Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Italy's Shame in Once Again Attacking the Greek People

Matteo Renzi had a long meeting with the former president of Italy, Napolitano, yesterday.  Then out come all the unacceptable criticisms of the Greek people and their government 'threatening' the eurozone and the European Union project. 

Italy's behaviour in Greece  (and the rest of the Balkans) is a blood-soaked, vicious, deliberately hidden under the myth of 'the good Italian', horror story of torture and cold-blooded murder.    Born in 1925, Napolitano (and a Fascist before he chose the other authoritarianism of communism) is well aware that Italy should keep its opinions on the choices the Greek people make next Sunday to itself. 

Italy will never recover the right to any say about anything whatsoever in Greece.   

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


THE isles of Greece! the isles of Greece 
  Where burning Sappho loved and sung, 
Where grew the arts of war and peace, 
  Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung! 
Eternal summer gilds them yet,        
But all, except their sun, is set. 
The Scian and the Teian muse, 
  The hero's harp, the lover's lute, 
Have found the fame your shores refuse: 
  Their place of birth alone is mute 
To sounds which echo further west 
Than your sires' 'Islands of the Blest. 
The mountains look on Marathon— 
  And Marathon looks on the sea; 
And musing there an hour alone, 
  I dream'd that Greece might still be free; 
For standing on the Persians' grave, 
I could not deem myself a slave. 
A king sate on the rocky brow 
  Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis; 
And ships, by thousands, lay below, 
  And men in nations;—all were his! 
He counted them at break of day— 
And when the sun set, where were they? 
And where are they? and where art thou, 
  My country? On thy voiceless shore 
The heroic lay is tuneless now— 
  The heroic bosom beats no more! 
And must thy lyre, so long divine, 
Degenerate into hands like mine? 
'Tis something in the dearth of fame, 
  Though link'd among a fetter'd race, 
To feel at least a patriot's shame, 
  Even as I sing, suffuse my face; 
For what is left the poet here? 
For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear. 
Must we but weep o'er days more blest? 
  Must we but blush?—Our fathers bled. 
Earth! render back from out thy breast 
  A remnant of our Spartan dead! 
Of the three hundred grant but three, 
To make a new Thermopyl√¶! 
What, silent still? and silent all? 
  Ah! no;—the voices of the dead 
Sound like a distant torrent's fall, 
  And answer, 'Let one living head, 
But one, arise,—we come, we come!' 
'Tis but the living who are dumb. 
In vain—in vain: strike other chords; 
  Fill high the cup with Samian wine! 
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes, 
  And shed the blood of Scio's vine: 
Hark! rising to the ignoble call— 
How answers each bold Bacchanal! 
You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet; 
  Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone? 
Of two such lessons, why forget 
  The nobler and the manlier one? 
You have the letters Cadmus gave— 
Think ye he meant them for a slave? 
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! 
  We will not think of themes like these! 
It made Anacreon's song divine: 
  He served—but served Polycrates— 
A tyrant; but our masters then 
Were still, at least, our countrymen. 
The tyrant of the Chersonese 
  Was freedom's best and bravest friend; 
That tyrant was Miltiades! 
  O that the present hour would lend 
Another despot of the kind! 
Such chains as his were sure to bind. 
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! 
  On Suli's rock, and Parga's shore, 
Exists the remnant of a line 
  Such as the Doric mothers bore; 
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown, 
The Heracleidan blood might own. 
Trust not for freedom to the Franks— 
  They have a king who buys and sells; 
In native swords and native ranks 
  The only hope of courage dwells: 
But Turkish force and Latin fraud 
Would break your shield, however broad. 
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! 
  Our virgins dance beneath the shade— 
I see their glorious black eyes shine; 
  But gazing on each glowing maid, 
My own the burning tear-drop laves, 
To think such breasts must suckle slaves. 
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep, 
  Where nothing, save the waves and I, 
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep; 
  There, swan-like, let me sing and die: 
A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine— 
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

Pick a European Ellis Island

The identification and classification of migrants is not going well in Italy, Greece, Malta or the Balkans.  The EU Dublin Convention, now known as the Dublin III Regulation, states EU (and some other European countries') rules for identifying migrants.  Avoiding and evading this identification is a primary goal of migrants to Europe as it determines rights to place of settlement, or even settlement at all.  Taken to reception  centres on the European mainland after rescue in the Mediterranean, the migrants run away as fast as they can once they've grabbed a change of clothes and a meal.

