Middle Eastern Now Film Festival: Best Short Film Announced

By Blair Simmons, NYU ’16

Last night, NYU students gathered at the Odeon Theatre in Florence, Italy as part of a select student jury for the annual Middle East Now Film Festival. After a long weekend of screenings and intense deliberation, where fingers were pointed, yelling was permitted and opinions were shot down, the jury came to an agreement just in time for Monday night. The jury leaders, Jim Carter and Alice Sholto-Duglas, announced that dialogue-free film, Condom Lead by Mohammed and Ahmad Abunasser, won the majority vote. The runners up were Children of God from Iraq and I Am Mermaid from Qatar. The festival, which continued through Monday, April 14th, is the only festival in Italy entirely dedicated to contemporary Middle East Movies, featuring the latest films from Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Afganistan, Syria, Bahrain, Algeria and Morocco. Showcasing a myriad of feature films, documentaries, animated films and shorts, the film festival was designed to underline the importance of the Middle East, a region that has been at the center of international media and politics in recent years.

LGBT Rights in Italy: Before the LGBTQ Dialogue this Tuesday…

by Nicole D’Alessio

Here’s what you should know:

  • The Italian military does not ban people from military service based on their sexual orientation.
  • In 2004, Tuscany became the first region of Italy to ban discrimination against homosexuals, in the areas of employment, education, public services, and accommodation.
  • Italians do not have the right to have same-sex relationships legitimized by the government: no right to share property, inheritance, or bank accounts.
  • Only married couples can adopt a child—married couples must be opposite sex.
  • “Gender identity discrimination” is not a part of the official list of anti-discrimination laws.
  • Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1860.
  • Lesbian women do not have the right to IVF.
  • In a poll taken in 2012, by Italy Eurispes report, 40.1% of Italians approve of same-sex marriage.

Daily Italian Politics Briefing, Wednesday, April 9

Thumbnail Daily Italian PoliticsYesterday evening, the Council of Ministers approved the Document of Economics and Finance. The document will be discussed in the parliament next week on April 17th. In the press conference following the meeting, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi explained the major changes that the approval of the document will usher in. As promised, it will allow tax cuts with a consequent 80 euro increase  in the salaries of workers who earn less than 1500 euros a month. The funds to cover the tax reduction will be found by cutting public expenses and creating a tax increase for banks. In addition, Renzi announced that there will be a decrease in the salary of top managers in the public administration so that they do not earn more than the President of the Republic as well as a push towards privatization and a tax reduction for companies.  In an interview for Corriere della Sera, Renzi announced that the government will launch an online campaign called “E tu cosa taglieresti?” (And you, what would you cut?”), which will allow people to indicate the areas of government that they think are wasteful and need to be reorganized.

Meanwhile, it seems that Renzi and Berlusconi will meet soon, but they cannot agree on the date and the place of the meeting. Berlusconi would like to meet Renzi in Milan on Friday, because he is unable to move from his home due to a knee problem. Renzi wants to have a low-profile meeting at Palazzo Chigi in Rome and he is not in a rush.

Tomorrow is the day Berlusconi’s sentence will be decided. The newspaper L’Avvenire speculated that Berlusconi will most likely be assigned community service in a home for the disabled elderly and he will serve only a day per week.

Daily Italian Politics Briefing, Tuesday, April 8

Thumbnail Daily Italian PoliticsToday after meeting with Carlo Cottarelli, commissioner for the Spending Review and Pier Carlo Padoan, Minister for Economics,  Prime Minister Matteo Renzi began finalizing the Document of Economics and Finance that he will present this evening in the Council of the Ministers. The principal aim of the document is the reduction of public expenses. Renzi managed to cut 6.6 million euros of public expenses and to guarantee an increase of 80 euros in people’s pay slips.

Meanwhile, polemics and reassurances from Forza Italia continue. After the ultimatum launched yesterday by Brunetta, chief of the Forza Italia group in the Chamber of Deputies, in which he asked for theimmediate approval of the electoral reform, Renzi replied that the government will not accept an ultimatum from anyone, especially from Brunetta. Furthermore, Renzi declared that he is available for another meeting with Silvio Berlusconi but only after Forza Italia has solved its internal disagreements and has decided on a common strategy. The reply arrived from Silvio Berlusconi in person. In the evening he called Matteo Renzi to deny Brunetta’s declarations. During the phone call Berlusconi told Renzi that he has no intention to break the collaborative relationship with the government for the approval of the reforms. But he also said  that he wants a change in the composition of the Senate as it was presented in the bill approved last Tuesday.

Newspapers will give  a lot of attention to these deliberations  on the date of April 10th. It seems that the future of the collaboration between the government and Forza Italia depends on the sentence against Silvio Berlusconi, which judges will pronounce the day after tomorrow. According to Italy’s Huffington Post, if the Tribunal decides on home arrest, the collaboration will end very soon; on the contrary, if Berlusconi is able to continue his political activities, as the newspaper La Stampa assumed to be the most likely outcome, the collaboration with Renzi’s government will continue.

