic electorate towards the true Christian message.

The rest is done by a careful communication strategy aimed (also) at the construction and viralisation of ‘fake news’ through the echo chambers of Facebook and Twitter, and the constant evocation of phrases, attitudes and characters that refer to policies close to fascism or the extreme right; it’s good to put his ‘flag’ on those slices of nostalgic electorate that otherwise would hardly see their own representations in Parliament – if it gets you elected.

In this strategy it is, of course, essential to provide an altered perception of reality. The uncertain European management of migratory flows was, in this sense, an easy tool to by which to construct the narrative of a danger that does not actually exist. His  role as Interior Minister is helping him to reinforce this perception on the people.

This is happening through two measures launched by the Government of which he is a part. First of all, a decree called ‘security’ but one that actually realizes exactly the opposite: canceling all the projects for integration and removing the asylum seekers from the structures where they are housed.  Those people, by their very status, cannot be expelled, and so they are left without a place to stay, increasing the risk they become ‘irregulars’. The second provision: almost completely abolishing humanitarian protection, makes it impossible to renew their residence permit once it has expired. Two simple moves to create new irregularities, but they are presented to the population as a ‘fight against crime’. In the eyes of the people there will always be an ’emergency’. That soon will be ‘faced’ by shooting at sight, even against those who are unarmed, thanks to the law on self-defence that the Government is preparing to launch.

xenophobia_-_we_are_all_foreignersThere is no better way to increase consensus and bring out all the anger and indignation of the people than have the poor fighting amongst themselves. Even instrumentalizing the victims of the recent earthquake is fair game: “Before migrants, I have to deal with those who have been without a house for two years”, he hurries to say on Facebook and on TV. But the laws to remove the bureaucracy that block the reconstruction of the houses destroyed in those areas have remained an electoral promise. On the other hand, he will soon go to visit one of earthquake regions where, in February, there will be an election. “Buonista” (“Feel-good” in English) is  a term he use in a negative way, against those who think we need to continue to maintain humanity by considering migrants as people.

The anesthetization effect of the collective conscience is completed by the discrediting of all contrary voices: on the one hand, exploiting the traditional Italian habit of ‘bending’ public information to politics, with directors ‘aligned’ to the ideas of those who govern and, from another side, by removing space and resources from all those media that deal daily with the right to distort the distorted narration, evaluating theses with real data and fact checking.

An even better way to do this is to change the law  that every year allocate money to newspapers, radio and television: in Italy pure publisher figures  don’t exist and media  are mostly owned by entrepreneurs in sectors others than publishing, so the Government helps the media. Salvini’s party (Lega) have joined with his ally M5S to fight against these allocations  and have just launched the law that will reduce in three years the allocation to zero; A provision that in addition to small regional newspapers, almost exclusively affects the media ‘dissidents’.

In the meantime, the measures included in the last financial law, in addition to taxing voluntary associations (especially penalizing those who assist the migrants) takes away money from growth, development and businesses, to finance some ‘spots’ measures as lowering retirement age, flat tax and so called ‘citizen income’, a sum of money for unemployed and those who earn less than 750 euros.

Steering Committee replacement elections: get to know candidates/4

On Decemebr 5th we’ll have a new ALDE Individual Members Steering Committee election to replace Robert Schliessler. So we gave candidates another chance to present themselves. Here we are Olivia Psachin

What is your motivation to run for the Steering Committee?

ALDE_IM /France South region Coordinator, specialized in European Law and Politics and International Politics, I lived 15 years immersed in the Swiss federalist political system, its direct democracy, its subsidiarity, its system of concord.

For me, ALDE- Individual Members is very close philosophically speaking of the Swiss political system of direct democracy.

The Steering Committee is a team of five people from different countries, each carrying the cultural richness of their country with common values, whose efficiency will have to be optimized for the European Elections campaign

I would like to bring my “faith” in team spirit from my years in Switzerland where the group takes precedence over individualism because of the spirit of mountain solidarity.

2° Next year, Europeans can vote in the European elections. What are your hopes and expectations for those elections?