The proposal of an Ellis Island was always waiting but has been precipitated by the closing of nation state borders to migrants, shutting them off from their settlement objectives, and rendering transit countries' city public spaces, transit hubs, and countryside bordering migrant routes simply squalid.  None of the Mediterranean EU member-states is noted for bureaucratic efficiency and some are  plagued by corrupt bureaucratic practices.   Their islands are particularly lovely, often set in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (even those that have served as penal colonies in the past; not a happy association for a migrant reception and identification centre).  Pianosa, 13 kilometres off Elba is all of these things.  As such it shouldn't even be contemplated for reception centre use.  The suggestion of Pianosa made in the Corriere della Sera is presumably just a way of getting the policy ball rolling.

So where (see list)  should Europe have its Ellis Island, to meet its own Regulations and end the hurried piecemeal imposition  (with all its appalling side-effects) of checks  here and there across the continent?

Monday, 22 June 2015

Migration and Settlement

One of the disasters of the 20th century Cold War, the Iron Curtain, did two things: it kept the people of eastern Europe from migrating to the West; it taught how to build a wall (or fence, or other frontier control) that is marked by its efficiency, second only to its cruelty.  So when those traipsing through Serbia meet the construct being realised by the Hungarian government they are in for a shock.

Hungary has decades of experience on which to draw to make their physical defence of their country effective.  So has Germany (at least the former GDR), not to mention the Balkans.  Walls are social structures too, and the societies that were once shut in have not lost the capacity to run an effective barrier to shut people out - this time with brio rather than the resignation of just doing a job.

The UK gave up on its moat, its coastguard, its navy and its long-standing policy opposition to mass immigration under the 1997 and later governments.  Other Western European states had large migratory flows as well - Italians to Belgium, to Germany, for instance and, while the Turks to Germany wasn't exactly European, guest workers were useful and temporary.  Temporary was the key word.  All these European kinds of migrations were reversible as soon as work disappeared, and when out of work benefits were so unenticing.  The UK, however, experienced a very different kind of migration; a migration of permanent settlement (as did France, though for different reasons, and earlier).  So awful were their countries of origin in terms of opportunity, democracy, cultural normality, that the entrants never return - not permanently.  All Italians go home.  You would, wouldn't you?  Turks didn't even have the choice until fairly recently.  But what happened to the UK and France is now threatening to be the norm for Europe.

Those who know how to build a wall (in its full meaning)  are going to do so.  And maintain it.  Meanwhile the transit states, like Italy and Serbia, are joined with the migrants from elsewhere in pushing relatively undefended or inexperienced countries, or countries with large, extant extra European culture settlements  to cease even attempting to reinstate border controls against not temporary and desired labour resources but against permanent and unskilled settlers wholly inappropriate to European needs or wishes.  Eastern Europe knows what to do, and has perfectly reasonable and acceptable migration patterns for its east European nationals.  It's no good trying to turn transit countries into  lagers either; these transit countries too have reasonable, settled migration patterns and no provision for settlement of extra-European migrants. 

Hence the scenes at Calais,  Menton, the Alpine crossing points into Austria and Germany: no experience of keeping people out in continental Europe, and the poor choices made in 1997 in the UK, have now to be remedied. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

John F Kennedy's Demand Needs a Response From Migrants

"Ask not what our countries can do for you - ask what you can do for our countries."

Europe faces nothing but insistence on admittance from African migrants.  We are asked "Where is your humanity?"  We are told "We must be allowed to pass."  We face aggression and insults to our magistrates and their officers when  after (in our humanity) fishing them out of the sea, they are offered shelter in 'unsatisfactory' asylum.

