Tackling Human Trafficking [The Barrister Magazine]


[As published on The Barrister Magazine: http://www.barristermagazine.com/article-listing/current-issue/tackling-human-trafficking.html]

Recently human trafficking has returned in the UK media spotlight, as a study by the Centre of Social Justice has been published denouncing the Government’s failure to tackle this complex form of transational crime.

The internationally recognised definition of ‘human trafficking’ can be found in the Palermo Protocol (Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children) to the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (the Protocol entered into force in 2003):

“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs… The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used.”

This complex definition seeks to capture the chain of trafficking which includes the act, the means to carry out the act and the purpose of the act. Therefore, the definition should be understood as follows:

1) The act: “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons

2) The means:by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person

3) The purpose:for the purpose of exploitation“. “Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

It should be noted that, in each one of the three limbs of the definition, the elements listed are alternatives to be satisfied. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, a victim of human trafficking does not necessarily need to have ‘travelled’ or have been ‘transferred’. In fact, the mere recruitment is sufficient to satisfy the first limb of the definition – provided the subsequent other two limbs are satisfied too. Similarly, in the second limb of the definition, it is not necessary to prove that the victim was subjected to violence or threat of violence: other forms of coercion which satisfy the legal threshold, which are more of a psychological nature rather than physical, include the abuse of a position of vulnerability (e.g. an individual who offers to “help” an orphan). Finally, exploitation is commonly correlated to prostitution. In reality, the variety of forms of exploitation is far wider and includes the exploitation of individuals in cannabis factories, as well as in otherwise legitimate enterprises such as the textile industry (e.g. where workers are unpaid, paid under the minimum wage or made to work in unsafe and illegal conditions).

Of course, for human trafficking to be identified, all three limbs of the definition must be satisfied. This is the most complex aspect since one or more stages of the chain of human trafficking can easily be concealed. The greatest problem of this form of crime is the difficulty posed in identifying the victims and the crime itself. Often a victim might even be confused as a perpetrator, since the police might come across them for the first time in the context of the commission of a criminal offence, such as cultivating cannabis.

On 6 April 2013, the European Directive 2011/36/EU on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims will come into force in UK, meaning that that is the deadline by which the country must fully implement it. Some of the key changes that will be brought about by this welcome piece of legislation are requirements for/to:

  • the establishment a dedicated national anti-slavery agency or Rapporteur
  • the establishment of an EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator
  • increase public awareness of human trafficking
  • set up special measures for the protection of victims and, in particular, of minors
  • the revision of definitions relating to human trafficking offences to cover a broader range of cases, to include the commission of offences within the UK territory or by UK nationals outside of the UK territory
  • the establishment of a system by which prosecution and punishment of defendants later identified as victims of human trafficking may be dropped where it is proven that their commission of criminal offences is correlated to their status as human trafficking victims.

The Crown Prosecution Service has recently published a new set of guidelines on Human Trafficking taking into account the European Directive soon coming into force. The UK needs to also work hard in cooperation with other EU Member States on raising awareness amongst officials dealing with immigrants, such as those at the UK Border Agency, as well as members of the criminal justice system including judges that all too often misunderstand the nature of this complex crime.

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Calabria’s ‘Ndrangeta Controls 80% EU Drug Trafficking [Source: La Repubblica]


CASE STORY by GIOVANNI TIZIAN and FABIO TONACCI

Duisburg, province of Reggio Calabria

The ‘Ndrangeta find a second home

SOURCE: http://inchieste.repubblica.it/en/repubblica/rep-it/italian-stories/2012/06/22/news/duisburg_province_of_reggio_calabria_the_ndrangeta_find_a_second_home-37716458/

From the province on the Straits of Messina, the organization has spread throughout most of the Old World: Spain, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe. But especially, Germany. 80% of drug trafficking is in its hands. Dominating the local areas as it does in the motherland. Even if the Germans apparently haven’t noticed “Good evening!” yells the godfather. “Good evening”, the six local men sitting around the table chorus in response. Salvatore Femia takes a deep breath and then recites the formula. “My belly is a tomb, my chest is a shovel, with words of humility the company is formed.” The summit of the family of the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian-based mafia, can now begin. In the back room of Femia’s restaurant the “Rikaro”, the talk is all of contracts and of doing business with the Russians. They mention “Mamma”. The police bugs also record the muffled voices of the customers in the next room of the restaurant at 3 Hegaustrasse. It is eight o’clock in the evening of 20 December, 2009. And in Singen, a small town of 45,000 in southern Germany, 2,000 km north of “Mamma” Reggio Calabria, it is a chilly evening. How much do we really about know the European infiltration of Italy’s most powerful mafia organisation, which is catching up to that of Russia in terms of turnover?

