Italians Abroad: A Voter’s Saga


It’s a beautiful sunny day here in London. One of those days that makes you feel hopeful about the future ahead. Yet my experience of voting for the Italian elections makes me all but hopeful for the future (and present) of my home country.

Preparation to vote for the current elections started back in August 2012.

I only discovered that I was supposed to enrol on the Registry of Italians abroad (AIRE) a few months ago, almost by accident. Since then, I have tried to understand what enrolment on the Registry implied for me and how I was supposed to it. I could not do it from here as I had to go to my hometown in Italy. I also came to realise that enrolment was not just an option to consider, but a legal obligation for any Italian citizen who has left the country for longer than 12 months (Law of 27 October 1988, n. 470). Needless to say, I was not aware of it (as many fellow Italians abroad).

Obviously, I quickly proceeded to rectify the situation, predicting an imminent election (an easy prediction to make, given the frequency of Italian elections). Of course, this implied attending to the Italian Registry Office in my home town Torino to obtain my birth certificate, in order to assemble my bundle of documents.

Anyway, fast forward…all documents were sent as required back in Autumn 2012. The website of the Italian Consulate warned me it could take up to five months for the procedure to be completed. When in December 2012 the elections were officially announced, I decided to have faith ‘in the system’ and I hoped things would sort themselves out magically. I should have known: this never happens if Italian bureaucracy is involved.

 

January 2013: still no sign of my documents confirming enrolment on the Registry of Italians abroad. I sent an email to the Italian Consulate expressing my concern given the impending elections. I received email confirmation both from the Italian Registry Office and from the Italian Consulate in London stating that my registration was confirmed. The format of the emails made it almost impossible to decipher the actual meaning but after   reading them carefully a number of times, I was (almost) sure that was the meaning of the emails! I also asked for reassurance that I’d be receiving the electoral votes on time and I was told I would.

11th February 2013: the website of the Italian Consulate stated that those who had not received their postal votes by 10th February should contact the consulate. Of course, mine was nowhere to be seen. I tried calling the ‘special line’ for the 2013 Elections within the opening hours (Mon-Fri 10 am-4 pm, i.e. when most people are busy at work)…always engaged. We emailed the ‘special email address’ dedicated to the 2013 Elections.

12th February 2013: unexpectedly, we receive a reply to our email. The rude reply stated that obviously we could not vote without the postal votes. Rather, since we did not appear on the Electoral Registry, they were still waiting for Clearance to send the papers to our London address. Clearance from whom? Why, if a month earlier we had been told everything was fine? Also, we were invited not to attend the Consulate (which would have obviously been a waste of time and would have required me to take time off from work).

14th February 2013: an email confirms Clearance has been obtained and the postal vote will be sent to us. Should we not receive them within 48 hours, we should go to the Consulate (guess what happened next…).

17th February 2013: still no sign of our postal votes…time to go to the Italian Consulate in Eaton Place. That is what a sunny Sunday is for, after all.

Upon arrival, we find the door suspiciously locked. We knock, and a man opens the door just enough to stick his head through and asks ‘Who are you?’

 ‘Italians’.

‘What do you want?’

 ‘We want to vote.’

‘Who’

My brother and I look at each other wondering if the question is ‘who are you voting for’.

No, there’s a misunderstanding. The question meant ‘who of you is here to vote?’

Answer: ‘both of us, that’s why we are here.’

‘Ok, come in.’ And the door magically opened. We walk in, there are a few people sitting quietly in the corner and a Carabiniere asks again ‘what do you want’. Same answer.

Next question ‘Are you enrolled on the Registry of Italians abroad?’. Answer: ‘Yes.’

Question: ‘Are you sure.’ Answer: ‘Yes.’

‘Ok, then. Fill in this form and give me your IDs.’

We do as asked, almost feeling guilty for having disturbed him on a quiet Sunday morning.

We hand over the forms, he takes them without saying a single word. Then indicates to go through. I ask: ‘Where’ and he reluctantly explains where to go.

We reach a waiting room which looks like a hospital’s waiting room, with about a dozen of people looking bored and confused. A lady whose name tag only indicates ‘Employee Number 12’ calls people and hands over documents to them without verifying anyone’s ID.

Surprisingly, after only 20 minutes, she calls our names. We say ‘it’s us!’. Same story: no documents asked and our envelopes containing the postal votes are given to us. She says ‘make sure you vote correctly otherwise your vote won’t count.’ And I reply ‘how do I vote correcly’. Again, with a very annoyed expression, she reluctantly explains how to vote correctly. She reminds me ‘the vote is secret’ (as if I didn’t know). I thank her, she says nothing and disappears behind a door.

 

I express my vote, feeling like I am living in one of Kafka’s books. I cannot seal the envelope containing my vote as it doesn’t stick. I tell the “carabiniere” and he says ‘it’s OK as it is’. I complain and I also tell him that I am worried that, if the Consulate had sent my postal vote as promised three days ago, where is that vote going to go? He tells me that I can either send it back or destroy myself. I make the observation that, actually, that would make it very easy for anyone to vote twice – not that I’d want to do it. He replies that obviously that is not my intention, but that if I destroy it, it will not happen. I again ask ‘how can he guarantee that I or anyone else will destroy it’ and I realise that at this stage, he is making me feel like I am the one trying to cheat and not the one trying to ensure no one else does.

