Giovanni Falcone: at the periphery of power, at the centre of the State

When an Italian goes abroad, s\he already knows what will be the first three words heard: pizza, mafia and mandolino.

This set of words might have slightly changed over time, being substituted by various other ‘symbols’: gelato, The Great Beauty, Berlusconi…

But if there is one word that keeps being said to Italians, that one is, beyond any doubt, mafia.

However, while it is true that everyone knows about the whole world rotating around ‘mafia’ , with its symbols, lifestyle and hierarchy, (and here it is where the film industry, see: The godfather, might have played a role!), very few can nod their heads at the hearing of the names of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Apart from my personal stories, also a simple google research can prove this. Try google ‘italian mafia’, and you will get 10.000.000 results. Try again with ‘antimafia judge Giovanni Falcone’: 22.400 results (mainly from Wikipedia and old articles).

So: who was Giovanni Falcone? 

Giovanni Falcone was an Italian anti-mafia judge who eventually paid with his life his commitment towards the preservation of justice and the State.

Sicilian by birth, Falcone had, therefore, a direct and clear perception of the problems that his city, Palermo, was facing back then. Almost all the businesses were forced to pay  pizzo to mafia bosses, as a way to seek protection and avoid further problems with the local ‘mafiosi’; the streets of the city were often the theatre of bloody confrontations between rival mafia families and the State was not equipped with the necessary tools in order to combat the phenomenon.

Against this background, Falcone brought about a real revolution in the way mafia was treated judicially. As a judge in Palermo, he was asked by Antonino Caponnetto to join the first ‘antimafia pool‘: a group of 4 judges (besides Falcone, there were Paolo Borsellino, Giuseppe Di Lello and Leonardo Guarnotta) that will join forces, for the very first time, and conjunctly analyse the activities of ‘Cosa Nostra’ (literally translatable as: our own thing). 

The latter was a powerful Sicilian mafia organisation whose structure was still thought to be, at the time, made of various groups with autonomous decision-making powers. Falcone was the first to understand the hierarchical nature of Cosa Nostra and, consequently, the fundamental role of joint investigations beyond national barriers.

During the investigations, he applied what would be known as ‘Falcone Method’ which can be best summed up with this words: ‘ In order to understand the mafia, you need to follow the money’. This interdisciplinary approach led him to liaise with banks and obtain critical information about capital flows and illicit affairs that the mafia was conducting abroad.

Meanwhile, the environment was exacerbating, making it more and more difficult for the judges to continue their work amidst death threats.

For this reason, Falcone and Borsellino were forced to move with their families to a prison (what an irony!), where they would continue their investigations in a more secure way.

Finally, the long investigations came to an end. On February 10th, 1986, which will be remembered as a historical day, the very first and big trial against Cosa Nostra (known as maxiprocesso ) started. This trial would change the way State-mafia relationships are governed, and will give the very first serious blow to the strongest mafia organisation of the time.

The ‘maxiprocesso’ would be also the main reason Falcone and Borsellino are known today; unfortunately, it was also the reason why they were both assassinated years after – respectively on May 23rd and July19th, 1992.

If you are wondering why it was called ‘maxi-processo’, a few figures could put it into perspective: 475 defendants, 200 lawyers, 900 witnesses, 600 journalists, a sentence to 2665 years in jail in total.

But not just the numbers can speak about the unicity of the judicial proceeding. A look at the place where the trial was conducted itself, with blinded doors and bulletproof windows, can help convey the tension surrounding the happenings: these Youtube videos (in Italian) are a must to better understand the ‘mafiosi’ and their insolence, irony and attitude towards justice.

Giovanni Falcone and its fellow judges could finally breathe a sigh of relief: they had just proven that mafia was not invincible. That the State was present and strong, and it was capable of punishing Mafia bosses.

However, this positive spirit would not last for long. Soon enough, Falcone will be isolated, his systematisation of the way anti-mafia investigations were held, jeopardised.