In this campaign of the European elections which promises to be difficult for our political family, I wish to help to set up a coordination between the Steering Committee, the Regional and National ALDE-IM Coordinations, the direct Individual Members (with no national or regional Coordination), the candidates who will sit in the ALDE group of the European Parliament and, the ALDE Secretariat, to be able to fight together for our values. Individual members should be able to get involved in the election campaign, coordinated by the SC in the agreement with ALDE.

My ability to think and work in two different political systems almost the opposite of each other, one centralist, the other federal- direct democracy, should be able to help translate, to overcome difficulties of understanding , in order to coordinate our efforts for the promote of our values during the futur campaign.

The old European demons of nationalism (to be distinguished from the legitimate pride of being a citizen of a country) is on the lookout. The arguments put forward by the populists please many Europeans.

Socrates said: “Evil comes from the fact that man is mistaken about good”. Two world wars proved the consequences of this mistake, and the war of former Yugoslavia was yesterday.

I conclude with two quotations which, I think, sum up the spirit of ALDE-IM and ALDE by affirming with Aristotle : “politics is the art of commanding free men”, and, with Epictetus “Freedom is the independence of thought”.

Everyone on board for the European Elections campaign!

Steering Committee replacement elections: get to know the candidates/3

On Decemebr 5th we’ll have a new ALDE Individual Members Steering Committee election to replace Robert Schliessler. So we gave candidates another chance to present themselves. Here we are Laura Hidalgo

What is your motivation to run for the Steering Committee?

I have been a member of the ALDE Party IMS since 2013 and in one year actively through my position as a Delegate IMS to the ALDE Party Council and Delegate IMS at the last ALDE Congress in Madrid. I’m very grateful that you voted for me to represent us.

When I was 18, I wanted to commit myself to defend the European project through a liberal vision. I found the best place to debate and understand the issues at the European level within the IMS ALDE Party. Being the President of the Federation of Liberal Students in Wallonia and Brussels, I had much information from IMS all around Europe.

If you vote for me, my objective will be to ensure that all of the IMS coordinators receive the assistance needed, creating more joint events between countries and working closely with the Steering Committee and IMS to find new ways to still attract our IMS and new members with us. Obviously, I will fight like a liberal to be sure that our voice is listening by the ALDE Party with our Steering Committee.

Next year, Europeans can vote in the European elections. What are your hopes and expectations for those elections?

We face a migration crisis, Brexit and populism is growing but as Guy Verhofstadt said “crises are challenges, not calamities”. Despite this, we are going to go through this, stand up and fight like liberals for the legacy of our founding fathers and the future of the European citizens.

I hope that we will convince everyone that the European Union project and ALDE Party are ready to take up other challenges like renewable energy, robotization and digitalization. I really want a more liberal and unite European Union ! It’s time to give us the opportunity to shape a better Europe.

Steering Committee replacement elections: get to know candidates/2

On Decemebr 5th we’ll have a new ALDE Individual Members Steering Committee election to replace Robert Schliessler. So we gave candidates another chance to present themselves. Here we are Daniel Jansen, Maurice Lagerwerf and Susanne Wunderer

What is your motivation to run for the Steering Committee?

Daniel Jansen: Hi, I want to work as SC member and contribute to us all. I don’t want to make it glamorous: supporting ALDE and ALDE Individual Members can be hard work but it is very worthwhile! It is a way of helping the prosperous and peaceful society. In the coming year there have to be campaigns organised and run, together with ALDE Party towards the European Elections. Also, we will work together with the members in organizing events and our congress. For me personally, I enjoy very much connecting with great people who have the guts to do the right thing for all generations to come.My management experience in work surroundings and in volunteer organisations is an asset for this role and period. I have worked with various people in semi-independent organisations. Supporting people so they get successful makes me happy. My dream is to develop a prosperous and peaceful Europe for the well-being of all humanity. The European Union – with all its experience and values – should be the example of cooperation, alignment and development in creating a safe and level playing field for citizens.

