Geopolitics

Five Things To Know About Italy's Likely Next Prime Minister

A mild-mannered centrist, Enrico Letta has a well-placed uncle.

CORRIERE DELLA SERA, LA STAMPA, LA REPUBBLICA (Italy)

Worldcrunch

ROME- Italy looks set to finally begin to form a government after President Giorgio Napolitano assigned Enrico Letta with the task of forming a broad coalition government.

Letta, 46, a former cabinet minister who just recently took over the top spot within the center-left Democratic Party (PD), made his first statement soon after Napolitano's mandate Wednesday, said job creation and a new electoral law would central tasks of any new government.

Napolitano expressed his confidence in the relatively young Tuscan, writes Corriere della Sera, saying that he believes that Italy can come out of the situation positively.

Two months to the day after the national elections that left the country in a political stalemate, Letta was tasked with forming a cabinet that will win cross-party support, as well as having the confidence of the parliament. Many people have indicated that they are now ready to form a coalition under Letta, reports La Stampa, after Pierluigi Bersani stepped down last week as leader of the Democratic Party.

According to La Repubblica, Letta accepted the job, knowing that it was “a huge responsibility on his shoulders” and that Italy’s unchanging and fragile situation cannot go on.

Five things you should know about Letta:

LEANING IVORY TOWER He is a native of Pisa, and obtained degrees in Political Science, as well as European Community Law. He speaks fluent French and English.

YOUNG GUN Letta was the youngest cabinet minister in modern Italian history, serving from 1998-1999- Minister for European Policy. He later also served Industry and Trade Minister.

UNCLE GIANNI His uncle Gianni Letta has been Silvio Berlusconi’s right-hand man for years. This fact, however, has not prevented him from becoming a constant critic of the media tycoon turned politico. Berlusconi will now be an important partner in the coalition Letta hopes to lead.

TECHNO Letta can be considered a technocrat and a centrist. No, this will not make the headlines -- or at least the same kind of headlines -- as certain recent past prime ministers of Italy.

BERLUSCONI LINK II His favorite soccer team is AC Milan, owned by, yes, Silvio Berlusconi.

Letta drove himself to the meeting with President Napolitano in his understated Fiat, with car seats in the back

#Governo, #Letta arrivato al Quirinale a bordo della sua auto DIRETTA VIDEO bit.ly/11NZ4fT twitter.com/repubblicait/s…

— la Repubblica (@repubblicait) April 24, 2013

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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