European Parliamentary Elections 2014

European Political Parties & Political Groups 

By Kayla Malone, NYU ’15 

European political parties, also known as Europarties, are transnational political organizations composed of various national political parties united by a common ideology or interest. Europarties were recognized in 1992 with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which stated: “Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union.” These political parties now play an important role in the European Parliament and European elections. They have the right to campaign Europe-wide during elections, yet most candidates campaign within their national party and then join an European political group upon election, which will be further discussed in the next post. European political groups are the political groups of the European Parliament. Sometimes, these political groups are directly related to a Europarty. On a general basis, they are loose coalitions of common ideologies. Due to the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, European political groups and paries could have an increased role in the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty has been interpreted by some that the European political groups will be able to nominate their own candidate to the European Council for the President of the European Commission. In fact, the Lisbon Treaty simply states that the Council will take the outcome of the election into account when selecting the next Commission President. This is the first parliamentary election that the Lisbon Treaty will be effective, and groups already have their eyes set on the Commission presidency.

There are 13 officially recognized Europarties: European People’s Party, Party of the European Socialists, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, European Green Party, Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, The Party of the European Left, Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy, European Democratic Party, European Free Alliance, European Alliance for Freedom, Alliance of European National Movements, European christian Political Movement, and the EU Democrats. Outlined below are the five largest parties, which are represented by corresponding political groups within the European Parliament, as decided by the number of seats obtained in the Parliament:

European People’s Party

Political Position/Ideology: Center-Right
General Platform: Emphasis on freedom, democracy, Social Market Economy, traditions, and solidarity.
European Parliamentary Political Group: European People’s Party (EPP)
Example Member Parties: Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Germany, New Democracy of Greece, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) of France

The European People’s Party (EPP) has been Europe’s largest party since 1999 and currently holds 265 of the 736 seats in the European Parliament. According to the EPP, the party is “the family of the political centre-right, whose roots run deep in the history and civilization of the European continent and has pioneered the European project from its inception.” It was founded in 1976 by Christian democratic parties from multiple nations but has since expanded to include more conservative parties.

Party of the European Socialists 

Political Position/Ideology: Center-Left
General Platform: Emphasis on democracy, equality, solidarity and social justice
European Parliamentary Political Group: The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D)
Example Member Parties: Democratic Party (PD) of Italy, Labour Party of the United Kingdom, Social Democratic Party of Finland

The Party of European Socialists (PES) is the second largest political party in Europe. In the European Parliament, this party operates as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and currently holds 184 seats in the Parliament. The party can trace its origins to 1953 under various names, with its current name being adopted in 2009. Until 1999 and the victory of the European People’s Party, PES was the largest party in the EP.

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

Political Position/Ideology: Liberalism
General Platform: Emphasis on political, economical, and societal freedom; pro-European; decentralization of the EU
European Parliamentary Political Group: The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Example Member Parties: Democratic Party of Luxembourg, National Liberal Party of Romania, Reformist Movement of Belgium

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) was founded in 1976 and became the first officially organized party in 1993. It currently holds 84 seats in the European Parliament. According to the ALDE’s mission statement, the party is “committed to ensuring that the European Union develops legislation in as decentralised a manner as possible, communicating with and listening to Europe’s citizens in a systematic way.” Due to their focus on connecting citizens to the EU, they have gained significance and influence in European politics.

European Green Party

Political Position/Ideology: Green politics
General Platform: Environmentalism; sustainability; equality for all; democracy; individual freedom
European Parliamentary Political Group: The Greens–European Free Alliance
Example Member Parties: Democratic Alternative of Malta, Latvian Green Party, Equo of Spain

The European Green Party, founded in 2004, is composed of 34 national green parties from across Europe. They currently hold 55 seats within the European Parliament, where they work towards the democratization of the EU institutions and environmental responsibility.

Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists

Political Position/Ideology: Center-Right, Euroscepticism, economic liberalism
General Platform: Radical reform of the EU; protection of borders; free enterprise; small government and low taxes; emphasis on freedom and family as foundation of society
European Parliamentary Political Group: European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)
Example Member Parties: Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, Civic Conservative Party of Slovakia

The Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) currently holds 54 seats in the European Parliament. A majority of these seats comes from the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, which provides 25 MEPs. Founded in 2009, the AECR has followed the wave of euroscepticism, especially in the United Kingdom, to become the fourth largest party in the EP.

The above graph shows the make-up of the European Parliament in terms of political group affiliation.


Daily Italian Politics Briefing, Monday, April 7

Thumbnail Daily Italian PoliticsTomorrow, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will present the Document of Economics and Finance – an important policy paper outlining the financial and economic thrust of his government. He announced that his next project will be “Cut Italy,” named this way because of its aim: to pare down government offices, agencies and authorities that are bloated and inefficient. Renzi aims to cut government expenses to the tune of 6.6 billion Euros, with a consequent layoff of 85,000 public servants.