Maurice Lagerwerf: In daily life, I’m working for a global player in Horticultural Logistics and studying Online Marketing Management.  As of Since this month I am a civil counselor for D66, in my place of residence:  Ridderkerk, Netherlands. I would love to get to know all of you a bit better and give you the opportunity to learn to know me better as well. Please feel free to link with me on social.

Linkedin; facebook; Instagram

Susannne Wunderer. I am athe hands-on type of person, and liberalism has never needed the hands-on mentality more despearately than nowadays. Coming from the electronics industry, where I had the opportunity to gain international and leadership-experience as a CEO, I initiated a grassroots movement during my maternity leave, and came in touch with politics. From thereon I have been working in politics as a staff member;, I have experiencedknow all levels of political work – from municipal to regional, national and international. I worked in parliaments, was part of an parlamentarian investigation commission, and developed and ran election and other campaigns. Today, I am working as a political advisor and strategist (public affairs). Now I want to roll up my sleeves for ALDE Party IM.

Next year, Europeans can vote in the European elections. What are your hopes and expectations for those elections?

Daniel Jansen Of course, I hope that ALDE parties will do well in all countries. My expectation is that more and more people come to their senses and say: ‘Hey, we are in this together. Let’s act in a decent way and if something needs to be improved let’s have a positive attitude towards it. We can do this. I can improve my life and we can improve each other’s lives.’ Our ALDE values matter!

Maurice Lagerwerf:  For the upcoming elections, I think we can make a strategic difference by joining forces and aligning the organizations within the ALDE group as a whole.  I consider this can be the key to reoach our goals, such as protecting the environment, further protecting human rights, and building an even stronger Europe within the near future.

Susanne Wunderer. Next year’‘s election will be crucial for the European Union. As a liberal, I hope to see a significant move away from nationalism, authoritarianism and xenophobia, and send a strengthening signal to cooperation, democracy and open-mindedness. I will put in all my expertise, my energy, and my experience to achieve this goal.

 

ALDE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS STEERING COMITTEE CANDIDATES, GET TO KNOW THEM: SILVIA FERNANDEZ

Let’s get to know  Steering Comittee Elections candidates. Voting started on September 19th. We asked same two questions about electoral program and Liberals Democrats perspectives  to each of them. Now it’ s up to Silvia Fernandes from Spain.

 

With the rise of populist movements in Europe, liberals and democrats are faced with a new challenge. What are the best weapons to deal with them?

The rise of populism is definitely one of (if not) the biggest challenges of European Democracy of the 21st Century. Terrorist threats, economic distress, increased rate of unemployment, refugee crisis… are all issues that encompass the rise of the populist movement across Europe, namely right-wing. Despite being an heterogeneous group, they find common ground on two pillars: europhobia and anti-mass immigration.

The problem has very unfortunately been reinforced when national parties have adjusted their own policies to the ludicrous demands of the far-right in an attempt to not lose voters to these populist parties. Neither this or leaving them completely out of the decision making process in national parliaments or the European Parliament, where they have representation, has proven to succeed. This is merely because populist parties draw strength from playing the victim card, the oppressed minority who feels its identity and nationality is being gradually eroded by the Union. However, being anti-European makes most of them not so participative in the EP’s decision making process, thus there is no need for establishing a ‘cordon sanitaire’ – since this would be adding fuel to the fire.

I believe that the Liberals and Democrats should develop the best articulated and strongest speech that will challenge the right wing while remaining true to our liberal and democratic values. Populist movements have exploited insecurity and resentment and constructed a false narrative to position themselves as an alternative to already established parties. There is a need to come back strong, now more than ever when fear and anger are predominant in some member states; we need to fight back for European integration, freedom, and human rights.

Liberals and democrats have not had the same political strength across Europe. Do you think, looking to the next EU Elections, we should work towards transnational lists?

It is my believe that citizens should be able to participate more directly in European politics. They should have the right to vote on their preferred candidate. Against what most of the right and populist parties have said, the creation of Transnational Lists would only strengthen EU democracy by bringing the EU closer to the citizens allowing for a more effective and tangible integration and consequently trust in the European institutions.