 

Germany, province of Reggio Calabria

The ‘Ndrangheta now controls 80% of drug trafficking in Europe. According to the National Anti-Mafia Directorate it earns 27 billion euros a year from drugs alone. It has colonized the whole of the EU using two basic methods: the long-established emigration from Calabria and business. Importing and distributing cocaine and heroin, it invests in real estate and tourist resorts, buying up companies and shares, practising extortion and dealing in arms. U. S. government experts rank this criminal multinational fourth in the list of the world’s most dangerous organizations, after Al Qaeda, the PKK and the Mexican narco- traffickers. And Germany is its second home. The province of Constanta, where Singen is located, is home to 7,000 immigrants, 40% of Calabrian origin. They arrived on German soil as part of the great wave of 1959 that brought 200,000 Italians to the industrial districts of North Rhine-Westphalia. Radolfzell, a town of 33,000, is another Singen. On the surface it seems as placid as the waters of Lake Constance, on which stands. But an anonymous building on Öschlestrasse was the meeting place for some of the members of the ‘Ndrangheta arrested in the Reggio Calabria anti-mafia prosecutor’s Crimine 2 inquiry. An inquiry that told Germany a truth that it had ignored, even if it had been under its nose. And that was that the Duisburg massacre of mid-August 2007, the last act of the San Luca feud that spilt the blood of the six members of the Pelle-Vottari ‘ndrina, or branch, was no isolated incident. It was not just italienish stuff. As early as 2006 a report by the Bundesnachritendienst, the German secret services, had pointed out that the ‘Ndrangheta had made a quantum leap, buying shares in Gazprom and other energy companies. Three years later, in 2009, the Federal Police stated that in Germany there were at least 230 ‘ndrine with 1800 members, mostly located in Bavaria, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia. Five locali or families had set up in Ravensburg, Frankfurt, Engen, Rielasingen and Singen. The Pelle, Nirta-Strangio, Vottari and Romeo families, all from San Luca, had invested millions of euros in Berlin, Cologne and Munich. In Cologne it was the Morabito from Africo, and in Stuttgart a group from Crotone had – it was suspected – set up a locale. “As well as investing”, says Michele Prestipino, deputy anti-mafia prosecutor of Reggio Calabria, “they control the area through extortion and intimidation, just as in Calabria and around Milan. They demand protection money, and not only from Calabrian immigrants. They decide who should get the vote of Italians abroad.” But how is a locale created abroad? And what relationship does it have with the gangs in Italy?

 

Mamma is always Mamma

“The French, German and Spanish governments don’t want to admit to being infected by the ‘Ndrangheta because organised crime brings money with it”, claims Luigi Bonaventura, sitting at the dining room table in the house in Termoli given to him by the witness protection programme. (“Yes, you can write that I’m in Termoli, because everyone knows by now, including those who are trying to kill me.”) Bonaventure is not just any turncoat. Five years ago he was the head of the Vrenna-Bonaventure gang of Crotone, then decided to collaborate with the authorities. “The ‘Ndrangheta has spread everywhere, but its head remains in the province of Reggio Calabria, the “Mamma” is always there”, he says. “And its real strength lies in its ability to adapt. It only takes two or three people to form a ‘ndrina. At first they have a certain autonomy, they may experiment with different criminal models, form alliances with the local underworld, adopt different strategies. But once the business reaches a certain volume, there is no escape…” Criminal models with variable geometry, but always within the boundaries drawn up by the patriarchs of the Organization. And whereas a shipment of cocaine or a property investment may not require the approval of head office, the opening of a local branch, the awarding of promotion or regulating relations between foreign clans must be discussed at the Reggio Calabria Crimine, a sort of underworld board of directors that coordinates the ‘Ndrangheta worldwide. “They have set up dozens of locali in Germany. They have money in Switzerland”, Bonaventure continues, “in the Netherlands and Belgium they control the ports. On the Côte d’Azur they have villas; they are investing in the tourism sector in Bulgaria; in the Balkan they control the drug routes. It’s not difficult to see how the ‘Ndrangheta spreads; just follow the money.”