And the "...what can you do  for our countries"?   is never answered.

Six Hours of the Italian Exams Today.

The examination in Italian is this morning.  490,000 eighteen-year olds have six hours to: analyse and comment on a set text; or  write a  journalistic-style consideration of a given current topic; or write an essay on a historical given subject; or write an essay chosen on a general  subject offered by the examiners [this last is for the truly desperate who can't form an opinion or summon any knowledge of the other questions, ed.]

Six hours.  That demands clarity, understanding, organisation of material and of thought, relevance of reference and quotation,  elegance of expression...  Gosh.
The set text is Italo Calvino's "Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno"  (1947) - not an easy work to assess considering Calvino's limpid simplicity in writing which is so sophisticated;  offering a young boy's view of an adult world at (second world) war (and a boy in such circumstances) it is distant from  any 2015 experience as well.

There are four topics offered for the journalistic piece: 'literature as life experience'; or 'the challenges of the 21st century and citizen's rights and needs in economic and social life'; or  'the Mediterranean geopolitical atlante of Europe'; or 'scientific and technological developments in electronic and information technology that have transformed communication'.  

The historical essay asks for a reflection on the [Italian] Resistance.

A quote from Malala Yousafzai on the right to education provides the lead-in for the general essay.

Writing on 'literature as life experience' is easily the safest -  and gives the best opportunity to use all those years of study.  It might even be fun to write (and the examiners have attached verses from Inferno canto V, out of the kindness of their hearts).


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Migrants Must Be Accepted in European Areas Where Their Communities Are Already Settled

With the closure of the Swiss/Italian borders (hundreds are being removed daily from the international trains at Briga and returned to Domodossola - over 1,700 in recent weeks) non-European Union  migrants can no longer traverse Switzerland then try to enter France.  The Swiss will not permit a build-up of the kind of trouble afflicting Italian border crossing points where France (and Austria) are preventing entry for those who have been landed in Italy.

For the many people who work across the Swiss/Italian borders, commuting daily, all this kerfuffle is causing serious disruption in one of the most high-tech, economically  vibrant and important areas of the EU.  Obviously it has to stop; as well international, cross-European trains cannot be held up for hours, nor the Alpine tunnels and passes closed by anonymous threats of explosions and other damage to the trains and the railway infrastructure.  The migrants cannot stop where there is no work for unskilled, transient people without even minimal knowledge let alone command of the languages spoken.  They are on their way to the large settled communities of relatives and friends in France, the UK, Sweden and the Low Countries, where there is  hope of finding work and assistance.   It seems heartless for such European countries to deny the refugees access to their own people who have achieved some security and acceptance.  Once there is a community of settled migrants there should be recognition that they remain linked to their place of origin by complex ties of kinship and affection and duty.  Italy's problem with these migrants is not just the numbers and the depressed state of much of the Italian economy;  there is the reality of assimilation having taken place elsewhere, not in Italy, and where naturally the migrants expect to find work and welcome.  The migrants are holding placards saying 'we must be allowed to pass' for good reason.  There is nothing for them held at border points.

The Italian government has decided  on three policies to ameliorate the migrant impact as they journey through the physical and political bottlenecks of the EU.  First the ships that are picking them up out of the Mediterranean will not be able to disembark them at Italian ports: the rescue ships are considered as part of the national territory of their registration.  Second the Prefects are to be authorised by the Italian Home Office to issue temporary laissez-passer  to migrants so that they can move about the EU.  Third the migrants will be  housed temporarily in disused military barracks which are hurriedly being readied, rather than at international railway stations.

