May 14, 2008

May God Bless Italy

After he sworn in as Premier for the third time one week ago, Silvio Berlusconi’s first speech to Parliament, in which yesterday he asked the Chamber of Representatives for its confidence, was a kind of Churchillean blood, sweat and tears speech, because Italy is facing a “tough struggle.” It was probably the most appropriate (and realistic) way to address a country which requires a definite change of pace and has to stand up, referring to the electoral campaign and its manifest “Stand up, Italy!”

It was a half-hour, uncharacteristically moderate speech focused on growth, which should be seen “not just as an economic parameter but as a measure of the country's civil progress.” Actually, Berlusconi used the word ‘growth’ in various contexts of political and social life to describe, in the face of Italy's grinding economic problems, the interventions proposed by government, the choices he hopes will be made and the sectors which require a change of pace: to reduce public debt, lower the tax burden on families and on the means of production, improve training, renew infrastructure and help develop the ever-struggling south of the country. “Growing,” he said, “means increasing your capacity of exchange with the rest of the world, absorbing and integrating with order and wisdom internal and external immigration to European countries, without letting ourselves be penetrated by a sense of closure and defeat in the face of the risks of wild and non-regulated immigration, whilst at the same time remaining owners of our own house and proud of our ancient spirit of hospitality and integration.”

Another cardinal point in Silvio Berlusconi's speech was a new constructive relationship with the opposition. Turning the page on tempestuous relations with his centre-left predecessor Romano Prodi, the Cavaliere recognized the Anglo-Saxon-style shadow government presented by the Democratic Party last Friday, and called for “transparent dialogue” with the opposition. “A true leading class cannot exist without mutual recognition,” he said. “The shadow cabinet,” he added, “can be helpful to set the terms of the discussion and of disagreement as well. A confrontation of ideas doesn't generate new conflicts but an open, transparent consultation, in the exclusive interest of the country. […] We are ready, dialogue can and should begin immediately, no one should feel excluded. […] Enough with fighting and with anthropological debates, they must remain behind us, […] let's take advantage of this new 'air', let's breathe deeply. Let us not consider our adversaries as enemies.”

To realize the project of “relaunching and recuperating” the country, according to the Prime Minister, “a common will is needed which will proceed to institutional changes which today, after the phase of division of the past, are substantially shared by a large majority of Parliament.” In this direction “a common task of legislative definition has already been accomplished: the reinforcement of the powers of the executive and of its guidance, in the context of a strong increment in the capacity of control of the electoral assemblies, also through the change of the parliamentary regulations; a consistent reduction in the number of the elected, and the definition of the different tasks for the two Chambers; a federal structure to the State, which overcomes the difficulties met with the fourth clause of the Constitution, a careful and shared reconsideration of the electoral law, even in view of pending referendum next Spring. […] If a government is placed in a position of deciding with respect to the mandate which has been conferred upon it by the voters, it has no interest in acting invasively and considering colleagues and adversaries as enemies.” Furthermore, “if the opposition has no barriers to its delicate function of control, if it is put in the position of building its own alternative project, it will have absolutely no interest in showing a negative muscular profile, in a systematic and heedless way, transforming good politics into bad propaganda.”

As many other members of the centre-left Democratic Party, Piero Fassino praised the speech, which he said was “far from the aggressiveness of the past,” and so did Stefano Folli, a commentator for the financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, as well as most of his colleagues from other newspapers and media. Democratic Party’s leader Walter Veltroni said he would comment today during a speech in the Chamber. He is expected to accept Berlusconi's offer for dialogue.

It was actually a good speech, and I must say that I liked it very much, starting from its last American-style passage:

Challenges, dear colleagues, are always also gamble, games of fate. And in search of assistance we invoke God’s help. Let’s also hope to have luck. But luck, as we know well, doesn’t meet people who entered public life if it is not encouraged, patiently invited, perhaps also seduced and fascinated by a good deal of courage and virtue.


Ah, Ok, there was also some Machiavellian echo in the use of concepts such as ‘virtue’ (Virtù) and ‘luck’ (Fortuna), but it was a statesman’s speech, after all.

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Credits: for most of the passages I quoted from Berlusconi’s speech I made use of the translation provided by AGI (English News).



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