One of the main reasons to create Transnational Lists is that the current system fails to respect the principle of degressive proportionality established in the treaties. Therefore, it is not representative of the actual EU diversity portrayed by the 27 Member States. By establishing Transnational Lists, we would be allowing European political parties to act as genuine parties and focus on real European matters instead of national ones during European elections. Moreover, member states that currently are underrepresented such as Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands would have a real proportionate number of seats in the European Parliament. An adequate reallocation of seats would ultimately give ALDE member parties more weight across Europe and in the European Parliament challenging the EPP and populist parties.

Having said that, I would not jump the gun and fight for them for the 2019 elections. Essentially because the complexity of the development of the Transnational Lists due to the disparities in requirements and legal challenges across the 27 member states is grand. Thus, I feel that the time for Transnational Lists is the 2024 elections. This would give us enough time to fashion an effective democratic and proportionate system. For better or for worse, Brexit has given us the opportunity to reform Europe towards a more democratic and open Union. Let’s make the most of it.

Italian populism and the art of propaganda: how to gain consensus without governing

In this contribution, our blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini explain his point of view on the present crisis in Italy and the growing of populism in the country, in light of recent political events. It’s a bit longer than most entries on this blog but the  the topic deserves special attention, to allow non-Italians  to better understand the events.


All propaganda must be popular, adapting its level to the least intelligent of the individuals to whom it is directed. The larger the mass is to convince, the smaller the mental effort must be made. Their capacity to elaborate informations is very poor, as well as their memory”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Vulgarization”)

The best way to make sense to what is happening in the Italian political scenario since March 5th onwards, is to use the words of Joseph Gobbels, Third Reich Minister of Propaganda. Because it’s only propaganda that moves on the debate. Economic crisis, high unemployment rate, inability of governments to communicate the importance of being part of the EU to be competitive and the unexpected explosion in the numbers of migrants landed on Italian coasts, fueled anger and indignations in people, so populist forces only need to feed this desire for rebellion to gain consensus, without making any serious and concrete proposal.

Moreover, among M5S (Five Stars Movement) and Lega voters, besides people tired of institutions, there is also a part less educated and another part  little inclined to go beyond a search on Google. People only need simple solutions to complex problems, and this nothing better for populist forces.

Italian Constitution state that is the President of Republic that have the power to nominate Prime Minister and “on the indication of the latter”, all the Ministers. This was not the first time that President of Republic says ‘no’ to one of the name on the list, so it is usual to present him also some alternative names. But the institutional clash is exactly that 5 Stars Movement and Lega wanted to provoke from the beginning of this crisis.

They found help in a particularly poor electoral law, which only allow a grouping to govern if a single party of a coalition reach 40%. None of the three blocks achieved this result, so President Sergio Mattarella tried first to join M5S (most voted party) and center-right (most voted coalition). But the attempt failed on the request from M5S to dialogate only with Lega, without Forza Italia and ‘condemned’ Berlusconi. Then he tried to join M5S with Democratic Party (second most voted party) but also this attempt failed, because of a ‘suffered no’ from this latter party.

When, in order to avoid a new ‘techincal Monti-style government’ Berlusconi accepted to ‘step aside’, it officially started the populist alliance’s attempt to delegitimate the institutions we are watching to, which is functional to the only real project: to grow consensus and return to the vote as soon as possible, without getting their hands dirty with the responsibility of government, with the risk of losing voters.

Propaganda must limit itself to a small number of ideas and repeat them tirelessly, always present them under different perspectives, but always converging on the same concept. Without doubts or uncertainties. From here comes the phrase: “A lie repeated endlessly becomes the truth”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Orchestration”)

Never stop propaganda. This is only important thing for the Italian populist parties. And do it in their own way: small number of ideas, few simple concepts that indignant people have to assimilate and built the consensus around them.

So, there is the so-called ‘Government contract’: a mix of economical proposals without coverage, a parallel currency, a ‘far west –style’ justice and racial discriminations. And there is the battle, sought and wanted on the appointed Minister of Economy Paolo Savona, a highly regarded professor well known in Europe for his ‘Euro-Exit’ ideas. President Mattarella accepted a ‘non elected’ mostly unknown prime minister (jurist and professor Giuseppe Conte), and all the list of ministers they propose. Except for Savona. And that’s exactly they want to reach. For M5S and Lega was important to present this name without an alternative one to say: “Without Paolo Savona, we will not make government start” and go to the clash.