 

Swiss companies and Italian Real Estate

And the wallets full of dirty money in the pockets of the bosses, estimated by Italian research institute Eurispes to be worth 44 billion euros in 2008, lead to Switzerland, to the banks and the world of high finance where the Ndrangheta’s loot is hidden. Prosecutor Michele Prestipino explains: “Some clans from the Tyrrhenian coast open companies in Zurich which hold securities and real estate in Italy, to evade the taxman and controls.” Italian anti-mafia investigators have identified two clans in Zurich and Frauenfeld. The “Crimine 2” investigation uncovered a character, “Ntoni lo svizzero” a. k. a. Antonio Nesci, distant cousin of the head of the Singen clan, Salvatore Femia. Investigators listened to him on the phone explaining that in Mossendorf, a Swiss village with a population of 3,000, he can count on five people, “men at my disposal”, he says. In the valleys around Zurich the gang leaders are mainly out on bail, free to manage companies and restaurants in their own names. Like Ferrazzo, the boss of the Catanzaro ndrina, in the Canton of Zurich. The money and interests of the Bellocco family of Rosarno and the Gallico and Parrello families of Palmi pass through Switzerland. These are the same clans that, a few thousand miles to the south, divided up the contracts in the years of the construction of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway.

 

Allied with everyone and no one

“The ‘Ndrangheta has no problem doing business with people of every race and nation”, turncoat Saverio Morabito explained a few years ago to magistrates. It works with and exploits of all foreign criminal organisations, but never forms any real alliances. It is within this context, opportunistic and parasitical, that the networks created to control the major ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona and Piraeus, the entry points for drugs coming into Europe, must be understood. A recent confidential report by the Dutch police states that: “Between Amsterdam, Hoofddorp, Diemen and Amstelveen there are at least twenty Calabrian bosses and about a hundred ‘Ndrangheta gang members dealing in weapons, heroin, cocaine and pills. They have luxury apartments in Minerva Square in Amsterdam and carry out their business undisturbed because the Dutch government is not aware of their criminal pasts.” They are connected to the Nirta-Strangio and Romeo families of San Luca (Giovanni Strangio, a leading figure in the Duisburg massacre, was arrested March 12, 2009 here in the suburb of Diemen) and to the ndrine of Ciro and Corigliano Calabro. The report says that the ‘Ndrangheta has contacts with the five most dangerous criminals in the Netherlands. And that is not all. To control the port of Rotterdam, where 30% of all the cocaine from Colombia arrives (about 36,000 kilos comes in every year on ships, hidden in containers of fruit), it exploits a strategic alliance with the Albanian mafia. And it obtains information and impunity by infiltrating its people into the police, people like Barbara Fun, a 39-year-old Dutch woman who, thanks to friends in the secret services, was able to work in the Haaglanden Regional Police until 2010, despite being arrested in Portugal in 1992 along with two members of the Di Giovane-Serraino clan. The ‘Ndrangheta has been talking to the Russian mafia since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The “language” is always the same, weapons and cocaine. On the Balkan drug route, which starts in Afghanistan and passes through Greece, Romania, Albania and the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the ‘Ndrangheta has links to all the indigenous criminal groups. The mafia of Serbia-Montenegro offered to deliver heroin and cocaine directly to the Calabrese in Milan. The Magna Charta operation of the Carabinieri Special Operations Group, which on 4 June last year led to the arrest of thirty smugglers across Europe, exposed the axis that was created for transport by sea between a Piedmont gang affiliated to the Bellocco of Rosarno and the businessman Evelin Banev, suspected of being one of the leaders of the Bulgarian mafia. Luigi Bonaventura told Repubblica: “My uncle Sergio Vrenna also has business with the Bulgarian mafia, sharing with them the “code of the knife”, the mafia code of honour. Just go and look at the Calabrian real estate investments in the Black Sea coastal resorts. All ours.” And then there is Barcelona.