When it came the time to elect the successor of Caponnetto at the office in Palermo, he was thought to be the natural candidate for this position. However, the National Council of Judges (CSM) voted in favour of Antonino Meli, an older judge who started to dismantle the work of the antimafia pool. Believing that the Casa Nostra was made of various autonomous cells, rather than a single, vertical organisation, he did not embrace the unifying and interdisciplinary method of Falcone. To the contrary, he spread the judicial cases over various offices – in so doing, connecting the dots and looking for the ‘fil rouge’ linking all of these cases would become way harder.

But it was not just the lack of institutional support that caused the isolation of Giovanni Falcone. A mixture of suspicious theories, according to which Falcone had brought a ‘pentito’ (mafia informer) back to Sicily only to diminish the power of the antagonist mafia family, along with an environment of mistrust and delegitimisation, eventually led the judge to say:

Why does one die? Loneliness, or the fact of entering a game that is bigger than ‘us’. 
Lack of necessary alliances, lack of support. 
In Sicily mafia kills the State servants which haven’t been protected by the State

Unfortunately, his predictions were right. However, as we say in Italy, ‘time is a gentleman’. It puts everything back on the right track.

Following its cruel assassination, in fact,  Falcone has become a national hero. Streets, schools, festivals, awards have been named after him. As I am writing, a national manifestation is going on in Palermo with thousands of students coming from all over Italy to commemorate his memory.

This mythologising of his figure that has been happening lately if, on one hand, it was a necessary expiation for those who had not understood his importance back then, on the other hand, it epitomises the lust for justice, equality, rule of law the new generations have.

Given the changing nature of mafia, however, one should be wary of this ‘hero’ narrative that has pervaded the Italian media. By defining those who have conducted their role with respect to the State and the rule of law as ‘heroes’, one could start detaching their stories from reality. By delegating the fight on mafia to ‘extraordinary figures’, one could then justly feel exempted from fighting its own battle on injustice.

Giovanni and Paolo, before being visionary judges, were great citizens with a great sense of respect towards Italian institution, the State, their beloved homeland. The thing is that they were too ahead of time; and, as it happens in this cases, they were not understood by the majority of the people.

They were seen as heroes because they were going against the flow.

There is no better way to honour their memory than to conduct our daily ordinary acts of legality. Together, we can make sure that nobody is left alone anymore: not because the flow has stopped, but because it has finally started going in the right direction.

Federica Giordano Galasso is a 2015 Graduate and the President of the Erasmus Student Network Roma LUISS

Trouble in Paradise

Sweden is often praised as one of the, if not the, most successful welfare states in the world. Many progressives around the world take the country´s strong welfare system, pared with a healthy economy, as an example. According to a recent survey by World Economic Forum Sweden stands out as the best country in the world to live in, with top rankings in areas like gender equality and business climate. But something in this does not seem to translate into reality. Polls suggest that many Swedes do not think that their country is heading in the right direction, and the political situation is becoming more and more uneasy with minority governments and threats of snap elections. The Social Democrats, often attributed for Sweden’s success, seem to be heading for one of their worst election results ever, just around 30%. And how could a populist right wing party, that has its roots in 80s neo-nazism, become the third largest party and parliamentary kingmaker in the world’s most successful welfare state?

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Continue reading “Trouble in Paradise”

The Left needs to dump YOU!

Each left-wing movement in Europe has its own intricansies, but almost all of them were born of the Labour movement. After the industrial revolution, poor people, working class rallied together in center-left parties for more rights like paid sick leave, Universal Healthcare, social benefits. Social democratic parties were the party where the masses rallied in hope for a better life. Now the masses couldn’t be more detached from Social democratic parties. In Britain, the Labour Party is just the third most popular party among the working class, in France, the Front National also leads by a wider margin among working class while the socialist party drowns in popularity with this group of people and the same story happens in the Netherlands, Austria and many other countries. Center left parties are, in some cases, more popular among rich people than with poor people. Why this is happening? Very simple: Center left parties were once the party of the poor, unemployed, the factory worker, the uneducated, disaffected the one who was against the establishment. Now Center left parties are the party of the well connected, the rich, the college professor and the corporate lawyer.

