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On Sunday [14 May 2017] the Italian coast guard saved 484 people crossing the Mediterranean, whilst also finding 7 dead bodies. These 7 deaths, have meant that this year 1,222 people have died crossing the Mediterranean – a tragic new record. Yet these figures have not been met with grief by everyone. The news of this record was drowned out amongst criticisms of NGOs operating in the Mediterranean and of refugees as perpetrators of sexual violence. It seems impossible, but the discourse regarding refugees in Italy has taken an even darker turn. Italy’s geopolitical location has meant it has always been at the centre of debates surrounding the "European refugee crisis", especially regarding its rescue missions (or lack thereof, since the rescue mission Mare Nostrum was replaced with the significantly less resourceful Trident). What’s happened, and more importantly what impact will this have on the lives of asylum-seekers attempting to reach Europe and refugees seeking to integrate into an increasingly impermeable Europe?
On the 4th of December 60 % of Italians voted against the constitutional reform package proposed by then PM Matteo Renzi, that resigned in line with his promise to step down if he did not win the referendum. On the same day green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen won the Austrian elections for President of the Republic, against extreme right wing Norbert Höfer. And it seems that in a post-Trump, post-Brexit Europe news can only be reported in binary mode, with reference to their effects on the European Union: in this case the Austrian victory stands as a positive result for Europe, while Italy’s results would be the next domino to fall in an extremely disheartening 2016, towards dissertation of our Union. Now, whilst I too fear for the great political uncertainty this referendum result presents for Italy, it is far too nuanced a situation to befit most of the polarised mediatic representations. So with the extreme parties on the rise around Europe and the world and increasingly divisive, hateful rhetoric permeating European mainstream discourse, what do the Italian referendum results mean for Italy, Europe and the world?
|Photo: SignorDeFazio (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
As the Cirinnà Bill is currently debated in Italy, Nicoletta Enria spells out what this legislative text is about and explains why civil union is such a contentious topic for Italy
I distinctly recall observing the beautiful scenes of jubilation when the US Supreme Court ruled gay marriage as legal nation-wide; I couldn’t help but wonder if this could ever occur in Italy. Italy remains the only country in Western Europe that does not recognize civil unions or gay marriage. Italy fosters a deeply catholic society, probably due to the Vatican and the Pope residing in the heart of Rome and a long Catholic history that came along with this. Despite Prime Minister Matteo Renzi having promised to pass a law on civil unions, this never seemed to be a priority. With the European Court of Human rights (ECHR) condemning Italy for failing to provide enough legal protection for same-sex unions, sentiments yearning for change were in the air. The controversial Cirinnà Bill seems to finally be paving the way for Italy to legalise civil unions.
Another week has flown away but not without two of E&M's editors sharing some articles that got them thinking about our continent. This time around, Edgar and Veronica have picked up some online pieces about the value of history and the aftershocks of an Italian earthquake, passing through the Scottish referendum, a law in favour of the rights of transsexuals and Europe's immigration debate.
Edgar, Baby editor
HISTORY AND HUMILITY
In one of the first tutorial sessions of my undergraduate history degree, I clearly remember a classmate nonchalantly reeling off George Santayana's famous quotation about the value of history: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." The tutor was unimpressed. "You're lucky you didn't say that in your interview," he said. His point, reprised by many of my teachers throughout the next three years, was that history is not a crystal ball. If we gaze into the past we do not see the future; only the past.
At the time, these historians' strident insistence on the practical uselessness of their subject was a little deflating. Why were they devoting their lives to such a futile endeavour? They were clearly jaded, I thought, if not outright depressed. Only gradually did I realise that this warning against drawing lessons from history was a valuable lesson in itself. If history teaches us anything at all, it is how little we can control or even predict our own fate.
IN 38 DAYS