Destiny Of A Nation: For Italy, Now Comes The Hardest Part

Essay: The exit of Silvio Berlusconi and the arrival of Mario Monti marks a watershed for a nation still crucial for both Europe and the world. But Italy has lost both economic and political influence, which can only be regained by rallying all the forces

Marta Dassù

So, Italy has finally turned the page. Yet it is surely not the time to breathe easy. We Italians must face the reality: our nation has indeed reacted, but only after taking a hard slap across the face. The European Union and International Monetary Fund are each keeping tight surveillance over what is the euro zone's third-largest economy. This is a hard slap indeed.

At the same time, Italy has already been downgraded politically. Today, our country counts less within Europe, which in turn no longer counts as it once did in a world looking eastward, at the dawn of this new Asia-centric century.

These days, following Silvio Berlusconi's resignation, we Italians have obviously been focused on the Quirinale palace, the residence of President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, who held the consultations that have led to the forming a new government lineup, led by former European Commissioner Mario Monti. In the meantime, though, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, announced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, in Hawaii, that his country is moving resources, interests and soldiers to take on the Pacific challenge against China. Today, Europe as a whole is considered by both Washington and Beijing as a part of the global problem, not its solution.

So, we should kid ourselves no more. Monti and his new government will surely be welcomed in Paris and Berlin. The beginning will be uplifting. But as unforgiving markets can be, so are governments. Right now, relations among European governments are tough. Monti, who was responsible for anti-trust policy for the European Commision, knows this fact very well. He knows that there will be no shortcuts. The to-do list for both Italy and Europe is long, and the new Italian government will manage to achieve its objectives if it garners support not just from a parliamentary majority, but from the entire country.

No more excuses

We Italians must be aware that we are going through a structural crisis, which can be solved only with a long and constant effort – it will take years. Italy has many fundamental strengths: the wealth of individual families, private savings, the manufacturing sector, and so on. This is why the country is still among the top Western economies.

But now in the face of the sovereign debt crisis, there are no more excuses. In the 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Italy lost the geopolitical advantages it had long enjoyed from being the last frontier of the Western world. It has also lost the economic advantages it had from devaluating its currency. It was never able to recover from these losses. Instead of passing reforms necessary to compete in the global economy, we stuck our collective head in the sand. This is the moment of truth: we are losing more and more competitiveness with each passing day.

Italians finally must find their own national mission, which is necessary for every country in order to survive. We swing between a frustrated Euro-centrism, an on-and-off Atlanticism, occasional Mediterranean policies, some pro-Russia choices to protect energy resources, and so on.

This is an emergency government. Today, national interests are no longer fiscal interests. Necessary choices, and the costs that come with them, must be accepted and shared to start a serious debate over the future of Italy and its place in Europe.

Italy is weak right now, but it must find its own voice and make it heard. The management of the euro zone crisis has shown the limits of the Franco-German alliance. Germany counts too much, and some of its economic recipes won't work. And France thinks it counts more than it actually does. A functioning Italy with a vision is needed. We need it, and Europe needs it too.

You may say I'm an idealist. But if we tell the truth, if Italy returns to be a place and project worthy of investments, Italians will choose Italy. Italians, and not only our political class, must give up the old alibis. Our country's fate is not only in the hands of other people, or other countries, it is not only dictated by governments and markets. Our own individual responsibilities and choices will ultimately determine the path of the Italian destiny.

Read the original article in Italian

photo - Dave Kellam

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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