None of these measures  are optimal but all are necessary.  In refusing to acknowledge the scale of this migratory emergency and the iron conditions that must be met - the migrants must be rescued, the migrants cannot be returned, the migrants must reach their settled communities to have a hope  - some countries of the EU, particularly France, have precipitated an emergency towards a disaster.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Italy's Government Wobbles As the North Votes for the Right and Separatism

The photographs published by the Corriere della Sera, of trafficked Africans on the summer  beaches, and the videos of the French police charging the Africans at Ponte Ludovico in the south of France, driving them onto the rocks, picture a world  collapsing.  Not just the Africans' world - they're well into the nightmare -  but our world.  Our world where we drive along the Aurelia with glorious glimpses of the Mediterranean blue and smiling, heading for France and its gardens in spring bloom, for the Balzi Rossi, for lunch at Garavan with its pretty harbour below us.  A large part of summer has just gone; and with it a very English culture and history.

It's not just the seaside either; travelling to Milan for an exhibition, a recital, is suddenly a fraught experience struggling from the Freccia Rossa to even leave the station, overwhelmed as it is by others who are travelling nowhere.   Rome?  Rome has always been an edgy city but recent advances in orderliness, ease, enjoyment of its grandeurs have collapsed  into a frightening sense of threat, certainly in the underground and even just walking in some central parts of the city.

The final sets of vote-offs were completed in Italy yesterday.  Again the turn-out was very low, well under 50%, and again the ruling coalition of Democratic Party and New Centre Right lost heavily.  Notable gains were made by Forza Italia, by the Lega Nord, by 5-Stelle, and by various civic lists.  Venice voted centre-right for the first time in almost quarter of a century, joining swathes of the North rising against Roman central government and  its noxious combination (over and above corruption) of economic austerity plus migrant-imposition in communities already without work and resources for far too long and for no good reason. 

Renzi's government is under severe threat generated by externally imposed, wrong economic and fiscal policies, and external refusal to help with the migrants.  For the latter he has stated Italy will supply short term settlement papers to them all, thus allowing travel anywhere in Europe, unless the frontiers are opened and they can be settled in an orderly and decent fashion.  For the former the idiocies and rigidities of eurozone policies and its malformed, misconceived currency are beyond Italian solution alone.  Greece (and the Africans) will be as nothing if the two trillion* Euro debts of Italy come pouring out with the collapse of the Italian government.

UDATE:  Figures issued this evening set Italian public debt at 2 trillion, 194 billion euros.   Greek debt?  That's just the billions at the end of that immense sum.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Greeks? the EU Has More to Fear From Romans

 The convulsions in Italian governance, both political and of the State itself, continue growing and are now interacting to increase its fragility.  After the regional elections and the abandonment of the ruling Democratic Party by the electorate,  the governors of northern Italy  have told the government in Rome where to put its attempts to distribute and settle African refugees  landed in the South. In Lombardy, Liguria, the Veneto, and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regional governors, and more local mayors, want no more 'refugees' from Africa, not when the frontiers to France, Austria and Germany are closing.  Passing through on their way to greener pastures is one thing: stopping in northern Italy is not allowed.  The Italians have pulled them out of the waters upon which they so unwisely cast themselves but there are limits to saving other people from adversity.  Adversity has been visiting Italy and Italians for years  and its import has to be confronted for them first.

Unfortunately the Italian Home Office, faced with northern intransigence, ordered the northern Prefects to impose the Africans on the North.  The Prefects  are now in conflict with the elected governors and mayors - elected to prevent just what the Prefects have been ordered to do.  The Northern politicians have cut off all funds to any northern community accepting Africans;  after all, it was Roman corruption via the oh so socially just Democratic Party government that had realised most of the profit on the funding of the trafficked Africans anyway.   Little could make the trafficked more unattractive, but no funding even has succeeded.  Northern, newly-elected leaders are urging their electors to protest the attempts of the Prefects to impose their authority and place the Africans; the Prefects are protesting to Rome that  their  authority  and hence their capacity to meet their (extensive) civil duties is being rapidly undermined by this single issue.

Renzi's Executive, already badly damaged by the tide of filth brought upon it by the Roman  Democratic party and Mafia corruption (even though it was the Left faction, prior to Renzi's clear-out of what is known as the Ditta, the Firm, that is mafia-involved) is now facing the break-down of the civil power across the whole of northern Italy and, perhaps worse in the longer term, a major conflict between the political and State powers within a profoundly authoritarian state.