I then ask what to do with my vote. He points at a transparent, large plastic box which is in the waiting room between the chairs. There are people sitting all around it and it is not locked. It can easily be opened by anyone. I throw my vote in the box feeling like I’ve just thrown it in the bin and I leave the Italian Consulate not at all certain that my vote will ever reach its destination.

 

 

 

Back from Istanbul (and back to blogging)


After Istanbul, like after all of my travelling, I’ve come back with a better perpective on life and on London. As much as I love this city, it is even more obvious that, in London, there is a coldness and a distance between people.

I am writing this as I am sitting on the Bakerloo line to meet a friend in Little Venice. People do not look at each other, but not just on the tube…everywhere. On the street, at work, in the pub… The main question that comes to mind is ‘why’? …Do people feel that looking at someone else might be perceived as rude or invasive (the most common explanation my London friends have given to me when I expressed my thoughts on this issue)? That would be strange, though, considering it’s such a multi cultural city. Could it be that people feel scared of what they might see if they look up? Or do they simply not feel the need to do so?

If that is so, then how is it possible? Curiosity is intrinsec to human nature, just like interaction with fellow human beings. Some cultures, as it seemed to be the case in Turkey and in Italy (my home country), take it at times to the opposite extreme, and people are often showing their ‘curiosity’ so much to become invasive and irritating.

Surely a balanced compromise must be possible. Interest in other people is not only legitimate but necessary and healthy! It keeps us connected to the world around us and it makes us a part of it. A friend was recently commenting on how she’d never notice a good looking man whilst on her way to work, as her focus is entirely on the day and tasks ahead. She said that to explain why she thinks people in London appear ‘distant’ to me.

There are surely times when I’m oblivious to others if I’m lost in my own thoughts. But I don’t think I am generally capable of involuntarily blanking out people around me. In fact, when I’m thinking about something, I project my thoughts on the people around me and imagine what they would do, what they might think. It sort of helps me to get a perspective on things. I like feeling aware of my surroundings and this includes wondering where the lady sitting next to me, who’s wearing a thick black fur coat, might be going to ..or what the slim blond girl sitting opposite to me might be reading whilst tapping her new Converse shoes.

Yet when I look up at her purposefully, we never meet eyes. Wait! Something funny has just happened: just as I was writing this last comment, I looked up quickly and – yes! – the blond girl was looking at me and smiling! Maybe she thought I was weird, or maybe she thought that it was nice for another person on the tube to notice her existance and show interest in what she was doing.

My purpose was to challenge her sense of curiosity. Surely, when two strangers meet eyes, it means that some healthy curiosity for other people must still be there!

Below is a small selection of photos from Istanbul (a beautiful city). Enjoy & I promise my next blog post won’t be in six months!

Image

Sultanahmet Parki

Image

Sultanahmet Parki, view over the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

Image

Monkeys in a cage on a pavement in Gedikpasa Caddesi (Sultanahmet District)

ImageSunset from Topkapi Palace

Image

Topkapi Palace, inside the Hammam

Image

The Koran, Book Bazaar (Bazaar District)

Image

A wall in Yerebatan Kaddesi

ICC’s Failure to Protect its Officials


Since 7 June 2012, four officials of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Office of Public Counsel for Defence (OPCD), including Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor, have been detained in Libya.

Image

I had the pleasure of meeting Melinda Taylor last year during the course of my LL.M. and she gave me some useful advice for my thesis.  I have always admired her competence, professionalism and commitment, therefore I was shocked to say the least when I heard the news of her detention in Zintan, near Tripoli.

She, and the other three ICC officials, have been accused of trying to pass on “dangerous” documents to Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi. Gaddafi is son of  Muammar Gaffafi and is facing ICC charges of crimes against humanity.

Under the 1998 Rome Statute and in compliance with the principles of fair trial and respect of the rule of law, each Defendant at the ICC is entitled to a number of rights deriving from his/her right of defence:

– right to appoint a counsel of his choice

– right to have adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence

– right to communicate freely and in confidence with his lawyers

The latter includes the right to freely discuss and exchange documents with his lawyers.

This clearly shows that the detention of the ICC officials is unjustified and a violation of international law. Not only is there no legal basis for their detention, but their right to international immunity has been violated.

This situation highlights the hot topic of who should bring to justice the accused former regime figures: whether it should be a right of the newly established Libyan authority or whether it should be left to the International Criminal Court. It appears that, on top of the UN mandate deriving from the UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 allowing the ICC to open the Libyan case, under Article 17 of the Rome Statute (principle of complementarity), Libya should be considered “unable” to try individuals such as Saif Gaddafi for the simple fact that the current Libyan authorities cannot guarantee impartiality and fairness of trial.