 

Barcelona, the new Marseille

The Catalan capital is the new crossroads of the European mafias. “We are all there, it’s like Marseille in the 80s”, members of the ‘Ndrangheta have been saying for years. In Barcelona we have the Calabrian clan of the Piromalli-Mole of Gioia Tauro, the Camorra clans of the Licciardi Secondigliano, the Di Lauro clan and the Frizziero of Naples. Then there are the emissaries from the Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers, whose cocaine joint venture with the Ndrangheta is now established and operating smoothly. Here in the restaurants around the Ramblas they fix the price of the large shipments of drugs arriving from South America. The last to end up in jail was Carmelo Gallico, 48, known as “U Picu”, head of the gang of the same name from Palmi. He was hiding in a house in the university district of Barcelona ?? and fictitiously investing in property in Italy. Spanish soil was rendered fertile by a particular character: Santo Maesano, a. k. a. Hoffa, a. k. a. the Professor, the head of the Maesano-Pavaglianiti Calabrian families. Francesco Forgione talks about him in his book “Mafia Export”. Having moved to Spain in the late nineties, Maesano was one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world. From Madrid’s Valdemoro prison he conducted business with his contacts in Colombia and Venezuela, bought weapons and entertained his deputy, Vincenzo Romeo. For him, Valdemoro prison was more like a rest home that a real prison. In Spain there is no special regime for mafia prisoners like Italy’s Article 41bis. In Switzerland crime bosses move around openly. In Germany even the wives of arrested ‘Ndrangheta members receive unemployment benefit of 365 euros a month. “And they are exempt from paying rent”, says Vito Giudicepietro, a representative of the Inca-CGIL welfare office in Singen, a point of reference for the Italian community. How is this possible? How is the ‘Ndrangheta being combated abroad?

 

In Europe the ‘Ndrangheta does not exist

The problem is that, technically, the mafia does not exist in the legal codes of European states. The crime of criminal association of a mafia nature only exists in Italy, introduced in 1982. Elsewhere belonging to a gang, being part of a recognized ‘ndrina, it is not a crime per se. Unless a specific crime is committed the police cannot seize mafia assets nor issue detention orders. “Organized crime is growing and we are blind”, was how French Police Commissioner Jean-Francois Gayraud summed up the situation to the European anti-mafia commission few days ago. According to Prestipino, “The lack of such laws is the biggest obstacle. In Europe, the institutions have trouble understanding the dangers of organised crime clans and their power to intimidate.” But something is changing. The DIA, the Italian Anti-Mafia Investigation Department, is increasingly being used as a model by other police forces. The 111 requests sent in 2011 by the DIA to other European countries (34 to Spain, 27 to the Netherlands, 14 to Germany and 7 to Belgium) met with the kind of collaboration they deserved. And in Brussels the Director-General of OLAF (the EU’s Anti-Fraud Office), Giovanni Kessler, after reporting an increase of 10% in investigations into economic and financial crime by organized gangs, adopted a new line. “We need a single European entity with the power to investigate and prosecute. We need a European Prosecution service.” 22 giugno 2012 © Riproduzione riservata

What Berlusconi’s Resignation Really Means


Saturday 12th November 2011, 9.42 pm: a date and time which I will never forget.

To a non-Italian, this might appear an overstatement. But, trust me, it is not. I will remember this date not as Berlusconi’s resignation, but as Italy’s comeback to political discourse.

As an Italian Londoner, I am confronted on a daily basis with questions on Italy’s economic crisis and – ultimately – Berlusconi’s stay in power for so long. To my surprise, most people I have spoken to (from all over the world) seem to find Berlusconi a very amusing character, someone who has smartly albeit wrongly drawn attention on himself by conducting a brave sexual life.  I feel enraged when I hear this. Italians (note: those who DID not vote for him) have been enduring far more than a comedian’s act based on excessive sexual actions. The reasons why us, enraged and outraged Italians (the ‘indignati’ movement – ‘indignati’ meaning ‘outraged’), have been long campaigning for Berlusconi to step down bear much deeper roots.