What has never been settled in Italy, constitutionally, is Who Rules?  Given that the 1946 Constitution was written by old Fascists and old Communists in an unholy authoritarian alliance (indeed often embodied in the same persons -  consider the former president Giorgio Napolitano in both Fascist and Communist hats) now is a really, really  bad time to choose to find out.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Renzi Loses Ground As Italy Displays Multi-Party Corruption at Regional Levels

The low turnouts fell even lower as the electors abandoned the ballottaggi during last week.  Consequently the  more disciplined factions of the Partito Democratico, the old-style party cadres were able to take more of the contested seats in regional elections than might have been expected.  That doesn't mean anything much in  terms of national elections, or balance of power  within the PD - over-excited claims of confining the Florentines to the banks of the Arno or at least within Tuscany came from mistaking Party commitment as the defeat of the more fluid, Movement-style support available to Renzi when it matters in national elections.

However, the flood of arrests, helping-the-police-with-enquiries, and revelations of the scale of involvement of the PD in 'social' funding expenditures, from the mass subsidy of the 'red' co-operatives, the provision of social housing, to the profits to be made from migrant handling using EU funds, has been horrific to read about.  The abandonment of any commitment to the ostensible social justice goals of the PD at local and regional level, particularly in Rome and the South in favour of the mafia-isation,  the self-enrichment,  and the entrenching  of compliant personnel in local, and regional structures still surprises.  The Right is supposed to do this sort of thing, and indeed it is through the allies on his right in the current Italian  government coalition that Renzi has been bathed in this sewage.  But it is his own Party, the Democratic Party in all its miserable compliance with the worst mafia undertakings and practices, that has put his government in question.  Not a shift to the Left in the PD but  the revelation that while none of them are worth voting for only the Left in the PD can still stomach doing so.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Italian Elections Lose the Electorate

The voting in the regional elections in Italy is not yet over: the ballottaggio, the stand-off between any  two leading candidates without a sufficient vote for a majority at the first round,  takes place this week.  However, in broad terms, the assault upon Matteo Renzi's leadership of the Partito Democratico by an entrenched, furious faction of junked senior Party members (located upon various parts of the PD political spectrum but mostly former communists and trade unionists)  has failed.  The man who junked them, the rottamatore Renzi, increased the number of regions held by the PD (though losing Liguria to the centre right.)  Unfortunately lost too was 50% of the electorate.

Italy usually votes, but not this time.  So bitter is the resentment of the Bersani-led faction within the PD (the prime- minister-who-never-was after the 2013 elections because he dared not face down the then president Napolitano)  it is clear that they have gone much too far.  The working-classes are not voting, not least because their party has within it a gelid, old-style authoritarian Left that will do whatever it takes to 'get their party back', ie.,  back to the economics and politics of the last century.  Their central tactic this time was to use their chairmanship of the Anti-Mafia Commission to publish a list of those under investigation for Mafia activities.  This list included the names of a number of PD candidates in the regional elections.  Not unnaturally, the Chairman - woman actually - who blurted out that restricted list at a press conference only hours before pre-electoral silence fell on the media, thus denying those listed any chance of reply before the vote, is being sued by a number of candidates (successful and unsuccessful) for the obvious - damaged constitutional rights, public reputation.....

Even the current President of Italy has spoken of the damage to the conduct of politics, to electoral involvement, to civic commitment that this overspill of over the top factional fighting has caused.   The Prime Minister has been remarkably contained in his expressions of contempt for the destructive behaviours of old men and women, but unforgiving in his condemnation of the instrumentalisation of state and parliamentary bodies for party, factional ends.

The trouble is that, as in the UK, there are the younger Deluded, and the bag-carriers for these old politics; what might be called the  'new' politics of Milibandistas.  Fascism is never far away in Italy. Nor is its threat under 'socialist' ideals;  it never was the first time round either.