This is hotly disputed and their conduct in respect of ICC officials clearly shows that they are prepared to overstep international law in order to affirm their independence and sovereignty. It remains unclear how they expect to claim legitimacy and credibility on the international scene whilst violating international law and not complying with the rights of the accused to a fair trial. Furthermore, this situation seems to reveal that the ICC had not made arrangements suitable to secure the safety of its officials prior to sending them to Libya and, ultimately, ensure their protection.

Happy Old Year and Happy New Year


Tonight will not only only be the end of a hard year, but the end of a great year where I feel I have achieved a lot of goals.

 

You can listen to this beautiful new song by the Green Children (Can You Find Your Way) while reading this post: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1E3129B7BAA70A09&feature=plcp

Overall, 2011 has been extremely positive for me, and I hope it has been the same for you. I will not go on and on about individual goals achieved, because the main one is that I have realised how lucky I am to be who I am, to have the life I have and to be in the position I am right now. I think I can say that my goal for next year is to continue feeling like this: satisfied with myself. While setting future goals definitely helps get through hard times and is a strong encouragement to progress and improve one-self, I think that the most important thing is to be happy now. Don’t postpone the enjoyment of your life until you reach a further goal or until you have completed something. Enjoy every minute of it.

Even while home for the past two weeks, while dreading the following weeks of tough exams at Law School, I decided I would enjoy my time back home to go skiing in the sun, to spend quality time with my family. No matter how much work I had, I set it aside to do what I really wanted to do each day. It was important for me, because, afterall, I am not going to see my family again for a few months and I am not going to ski again this year (probably).

Obviously this applies to people who, like me, have a tendency to over-work or be over-critical about themselves and aim to reach constantly higher and higher goals. While this can be good from a professional or academic point of view, in the long-run, it harms one’s own balance and happiness. So I have learnt to enjoy every minute of my life now. I don’t always succeed and I often forget to do this, but I aim to try harder because what’s the point in not enjoying life as it happens??

So, right now, I am looking back at the pictures from the past weeks of skiing and mountains and thinking about how special this Winter has been for me, no matter how well I will do in my next exams and job applications.

Here are some of my favourite pictures of this magical 2011 winter:

Image

Image

Image

I wish you a very happy new year.

I wish you to feel satisfied and positive about the year that’s coming to an end.

I hope you can start this new year, 2012, with a positive attitude to make yourself and people around you happy.

Finally, as a Jewish saying I was recently told recites: If the new year will not be great, do not worry, because the following one will surely be!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Special thoughts to people who are sick and I wish them to get well very soon.

What if?


There are times when one looks back at life and starts wondering ‘what if’

It is always best to look back with happiness and satisfaction, however it is very human and real to have nostalgic memories or even regrets.  ‘What if?’ is a difficult question, one that quite easily implies looking back at one’s life and re-examining our decisions. In a way, it would be best to avoid it, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes…what if I had chosen a different subject for my degree studies. What if I had accepted that internship offer. What if I had arrived earlier to meet that friend.

But life is necessarily all about choices and options. When we go one way, automatically we give up on all other options. That is not bad at all and life would never go on if we didn’t come to make choices or take decisions. Even ‘not chosing’ is a choice itself. Thinking about ‘what ifs’, makes me wonder how different I could be now if I had made different choices. Or maybe I would be exactly the same, just in a different ‘setting’.

I often wish I had more lives to live, so I could experience all the things I am interested in and that maybe I will never be able to do.  But I will never say …never! Maybe in twenty years time I will change life completely and be selling ice-creams in a completely different country! Who knows!

…And, finally, what if I had never written this post?

Probably I would already be fast asleep!

Buried for half an hour


Yes, you got me right. Get buried (alive, that is!) to learn to cope with stress. Are you feeling on the brink of a nervous break down – kind of …like this…?

…then you might want to consider being buried alive for sometime!

This is the business idea of a group in Russia called Enlightenment Territory. They believe that spending a maximum of 40 minutes buried without the possibility of seeing sunlight will suddenly help you to enlighten and see there is no real reason to stress.

One of the trainers of the Enlightenment Territory claims that this technique is great because “A person can neither see nor hear anything, nor even move underground. They have no other option but to delve deep inside their minds.”

What a brilliant idea! And why would I ever want to PAY for this experience?? …I think reading this news has already enlightened me!

Check the experience out yourselves – Watch this:

Clouds / Nuvole


Clouds

Soft buds
of cotton wool

Laid down towards the infinite
in white mounts
of froth

They move apart
and they get close again

Light and shadow games
they appear like hills
the traces left by the skies

Cross over
softly
quietly

And airplanes escape
on the horizon.

———————

Le nuvole

Soffici batuffoli
di cotoneDistesi all’infinito
in bianchi cumuli
di schiumaSi dividono
e si riavvicinano

Giochi di luci e ombre
appaiono come colline
i solchi scavati dagli sci

Si incrociano
morbidamente
silenziosamente

E aerei fuggono
all’orizzonte.