Back to the Roots of the Problem

These roots go back to the beginning of Berlusconi’s career, when he emerged as a self-made business man through allegedly illicit financial transactions. Over the years, he has been involved in a high number of court proceedings leading him to enter into politics to pursue the goal of achieving political immunity from legal suits against him. Ever since he’s been in politics, he’s built up a caste of people to form his party, the PDL – Party of Freedom, resembling rather a mafia-entourage rather than a selection of politicians committed to an ideology or a cause. The party’s members have as a minimum common denominator the involvement in judicial proceedings, in the media and business empire led by the Berlusconi family and the party life-style culminating in the so well-known ‘Bunga Bugas’. So, as it is clear from this picture, the sexual aspect of Berlusconi’s political ‘peformance’ represents only one face of his role in Italy’s political landscape.

The reality is that Italy is sinking not only because Berlusconi has destroyed Italy’s reputation abroad with his extravagant life-style, but – first and foremost – because all he’s done for the past years in power has been implementing laws to protect his personal interests and those of his carefully selected entourage. These laws, the so-called ‘ad personam’ laws, have been attacking the judiciary and have destroyed the public sector. All social classes in Italy have been attacked directly or indirectly by himself or by members of his government. Teachers have been insulted by one of the Ministers, Mr Brunetta. Judges have repeatedly been target as ‘manipulators of the law’, ‘red gowns’ acting on behalf of evil Communists. Universities have been systematically seen their research funds withdrawn accompanied by attacks against the university barons who suck money from the State to maintain the status quo and prevent political freedom in Italy.

Some commentators have suggested that Italy has been experiencing a sort of ‘silent dictatorship’. The Government and Berlusconi, backed up by lines and lines of supporters, have reduced the freedom of speech in a country where anyone opposing the Government’s policies (i.e. the ‘ad personam’ laws) has been accused of siding with the Communists, of acting against the country’s interest. All this has eventually led to the death of political discourse.  All Italy’s been discussing for years has been how to get rid of Berlusconi and – on the other side – how to get rid of Berlusconi’s opponents. The real problems of the country – unemployment, lack of funding in the education and health sectors, the massive bureaucratic problems in the judiciary, the high rates of tax evasion (only to mention some) – have been not only ignored but denied. Italy’s own government (and opposition) lost track of the real world and locked themselves up in a useless debate.

We’ve seen a dramatic impact of Italy’s political deadlock on immigrants from the Northern-African region arriving in Lampedusa (https://littleexplorer.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/desperation-in-lampedusa/). Italy showed its inability to tackle the situation due to the absolute absence of policy and political discourse on immigration which went beyond mere right-wing extremist statements on expelling all foreigners regardless of their circumstances.

Europe’s Blindness

Why has Europe not seen the relationship between these dramatic facts and Berlusconi’s government? Why has it taken so long for the world to notice that Italy was rapidly sinking? The answer lies once again in economic interest.

I participated in anti-Berlusconi demonstrations and saw crowds and crowds of people feeling the same way as I did (and still do): outraged, “indignati”. I was so surprised that there had been such a little coverage, that I emailed photos of the demonstrations to many newspapers. I published a few of my photos of these demonstrations on my blog back in February 2011: https://littleexplorer.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/italy-says-no-to-berlusconis-brothel/

The Economist published several articles denouncing the situation in Italy, one of which clearly outlined and predicted the present catastrophe – https://littleexplorer.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/the-man-who-screwed-an-entire-country-the-economist/.

What Next?

Now what? Berlusconi’s resignation is important but it is not the last act of his performance. Roberto Saviano – one of Italy’s most famous writers who is currently living under protection in a secret location to avoid mafia’s reprisals – has published an article on The Guardian commenting on the future ahead (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/11/silvio-berlusconi-own-interests-italy?newsfeed=true).

The defeat of Berlusconi is not yet the defeat of his entourage and of the political attitude promoted by them. These are going to be the next steps and thy will require all Italians – as well as Europeans – not to forget about Berlusconi’s conduct. I would not like to see him being re-elected a few months or a year down the line, when he will claim that the new government has failed to solve the crisis. Re-opening political discourse after a long ‘dogmatic sleep’, to say it in Kantian terms, will mean facing open scars and making tough choices to mend them.

 

It is clear that hard times are over, but harder times are to come if Italy wants to have any hope of building on its ruins.

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The Man who Screwed an Entire Country [The Economist]


Silvio Berlusconi’s record

The man who screwed an entire country

The Berlusconi era will haunt Italy for years to come

Jun 9th 2011 | from the print edition [The Economist]

SILVIO BERLUSCONI has a lot to smile about. In his 74 years, he has created a media empire that made him Italy’s richest man. He has dominated politics since 1994 and is now Italy’s longest-serving prime minister since Mussolini. He has survived countless forecasts of his imminent departure. Yet despite his personal successes, he has been a disaster as a national leader—in three ways.