It was above all Lega Leader Matteo Salvini who wants the clash, even if he spoke of ‘dignity’: everything was functional to build a narrative that had only one great ‘all season’ enemy, to be used as a ‘non government alibi’ and if needed as lightning rod in case the ‘impossible government’ had started and failed in their ‘proposals’.

“It is necessary to adopt only one idea, one symbol. And above all, to identify the adversary in an enemy, in the sole responsible of all evils “

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “The Unique Enemy”)

M5S and Lega leaders, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, are well aware that it is impossible to get into the Government quickly through the change of the electoral law.

How to get out of the stall and gain consensus, then? Maximizing the tone of the fight, lowering even more the level of arguments and pointing to the belly of the voters (in example: video-harangues on facebook and tweets through which they call for a mass mobilitation), in a sort of massacre game and reduce as much as possible the number of real ‘competitors’. Then return to the vote as soon as possible. And if there is still not enough consensus, start again.

First step reached: Italy, probably will vote again in July, only 4 months after last elections:  none of the parties – not even the Democratic Party and +Europa  (albeit for different reasons) – will support the technical government that President Mattarella has now entrusted to a famous economist, Carlo Cottarelli, former International Monetary Fund official. He will therefore only remain in office at interim with limited tasks until next elections.

Uploading errors and faults to the opponent, responding to the attack with the attack. If you cannot deny bad news, invent new ones to distract “

(Joseph Goebbels, The 11 Principles of Propaganda, Transposition).

The only real winner of this game, unfortunately, is Matteo Salvini. The former MEP Parliament used the initial real M5S willing to govern (and their claimed inexperience, and multiform shape) to make them accept a right oriented ‘Government contract’ that distorted some of their principles and disturbed the ‘left oriented’ base Movement. More, Salvini is eroding Forza Italia spaces, and when Italy will return to vote, probably he will succeed in the objective of seeing Lega  consensus grow a lot.

And if M5S were to lose also some votes because of that ‘compromise’, then could be also possible that Lega becomes first Italian party.

This is why it is absolutely necessary that the liberal, pro-European and democratic forces – setting aside the differences – already join forces to build a real alternative to a drift that risks turning Italy into Venezuela rather than Hungary. Only in this way, with a dialogue around shared projects, can we really change Europe and lay the foundations for a re-start that gives Italy the leading role in the Union.

 

 

 

INTERVIEW ON IDENTITY POLITICS AND THE RISE OF THE PARTY ISLAM

In the debate surrounding immigration, integration, religious fanaticism and radicalism, all too often the debate is about the migrants, but not involving migrants. Today, Dr Sid Lukkassen discusses these topics with Manel Mselmi: a young woman of Tunisian origin who is active for Mouvement Réformateur in Belgium. She is currently a PhD candidate in environmental humanities, a talk show host and a blogger. Sid published several books on topics such as geopolitics, humanism, media analysis and the culture wars and, from 2010 – 2018, he was active as a city councillor (VVD)

Manel: I am happy to begin this discussion. An Islamic political party was recently created in Belgium. Hasn’t something similar happened in the Netherlands?

Sid: A few years ago, two MPs split off from the Labour Party (PvdA) and established DENK. The MPs were from a a Turkish background and the party is focused on migrant issues. I would not hesitate to call this identity politics. This party is on the rise, particularly in major cities.

Manel: I noticed that identity politics is also a theme in my municipality. Some years ago, a large share of cultural subsidies were used for a film festival that accentuated a particular migrant community, but the general cultural curriculum was ignored.

Sid: Did you speak out about it, at the time?

Manel: It bothered me because it was so one-sided: things like Western literature were ignored as a result. I could not escape the impression that Labour were doing this to win migrant votes. People from my community said that the left was doing to help migrants and that I, being of migrant descent, shouldn’t criticise. However, I pointed out that this approach only pushes migrants into a group identity; liberals should do the opposite and emphasize the opportunities and rights of individuals.

