Listening to Italy
POLITICIANS – LOOK AFTER YOUR VOTERS!
On 22 March La Repubblica ran an article about a 22 year old Italian female graduate who had tried to travel to Turkish Kurdistan to show her solidarity with the Kurds. She used an Istanbul internet cafe and her Facebook photo was noticed while she was there. It showed a young pigtailed woman with an enthusiastic smile waving the PKK (Kurdish) flag like a holiday beach towel. She was swiftly rounded up and deported. One of her friends was quoted as saying: “they hit someone who came to show solidarity, she was incapable of doing anything bad”. Such naivety hardly deserved such a lucky escape.
Italian Giulio Regeni was not as fortunate. On the day of writing (29 March) La Repubblica ran a video of part of his family’s press conference in Italy. His Mother could be seen saying that her son had been tortured and killed in Egypt and that she would publish photos of his mutilated body if she didn’t get the truth. She continued to say that only his nose could be recognised. Regeni was a researcher who was actually working towards a doctorate at the University of Cambridge. He was in Cairo to research and also to develop his Arabic. He was kidnapped by five men on 25 January and his mutilated and obviously tortured body was found nine days later. One report said that there were signs of electric shock treatment.
The Egyptian Government said that they would investigate and cooperate with the Italian police. As little real information has been forthcoming the Regeni family have chosen to make a very public protest. Significantly, La Repubblica ran a two part interview with Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on 17 and 18 March. He expressed his sadness at Regeni’s death and suggested that his own (al-Sisi’s) political enemies could have been responsible. Other reports blamed a criminal gang or ordinary police working independently.
La Repubblica’s website has a link to a Guardian article, in English, by their Rome correspondent Stepanie Kirchgaessner. She picked up several points, including making reference to the recent European parliament condemnation of Egypt over the Regeni affair. This was countered neatly by al-Sisi who threatened that his regime must have Europe’s cooperation and support. Failure to get that would hamper his ability to contain and stop the millions of his youthful countrymen from radicalisation.
Two months on, and there is no clear information about Regeni’s killing. There are various theories and suggestions in the press and internet. Included are suggestions that the Egyptian government were responsible, seeing him as a knowledgeable threat to the regime. Or, to be really Machiavellian, as the Italian Prime Minister has close links with al-Sisi, perhaps there is something there? Or, as the West has a great deal invested in the stability of al Sisi’s regime perhaps there is a clue there? Who knows.
Within Europe one of the few ideas that unite the majority is an increasing cynicism of the political class, or la casta, as it is disparagingly called in Italian. The lack of trust questions the credibility of contemporary politicians. European countries who were accustomed to the traditional right/left swings have recently had inconclusive election results and new groups are forming to contest these long-standing power bases – Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the UK come quickly to mind. The Italian papers saw significance in the recent German elections in three Lander and gave very detailed coverage. On 14 March La Repubblica ran a double page detailed analysis with charts. It also ran a large photo of a rather dishevelled Angela Merkel wiping away a tear, countered by a regimentally neat and jubilant Frauke Petry of the AFD anti-migrant party.
And so to Belgium – a country that recently had no constituted government for over a year. It appeared to govern itself without politicians. As it is the country that hosts the headquarters of the European Parliament, it questions the whole effectiveness of the national and European political class. What are they doing? Why are they not focussed on improving our lot? If they are not helping us, are they just working for their own benefit – material or emotional? Why do people want to be politicians?
On 22 March the Huffington Post published an article by its Editorial Director, Lucia Annunziata. She looked at the case of Belgium and said: This is “a failed state”. The bombings in Brussels just “confirm what people have said under their breaths since the Paris bombings”. That is, as she continues:“ (can it be a coincidence? ) that only 24 hrs before the Belgian bombings ,the New York Times (NYT) had published a report of 55 pages drawn up by the French police on the facts of the Bataclan.” The French had their own detailed grasp of what appeared to be happening within Belgium. She reported that the French deplored the slowness and inability of the Belgians to pick up on many clues that should have been obvious. And, effective police forces should have understood and exchanged information well before the NYT publication.
There were, she says, 90 foreign fighters who returned to Belgium and they were obviously accommodated by supporters in their own locality. They were protected, helped and financed to develop and enact what was an extremely complex incident. A competent state would have known this was developing and would have attempted to stop it. She saw the Belgian law that forbids a raid on a private house between 21.00 – 05.00h as a glaring symbol of Belgian laxity or incompetence.
She goes on to make several interesting points. How is it possible with the commitment of all the European intelligence systems that a plot as complex as the Bataclan was not picked up? It follows that effective cross-European cooperation is vital. Also Europe must identify and deal effectively with the countries that are funding these anti-western activities. She says that “They are our allies, officially.” But although the stakes are high, we must pursue this. She notes that “the dangers are a global downfall “ or rift, but Europe and its politicians must, and I paraphrase here, do what they should be doing with courage, rather than posturing, or acting selfishly. “The politics of the ostrich won’t remove the danger”