Two of them are well known. The first is the lurid saga of his “Bunga Bunga” sex parties, one of which has led to the unedifying spectacle of a prime minister being put on trial in Milan on charges of paying for sex with a minor. The Rubygate trial has besmirched not just Mr Berlusconi, but also his country.

However shameful the sexual scandal has been, its impact on Mr Berlusconi’s performance as a politician has been limited, so this newspaper has largely ignored it. We have, however, long protested about his second failing: his financial shenanigans. Over the years, he has been tried more than a dozen times for fraud, false accounting or bribery. His defenders claim that he has never been convicted, but this is untrue. Several cases have seen convictions, only for them to be set aside because the convoluted proceedings led to trials being timed out by a statute of limitations—at least twice because Mr Berlusconi himself changed the law. That was why this newspaper argued in April 2001 that he was unfit to lead Italy.

We have seen no reason to change that verdict. But it is now clear that neither the dodgy sex nor the dubious business history should be the main reason for Italians looking back on Mr Berlusconi as a disastrous, even malign, failure. Worst by far has been a third defect: his total disregard for the economic condition of his country. Perhaps because of the distraction of his legal tangles, he has failed in almost nine years as prime minister to remedy or even really to acknowledge Italy’s grave economic weaknesses. As a result, he will leave behind him a country in dire straits.

A chronic disease, not an acute one

That grim conclusion might surprise students of the euro crisis. Thanks to the tight fiscal policy of Mr Berlusconi’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, Italy has so far escaped the markets’ wrath. Ireland, not Italy, is the I in the PIGS (with Portugal, Greece and Spain). Italy avoided a housing bubble; its banks did not go bust. Employment held up: the unemployment rate is 8%, compared with over 20% in Spain. The budget deficit in 2011 will be 4% of GDP, against 6% in France.

Yet these reassuring numbers are deceptive. Italy’s economic illness is not the acute sort, but a chronic disease that slowly gnaws away at vitality. When Europe’s economies shrink, Italy’s shrinks more; when they grow, it grows less. As our special report in this week’s issue points out, only Zimbabwe and Haiti had lower GDP growth than Italy in the decade to 2010. In fact GDP per head in Italy actually fell. Lack of growth means that, despite Mr Tremonti, the public debt is still 120% of GDP, the rich world’s third-biggest. This is all the more worrying given the rapid ageing of Italy’s population.

Low average unemployment disguises some sharp variations. A quarter of young people—far more in parts of the depressed south—are jobless. The female-participation rate in the workforce is 46%, the lowest in western Europe. A mix of low productivity and high wages is eroding competitiveness: whereas productivity rose by a fifth in America and a tenth in Britain in the decade to 2010, in Italy it fell by 5%. Italy comes 80th in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” index, below Belarus and Mongolia, and 48th in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness rankings, behind Indonesia and Barbados.

The Bank of Italy’s outgoing governor, Mario Draghi, spelt things out recently in a hard-hitting farewell speech (before taking the reins at the European Central Bank). He insisted that the economy desperately needs big structural reforms. He pinpointed stagnant productivity and attacked government policies that “fail to encourage, and often hamper, [Italy’s] development”, such as delays in the civil-justice system, poor universities, a lack of competition in public and private services, a two-tier labour market with protected insiders and exposed outsiders, and too few big firms.

All these things are beginning to affect Italy’s justly acclaimed quality of life. Infrastructure is getting shabbier. Public services are stretched. The environment is suffering. Real incomes are at best stagnant. Ambitious young Italians are quitting their country in droves, leaving power in the hands of an elderly and out-of-touch elite. Few Europeans despise their pampered politicians as much as Italians do.

Eppur si muove

When this newspaper first denounced Mr Berlusconi, many Italian businesspeople replied that only his roguish, entrepreneurial chutzpah offered any chance to modernise the economy. Nobody claims that now. Instead they offer the excuse that the fault is not his; it is their unreformable country’s.