But the larger problem remains: Renzi has to reform the system, in particular push through controversial constitutional reforms, with or without the support of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. In an off-air conversation captured by La Repubblica between Giovanni Toti, counselor of Silvio Berlusconi, and Maristella Gelmini, former Minister of Education for Forza Italia, Toti maintained that Berlusconi is worried about his alliance with Renzi. On the one hand, aligning with the Prime Minister would be dangerous for Forza Italia; on the other, Berlusconi doesn’t know how to free himself from Renzi’s “mortal hug”. Then in an interview during Che tempo che fa, a prominent Italian talk show, Toti pointed out that the agreement with the Democratic Party remains: Forza Italia has no intention to withdraw their support of the constitutional reforms. Yet in the same interview he expressed doubts about the reform and in particular about the reform of the Senate. This was repeated by Renato Brunetta, chief of Forza Italia in the Chamber of Deputies, who demanded that the Parliament has to approve the electoral reform by Easter, and that the content of the reforms revert to the initial agreement between Berlusconi and Renzi.

The reply from Renzi’s Democratic Party has been terse and swift. Maria Elena Boschi, the Minister for the Reforms, declared in an interview for skytg24 that even if Forza Italia decides to withdraw their support for the reforms, the Democratic Party could still count on the votes of the New Center Right, The Civic Choice, and the Party For Italy.

In the meantime, coming in the footsteps of Renzi’s recent visit to London, the Financial Times recently published an article criticizing the Job Act presented by Renzi. The newspaper defined the job reforms as a set of unclear guidelines that fail to simplify the complicated system of job contracts present today in Italy.


Daily Italian Politics Briefing, Monday, April 4

Thumbnail Daily Italian PoliticsIn today’s edition of the newspaper La Stampa it is reported that Matteo Renzi spends about five hours per day on TV. During one of his numerous TV appearances Renzi explained his agenda for the next few days. In the TV program 8 e1/2 Renzi explained to journalist Lilli Gruber that he intends to present his Economics and Finance Plan to parliament by next Tuesday. The plan will also contain   provisions allowing for an increase of 80 euros in the Italian pay slips that Renzi had promised to grant Italians as soon as he became President of the Italian government. He assured that Italy will respect the ratio deficit/GDP required by Europe, but he reiterated the fact that Italy is important to Europe and that the European Union cannot punish it like a schoolchild. Then he admitted that during the day he had met with Gianni Letta and Denis Verdini, two important representatives of Forza Italia, but that they only spoke about how the reforms are going.

On the other hand, Silvio Berlusconi seemed very disillusioned. Indeed, after the negative outcome of his meeting with the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, he took another hard blow. Rumors say that the reason for which Letta and Verdini went to meet Renzi was to renegotiate the pact signed by Berlusconi and Renzi on January 14th that Berlusconi is still in the Italian political scene. The rationale behind all of Berlusconi’s moves is always the same: to avoid home arrest. But it seems that Renzi replied that he has no intention to renegotiate and that he just wants to respect the previous pact.

In the meantime, yesterday the Chamber of Deputies voted for final approval of the abolition of the provinces (one of the local levels of Italian government). While Minister of the Reforms Maria Elena Boschi and Grazia Delrio, State Secretary of the Prime Minister and promoter of the bill, were very satisfied with the result, Forza Italia, Fratelli d’Italia and the 5 Star Movement criticized the bill. Renato Brunetta, chief of the Group of Forza Italia in the Chamber of Deputies, cried the coup d’état and promised thatthey will ask the President of the Republic not to sign the bill because of its unconstitutionality. On the contrary, Giorgia Meloni of Fratelli d’Italia and Beppe Grillo of the 5SM claimed that the new bill increases instead of reduces the number of representatives of Italian local governments.

Daily Italian Politics Briefing, Thursday, April 3

Thumbnail Daily Italian PoliticsLast night the AGI (the Italian Journalistic Agency) announced a piece of unexpected news: Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia, went to the Quirinale to meet with President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano. The meeting was supposed to remain secret, but after it was revealed, the Quirinale confirmed it and explained that Silvio Berlusconi asked to meet Napolitano to express “the position of his party regarding the current political situation.” But the press suggests that there was an ulterior motive: Berlusconi hoped to secure guarantees in advance of his sentencing on April 10th. Belusconi is afraid of house-arrest and losing his ability to be active in Italian politics and the management of his party. He explained to Napolitano how, without his presence in politics, the entire bank of reforms could collapse. He claimed to be the only one who can guarantee Forza Italia honors its past agreements and supports Renzi’s reforms. In short, he offered guarantees of support the reform in exchange for the possibility of continuing to lead his party. But from what emerged from another meeting that Berlusconi held with supporters in Palazzo Grazioli afterward, the outcome of the meeting was not positive. It seems that Napolitano acted very coldly and without any intention to accede to Berlusconi’s requests.

Meanwhile, Beppe Grillo, in an interview with La Repubblica, declared that if the Five Star Movement does not win the European parliamentary elections, he will retire from politics. Today the base of the M5S will vote in the second round of the selection process for their candidates for the upcoming European parliamentary elections.

But today the front pages of all the Italian newspapers were dedicated to the arrest of Nicola Cosentino, former undersecretary for the Minister for Economics. He is accused of extortion and unfair competition. He and his father received an illegal building permit. It seems that he may have a deep link with the camorra, the Italian Mafia-type crime syndicate, or secret society, which originated in the region of Campania and is mainly rooted in Naples.