Three politicians that will change Europe – for better or for worse.


from left: Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and Beppe Grillo

They’re popular and appealing to young, disenchanted EU voters that in 60 days from now will decide who represents them best in Brussels. Will UKIP, the 5 Star Movement and Front National be the Trojan horse for the European Union?

Two months. On May 25th European voters will cast their ballots to elect a new European parliament that will most likely witness the end of the duopoly center-right/center-left we grew accustomed to.

According to recent electoral polls, the pro-European profile of the EU Parliament will shift towards a more Eurosceptic outline with the rise of three major political parties (or movements) that could wreck the fragile EU integration process.

Nigel Farage’s UKIP, Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement are predicted to be the real winners of this year’s EU elections with an average of 20% of preferences each.

The newest electoral polls available show that UKIP might grab 23% of the British votes, Front National 20% and the 5 Star Movement 21.3%.

Enormous figures for Eurosceptic, nationalist, anti-immigration parties that reflect Europe’s increasingly restive electorate.

However, it is way too early to attempt precise projections for seat numbers at the European elections (due, mainly, to the varied electoral systems in each country) but, according to current trends, it is possible that this anti-EU bloc might get something in between 120 and 165 out of the 766 seats available at the European Parliament.

These seats are likely to be divided among these three parties and other hard right movements such as Greece’s Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik.

If Grillo and Le Pen’s relationship remains tense, it is no secret that Farage is trying to seduce Italy’s 5 Star Movement to team up in Parliament.

Will they succeed in dismantling European institutions and tear apart the single European currency? Not quite but if political inaction continues on both European and member States level, they could trigger a difficult de-integration process that could change the very heart of the European system.


What happened to the questions? The twilight of Italian journalism.


“To the moon”. Italian PM Enrico Letta
courtesy of Il Giorno

Every year around Christmas the Italian Prime Minister sits down with all the political correspondents for the traditional end-of-year press conference.

The PM in charge, Enrico Letta, faced yesterday twenty-three questions from Italian reporters who tried to sum up a peculiar year that started with an uncertain electoral result and ended with the final gasps of Berlusconism and the angered protests of the Pitchfork riots.

So we sat down on our sofa, grabbed a fresh made parmigiana and we tuned in to see what the Italian prime minister had to say about the state of the country after twelve, troubled months made of a tragic shipwreck in Lampedusa, the rise of Beppe Grillo’s quasi-fascist populism and the NSA scandal on which the Italian Government remained silent for a suspiciously long time.

“I’m proud, this is the year of a generational turn-over”

“Employment must be good employment”

“We’ll pass the electoral reform before the European elections”.

These are some of the answers Mr. Letta gave to the correspondents gathered yesterday at Montecitorio palace in Rome: answers that my grandma could recite with nonchalance while cooking Christmas dinner.

Mr. Letta was so vague in picturing the executive’s agenda and the plans he wants to put in place to save Italy from the economic disaster that I started wondering what the reporters were asking while waiting for the free buffet offered by the Government.

So we put aside the parmigiana and started listening more carefully.

“What is the relationship with Germany?”

“What is the relationship with Iran?”

“Is it better to have more deregulated jobs or less jobs that comply with the current law?”

“Will Italians pay more or less taxes in 2014?”.

And Mr. Letta was smiling and nodding. Just like a contestant on a special episode of “Who wants to be a millionaire” hosted by a herd of performing chimpanzee.

“Mr. Letta, do you prefer: a. more jobs; b. great jobs; c. less jobs; d. an ice cream?”

In the midst, there is my grandma and I, staring at the TV set and speechless in front of this kind of detachment from reality: there’s no need to be a professional football player to see that the team is losing the match in center field. There’s no need to be a professional journalist to see that no compelling questions were asked or even intended to be posed.

Journalists may have forgotten how to ask but there are normal families, workers, housewives or simply uneducated grandmas like mine that, in the secrecy of their homes, have a bunch of questions that have been waiting for an answer for the last twenty years and won’t let a prime minister walk away after his hazy and indeterminate monologue.

“Aren’t you a journalist?” my grandma asked me. “I’m not sure I’m going to live for that long but, next year, get me a pass to go to this annual press conference – I’d like to ask a couple of things”.

Next year, nana. And merry Christmas to you.

Why we are not all sexists – an open letter to Laura Bates.


Gli Italiani si voltano, Mario de Biasi, Milano 1954

Dear Laura Bates,

I’m glad you keep on fighting for equal rights and how media sometimes portray a distort role of women in society. I do have a problem, though. Not all men are brutal monsters that salivate when there’s a girl around.

I’m Italian and I know that at some point you have a misconception on how we relate with our female counterparts in the old country. But still, I do not think it is sexist.  On the other hand, it is my feeling we’ve been raised, from a very young age, to adore women: to rush and offer the palm of our hands when they are climbing the steep stairs in Piazza di Spagna in Rome; to keep the heavy doors open when they’re exiting the Uffizi in Florence; or to give up our seats on public transportation even if they’re not aged or pregnant.