Yet the notion that change is impossible is not just defeatist but also wrong. In the mid-1990s successive Italian governments, desperate not to be left out of the euro, pushed through some impressive reforms. Even Mr Berlusconi has occasionally managed to pass some liberalising measures in between battling the courts: back in 2003 the Biagi labour-market law cut red tape at the bottom, boosting employment, and many economists have praised Italy’s pension reforms. He might have done much more had he used his vast power and popularity to do something other than protect his own interests. Entrepreneurial Italy will pay dearly for his pleasures.

And if Mr Berlusconi’s successors are as negligent as he is? The euro crisis is forcing Greece, Portugal and Spain to push through huge reforms in the teeth of popular protest. In the short term, this will hurt; in the long term, it should give the peripheral economies new zip. Some are also likely to cut their debt burden by restructuring. An unreformed and stagnant Italy, with a public debt stuck at over 120% of GDP, would then find itself exposed as the biggest backmarker in the euro. The culprit? Mr Berlusconi, who will no doubt be smiling still.

from the print edition | Leaders

http://www.economist.com/node/18805327?story_id=18805327&CFID=172274374&CFTOKEN=18162879

Reactions to Bin Laden’s death on Yom Ha Shoah


Today is Yom HaShoah (יום השואה) the Holocaust Remembrance Day, or, as many prefer to call it, the Shoah Remembrance Day (to see why you should call it Shoah and not Holocaust, read here). In Israel, sirens sound for two minutes all over the country and everyone ceases their activities no matter what they are doing, where and why in order to pay tribute to the memory of the 6 million Jews and 5 million other victims killed during the Shoah.

Here are some pictures of Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, which I took in August 2010. The pictures are all in black and white, because photographs cannot convey the emotions experienced during the visit to Yad Vashem: the total absence of colours is an attempt to crystallize this moment of mourning and recollection.

The triangle is the shape of the building hosting Yad Vashem. This picture shows the part visible externally, while the rest of the building continues below ground level. The triangle represents half of the Star of David (Maghen David) as a sign of mourning for the death of millions of Jews. While 6 million of Jews died during the Shoah, the names of only 3 millions of them have been identified to date and are listed inside Yad Vashem.

Below, some pictures of people’s reactions after visiting Yad Vashem. A feeling that, from my own experience, I can describe as a painful feeling of suffocation both caused by the thoughts about the number of victims and the atrocities they suffered, and, at the same time, the terribly dry heat that seems to be like a physical way to remind us about the weight and importance of that place.

On this year’s Yom Ha Shoah, the killing of Osama Bin Laden has been announced by the U.S. President Obama. Some part of the world (the U.S. in particular) is rejoicing, while others (to mention one example, Hamas) are mourning his death.

I believe both reactions to be wrong and non-sensical. No one should ever celebrate anyone’s death, even when it is the enemy’s death (whatever “enemy” might mean, I will not discuss this issue here): it would mean putting oneself on the same play-field as the “enemy” one is claiming to have fought.

At the same time, rejoicing of Bin Laden’s death seems to be both naive and counter-provocative: does anyone seriously believe this to be the end of the international threat of terrorism? I wish it were, but I very strongly doubt so. Rejoicing of his death could even bear serious consequences to security which should be carefully weighed out by people standing in the streets…and here I come to comment the second and opposite reaction to Bin Laden’s death: mourning.

Isn’t it ironic that, on Yom Ha Shoah, Hamas and Iran are mourning Bin Laden’s death declaring he was the only “Arab holy warrior” and condemning “Zionist terror”? This is only to prove that we must continue being aware of the dangers to international security and we mustn’t put our guards down now believing “everything is over”.

Perhaps, one should consider more seriously some of the more moderate views coming from Egypt, where Issam al-Aryan of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood responded to Bin Laden’s death by stating that “it’s time the world understood that there is no connection between violence and Islam” and now calling on the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq.

As for myself, I am still slightly bewildered by the news of Bin Laden’s death and I don’t really feel like this event equips me with any additional information allowing me to comment on the world’s future of war or peace. Maybe this is because, in fact, absolutely nothing will change after Bin Laden’s death.

How do you feel about the news of Bin Laden’s death?

Do you think this news has overshadowed the importance of Yom Ha Shoah?

