EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

Ending 2013: Trouble in Italy

  • December 31st, 2013
  • Posted by EU Australia

The October boat-people tragedy; parliament’s distraction by Berlusconi; cyclonic floods…Italy map flag


The Berlusconi episode in public life, in Italy, looked to be coming to a sorry and bitter end, when the former Prime Minister’s desperate-looking ploy to unseat the government came unstuck.


Berlusconi 2

In September he demanded the resignation of all five Ministers from his People’s Party, in the Grand Coalition government, proposing to bring it down and resurrect an old campaign against no-more-taxes.

His party split, they would not go along with it, so on 2.10.13 he had to turn around and say the government should stay, for “stability”.

More, the parliament affirmed the law requiring that as a person convicted of white collar crime, while also under trial for sex offences, he could not continue as an elected member.

Depending on point of view, about what is right in public life, Silvio Berlusconi’s place in history might be considered, long-term, a calamity like the disasters that beset the country at this year’s end.

A right-place-right-time entrepreneur, he got into media ownership as television was being opened to myriad private enterprise stations; and got into politics as the left-right orthodoxy of the post-war years was in collapse.

Forza_ItaliaHis Forza Italia political movement, themed around Football chauvinism, got him into government in the 1990s. There, he threw around a lot of ‘neo-con’ talk about reining in taxes, ‘big government’ and the European Union; implemented some of it, and as a main legacy perpetuated the chronic national indebtedness.

His age, now 77, propensity for vulgar carrying-on with young women, and repeated contests with the courts over loose financial dealings, conspired to end his time.

That’s the cautiously expressed view of one of his longer-term opponents,  Luigi Zanda, centre-left Democratic Party leader in the Senate, writing for the London Observer this week:

“Will Berlusconi be back? His party is split and he has since been voted out of parliament because of a criminal conviction. He is older, his companies are not doing too well, and he faces more trials. It is hard to see him staging another comeback.”

See EUAustralia Online: Berlusconi gaol sentence …, 25.6.13; Italy’s election deadlock, 26.2.13; Berlusconi facing gaol, wants a fight, 29.10.12; “I’m still here!” – Berlusconi, 29.12.11.


LampedusaOne day after the show-down over Berlusconi in parliament, 3.10.13, more than 360 people perished at sea as their boat swamped near the island of Lampredusa.

Migration  EU boatpeopleMostly from Eritrea and Somalia they were part of the great movement of people across borders, using almost any means, to grasp some opportunity in life, escape poverty, or save themselves from tyrants of many stripes.

It was far from the first such disaster on the ‘Mediterranean highway’, the unsafe route set up by people smugglers in North Africa, sending out their customers towards Europe in overcrowded vessels.

It was however, with so many deaths, a tragedy too many; reaction in Italy itself was strong, as the bodies came ashore to be laid out in the streets of the island town.

At Christmas, the government announced it was clearing out the infamous immigration holding station on Lampredusa, the Italian outpost closest to the African coast. Crowded conditions, despair, and finally the smell of death, had made it untenable; arrivals in future to be moved for processing in, presumably, more humane surroundings elsewhere.


See EUAustralia Online: People smuggling …, 11.4.13; ‘Boat People’ worries following crisis in North Africa, 12.2.11.


Italy floods 2A cyclone dubbed Cleopatra put the finish to a rough season for Italy, hitting especially the island of Sardinia, where it brought huge flooding and took more than 18 lives.

Italy floods 2013See Euronews video, aerial views of flooding: (31.12.13).

A State of Emergency was declared; the disaster headed the list of Winter climate disasters for this year in Europe;(though storms in England, since late October, brought the same intensity of winds, flooding and devastation – five people reported dead in the week before Christmas).


Al jazeera, Doha, Sardinia: thousands displaced by Cyclone Cleopatra’s torrential rains,  20.11.13., (31.12.13).

Euronews, Lyon-Ecully, Aerial images of Sardinia ravaged by flooding, 20.11.13.,(31.12.13).

Alan Johnston,  Lampedusa boat tragedy: Migrants ‘raped and tortured’, BBC News, London, 8.11.13., (31.12.13).

Vaiju Naravane, Italy closing down Lampedusa immigrant holding centre, The Hindu, Chennai, 25.12.13.

Nate Rawlings, Berlusconi Changes Course and Backs Italian Government, Time-World, NY, 2.10.13.,(31.12.13).

Philippe Ridet, Berlusconi sur le point de perdre sa derniere bataille, (Berlusconi close to losing his last battle), Le Monde, Paris, 2.10.13.

Luigi Zanda, Berlusconi tries to bring down the Italian government – and is humiliated in parliament, The Observer, London, 29.12.13.,(31.12.13).

Pictures euronews, wikipedia