And yes, we do leer. Mostly because we are humans and, second, because it is always a pleasure to see somebody not as hairy and as clumsy as we are crossing our way. We do feel ecstatic when a girl is around because we feel like little children, trying to grab a piece of her attention for the whole purpose of winning her a smile, steal a kind word from her that doesn’t make us feel so miserable  on this meaningless planet.

Honking the horn of the car, stalking and harassing a lady goes beyond my comprehension, because most of us were raised gentle. But I cannot understand why turning my head and stare at pure beauty when I’m in the middle of the street would make me a sexist. I’ll keep on paying dinner for two on my first dates, bringing flowers to my second and open the car door for her as long as we date, and you know why? Because it amazes me, each and every day, that there are human beings so perfect and charming, so infinitely kind and adorable, and I feel the urge of doing something nice to them in return for their sole existence on earth.



The banality of evil


I’ve always wondered how it was possible for anyone to be living next to a Nazi. Erich Priebke, the former SS captain that never spent a single day in a prison, lived in Rome until his death last week. He was 100 years of age.

Imagine how it is like to come home to your family, at night, and find him on the door step waving at you, like any other grandpa in Italy. The only difference is that he killed in cold blood 335 civilians while sipping fine cognac in one single day.

On March 1944 he pulled the trigger of his firearm. Again and again for 335 times. He aimed at people’s head with the pure intent of killing them despite their age or gender. “Ten Italians for each German SS killed” was the order.

Now that he passed away, it seems nobody wants to have anything to do with his body. Germany is suddenly deaf. Italy and the Vatican refuse to have him buried under their soil. Argentina, where Priebke spent 50 years of his life before being extradited to Italy, said the casket is not welcome in the country.

Somebody suggested to disperse his ashes in the Ardeatine caves, where he ordered and executed the slaughter. Some others brought up the solution adopted for another SS chief, Adolf Eichmann, and spread the ashes in the ocean to prevent any pilgrimage to his tombstone.

I would suggest the third way: organize him a Jewish funeral and bury him in Israel. He mocked us with his unrepentant smirk for 100 long years – now it’s our turn to have fun.

Giuseppe Verdi would twerk better than Miley Cyrus

Giuseppe Verdi, the great Italian composer, was born 200 years ago today in a little town called Le Roncole, not far from my hometown.

There are many stories about him: the Maestro was turned down when he applied to study music at the Milan Conservatory, for example. And for many years it’s been said his second opera was such a fiasco the public booed him and the cast.

Despite being a grouchy old man with glacial eyes under his topper, Verdi keeps on living in the collective imaginary as one of the best composers of all time. And if he was still alive, he would have been the greatest rock star of our generation.

“Please, invade our country”.

I honestly wanted to start this blog discussing other topics. For instance: Spaniards are considering switching to the Western European time-zone because they feel the European +1 hour make them jetlagged all the time. I would suggest reducing the sangria pro capita might work just as well.
Instead, I’SB_popm here still dealing with the most popular Italian Prime Minister of all time. You heard it right, Silvio Berlusconi has strike again withdrawing his support from what it seems an already failed grand coalition experiment leaded by PM Enrico Letta.
Despite his criminal conviction for tax fraud (and false testimony, external relationship in mafia association, illegal financing of political parties, bribe, false accounting, embezzlement, corruption and accused of having paid for sex with a teenage prostitute), mister B. has the ability to firmly dictate the Italian political agenda. And today, for his seventy-seventh birthday, he decided to plunge Italy into chaos as a gift to himself.

He’s come to an age when Bunga Bunga parties don’t seem that appealing anymore.

Nevertheless, Berlusconi contributed heavily in feeding Italian journalists for decades with his gaffes, court trials and appeals at the European Court for Human Rights against Italian judges who were trying to bring him to court for child prostitution. Entire journalistic careers were built around his persona and I can tell you I’m one of the beneficiaries of his misconducts although not every Italian is a reporter and many of them, when abroad, prefer to be considered French Spanish rather than being mocked.

“In asylums, you can find two types of patients: the ones who think they are Napoleon, and the other half who think they can govern Italy”.

(Giulio Andreotti, seven times Italian prime minister)

This is not exactly true. Instead of repeating obsessively “Please, visit our country” (as Francesco Rutelli, former mayor of Rome, does in this video below) we can ask, with the same desperate tone, to “Please, invade our country”.

We got villages, of course. Countryside, as Rutelli oddly underlines several times. At some point we got the ocean – a nice one. Quite a decent country, I would say. So, why bother with politics? Let’s hold Italian elections in Germany, for instance: they’re pretty precise with numbers and percentages, right? Or Austria. Italians kicked them out of the country in the 19th century but I’m pretty sure they would gladly outsource their politics to them in return of some fine chocolate. Or political stability, which would represent a brand new condiment on the Italian meatloaf.

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