Sid: What you noticed back then, was the cocoon of identity politics being spun. The Party Islam is the butterfly that hatched from that cocoon.

Manel: At least now the left is forced to see what they have created, directly or indirectly. What bothers me is that we have no parties with real values at the core of their programs. In any case those values are so watered down that the main parties appear to be the same. By contrast, the Party Islam exudes a strong sense of identity that will appeal to many who feel spiritually and politically uprooted.

Sid: I guess we can say that the left never demanded integration as part of its message to the migrant voter. Instead, they wanted to tap into this electorate through migrant identitarian statements. For example, party programs written in foreign languages or by advocating policies with some Islamic accents here and there. But now, politically active Muslims realize that the left doesn’t offer a strong base for the future. The left – especially the cultural left – hasn’t done much to support traditional families. However, family is a core value of Islam. The left tries to tweak society, but Islam, especially when it becomes political, presents its own model of society.

Manel: That adds up with what I said before, that all the parties begin to look more alike, with the Party Islam then being a strong and demographically viable alternative. If this continues, we move to a state of society where the demographic question takes over the political sphere. Then, labels like ‘liberal’ or ‘social democratic’ will mean less and less in practice.

Sid: Do you consider yourself mostly as a politician, public intellectual or academic?

Manel: I may be a woman from a ‘minority’ background, but I feel mostly driven to defend the Western liberties. I never allowed any identitarian issue to hold me back in my career. Personally, I see you as a fellow relevant thinker on today’s debate on identity and Islam. You can be a successful politician, but your problem is that you are brave enough to be direct and straightforward when presenting your ideas. I can relate to how it would mean that one is sometimes criticised by their own community.

Sid: Politics is a snaky business, and moving up in politics has more to do with in-crowd networking than with developing original ideas. Many politicians seem not to care about that. They are formed by decades of peace and prosperity, and cannot see the real danger of a society becoming dysfunctional.

Manel: Sometimes I am disappointed because democracy can be very vulnerable. I do believe strongly in Western values but it is complicated – we are in an ideological war. It’s strong but also risky that you address these concerns in a direct manner.

Sid: I am confident that my direct style will reach people, even if it takes time. People will hear me better once the system of the current elite begins to crumble. This could be quite fast given that they [the elite] ignore constructive criticism, as you’ve noticed.

Manel: We have to raise awareness among young people about the need to be engaged in politics and fight against extremist parties. Secularism and individual liberties need to be preserved.

Sid: In that sense, you and I have something in common with the Party Islam. Meaning that we try to build awareness and political influence not from the top – as the top tends not to listen – but from the bottom.

Manel: We need truly driven people for this political challenge: convinced and determined ones to build networks.

Sid: It is the only way. From my activities in the media, academic world and by being an elected representative for eight years, my impression is that if you go knock at the gates of the elites to give report from society and to tell them the story from the streets, then you will be portrayed as a ‘racist’.

Manel: This is definitely true. But they forget that values, once you lose them, are hard to grow back as a basis for society. In any case our media activities are a good step to create awareness. Following from this, migrants stop to trust the left parties and they begin to see how they have been used.

Sid: DENK attacks and shames the migrants who are active for other political parties. By doing this, they seek to unify the migrant community as one solid political block. They try to distance those other politically active migrants from that group. But if their aim succeeds, then there is always the chance that all the other blocks will team up against them, since the migrant vote at that point won’t benefit any other party.

Manel: Things will get more polarized from now. Whatever happens – I am glad to share these thoughts with you and to develop our ideas. I feel that I am not alone in this struggle, and hope that our discussion will inspire other young intellectuals.

To conclude, a critique of the identitarian left is often perceived as being disrespectful towards minorities and as violating their rights. The left fears that such criticism leads to ‘second rate citizens’, but they cannot argue with demography; nor can they play their victimhood status trump card when the critical voices come from the minorities themselves, who have experienced what political Islam means in their countries of origin. The left thus generally avoids this debate, as engaging in it could jeopardize their morally superior status.