A Letter to the Egyptian People (Source: Shalom Hartman Institute)


A Letter to the Egyptian People   (13/02/2011)

By DONNIEL HARTMAN

Dear Neighbor:

We, your neighbors, have been speaking a lot about you these last few weeks. As the status quo in your country to which we have become accustomed has changed, some of us expressed concern, others hope, and still others, admiration. Each view has its pundits, whose reading of the “facts” (your reality) seemed somehow to always fit into their pre-existing worldview.

The truth is that we don’t know. We don’t know, first and foremost, who you are. You see, for the last 30 years it seems, we never got a chance to talk. We spoke with your leaders, but as you so aptly proved, they don’t speak for you anymore, if they ever did.

We got used to and comfortable with the existing state of affairs and learned how to adapt and work with it in ways that would fit our own national interests and aspirations. We all must now come to terms with the fact that it is not only about us, but about you. We must begin a new conversation with you, a partner that has declared loud and clear that your voice – the voice of the people – must and will be heard.

First, let me start then with a hello. As neighbors, we have had a long relationship, filled with many different memories. I remember as a young teenager the feelings of fear that you aroused when in 1973 your armies crossed the Suez Canal and my country’s very existence was in doubt. I remember the awesome beauty of the Sinai desert as a soldier in the tank corps when it was still under Israel’s control and the strategic comfort it provided. I remember falling head over heels in love with your President Anwar Sadat, when he came to Israel. I remember the hope that he brought to our country, a hope which inspired us to recognize that our future security could not and should not be based solely on the strength of our army and the impenetrability of our borders, but on the stability of our peaceful relations with our neighbors.

For nearly 35 years now, we have lived in peace with each other. Our children have not died at each other’s hands. It hasn’t been the warmest peace, but as we say in the Jewish tradition, “dayenu.” It was enough. We Israelis, while always aspiring for more, deeply valued it nonetheless. Where do we go from here?

One of the old adages posits that democracies rarely go to war with each other. This is so, it is argued, because when the people who actually have to pay the price of war get to choose, they will invariably choose resolution over conflict. They will choose their children’s lives over national pride and ideology.

It is here that the Middle East has often proven this wrong. It seems that in our neighborhood at times, our children are our least valued commodity. The two of us, however, who have enjoyed the fruits that peace has given to our children are also a Middle Eastern phenomenon, and must become the rule instead of the exception.

Democracies rarely go to war, however, for yet another reason. A democracy is not simply the rule of the majority, but rather the rule of the majority that preserves the inalienable rights of its minorities. It is a system of government which believes that all humans are endowed with certain basic rights and freedoms which both empower them to govern themselves and which frees them from the potential tyranny of that same government. Democracies rarely go to war not simply because they want to preserve the lives of their citizens but because they respect the inherent freedoms of all humans, citizen and non-citizen alike. When one respects one’s own rights to be free, it often leads one to respect one’s neighbor’s rights to the same freedoms as well.

I pray that this will be one of the outcomes of your democratic revolution. I hope that our two peoples living in vibrant democracies will find new ways to reach out to each other and respect each other. That does not mean that we always have to agree. It is possible and even likely that there are policies which each one of us is pursuing, either externally or internally, that may differ from the other’s national interest or even moral sensibilities.

We have a critical choice ahead of us. The change in the status quo can cause us to revert to the old and mutually destructive patterns. I hope we do not need to relive the experiences of our grandparents and parents in order to learn yet again that war is not a solution. I pray that we will use the change in the status quo as a catalyst to move us forward. Status quos are comfortable, but they can also lead to stagnation. Our neighborhood is one in which there is still much pain and hatred. We, the two of us, have a unique opportunity to change the rules of the game, to speak, engage, challenge, and even push each other to find a new and vibrant status quo.

I know you are going to be busy over the next number of months and we are not your primary concern. I am nevertheless writing to you to again say, hello, and that we look forward to speaking with you soon. Until then, we wish that your transition to freedom be a peaceful and beneficial one to all your citizens and that your freedom be a blessing to you, and to the whole world. Amen.

Note: This article has struck a nerve both in Egypt and in Israel. [At the link] below you can find dozens of comments from Egyptians, a first for the Institute. Also, an Israeli newspaper [Haaretz] has featured this virtual dialogue in a special feature article.

Source: http://hartman.org.il/Opinion_C_View_Eng.asp?Article_Id=629