Center left parties had once a clear agenda because they were made by working class people and for working class people; they knew clearly what they want and what were their priorities. They knew their struggles and their problems and wanted to solve them. Now, center left parties aren’t made essentially by the same people as before. They are leaded by elitist people who don’t have a clue how life is outside college campus or big cities. For some of these elitist people, going to a disaffected community or a desindustrialized area may be a field trip or a campaign stop but it will be never be their reality, their struggle, their problems, so working class or people in those communtities will never see them as their own representative.

 

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La Primera de Muchas

17888097_1259379007502561_1214337678_nAyer fue un día triste para el socialismo español. Ayer, mientras seguíamos discutiendo sobre un proceso interno que cada día que pasa nos va enfrentando un  poco más, murió a los 46 años Carme Chacón a causa de problemas cardiacos.

Carme Chacón materializaba gran parte del ideario socialista. De familia humilde, gracias a sus profundas convicciones progresistas, a su gran trabajo como concejala de Esplugas de Llobregat y a su labor como observadora en la OSCE  , consiguió hacerse  un hueco en el mundo de la política. Fue una férrea defensora de la “Nueva Vía” de Zapatero y todos los valores que ella representaba, convirtiéndose en una de los miembros  más populares del gobierno del presidente socialista.

Carme Chacón fue la primera mujer en llegar al cargo de  Ministra de Defensa  en España, pero no fue sólo eso, fue mucho más. Continue reading “La Primera de Muchas”

¿Un Erasmus a Los 16 Años?

El pasado sábado día 25 de Marzo, se cumplía el 60 aniversario de la firma del Tratado de Roma que dio origen a lo que hoy conocemos como Unión Europea.

Si volvemos la vista atrás para ver cuánto se ha avanzado, podremos observar que ya  han pasado 30 años desde que por  primera  vez  un estudiante europeo cogiera sus maletas y enfrentándose a lo desconocido  hiciera “un Erasmus”. No resulta descabellado pensar  que aquellos que marcaron la senda del programa  más popular entre  estudiantes  europeos , al principio, lucharían contracorriente para poder emprender su aventura hacia tierras europeas.

Continue reading “¿Un Erasmus a Los 16 Años?”

Men as Victims of Intimate Partner Violence: an Undiscussed Tragedy

Are you really going to let a woman beat you up?’

This was the question posed by a Finnish emergency telephone number operator in 2009 to a frightened man who was calling to report that his wife was physically assaulting him (Kaleva, 2010). It is disturbing to think about what was taking place. The man had previously had to escape to a safehouse with his children in order to get away from his abusive wife. When he returned to retrieve clothes for himself and for his children, his wife attacked him again, and when he tried to get help, he was mocked (ibid.). This man’s cry for help over the phone serves as a great j’accuse against our very society, and our common way of thinking: the case received widespread publicity in Finland, and led to temporarily increased discussion about those cases of intimate partner violence (IPV) where men are the victims. Sadly, the topic is still largely ignored, not only in Finland, but in other countries and on the international level as well. Continue reading “Men as Victims of Intimate Partner Violence: an Undiscussed Tragedy”

#EU60 Proposals

The occurrence of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome offers the opportunity to both celebrate the successes reached so far and reflect on the future of the European project. As a result of the vision of the European Community’s founders, today Europe is a more prosperous and peaceful continent.

While taking pride in these conquests, there is no space for complacency: the future of the European project is at risk. From an American administration not supportive of the European Union to the threat posed by terrorism, external challenges abound. These problems are compounded by a generalised loss of confidence in conventional forms of politics and the European project, which feed populism and narrow nationalism across the continent.

As young European progressives, we believe that it is not possible to stand by while sixty years of European integration are put under discussion. Bold action and reforms are needed. Institutions more responsive to the people of Europe, new opportunities to rejoice in our shared identity and the forging of a more just, sustainable and secure Europe all go in the direction of a stronger European Union, a Europe that can look at the future with confidence.

 

Part A: European Institutions

A number of European institutions whose actions are often not felt by Europeans, as well as increased bureaucracy, have resulted in widening the gap between citizens and the decision makers. We want to target this institutional crisis by:

  1. Reforming the EU so as to increase its efficiency and credibility. It must be closer to its citizens, in order to improve transparency. A multispeed EU can permit the integration of some member states without affecting others. This can increase public support, as the EU will be seen as an opportunity rather than an imposing actor.
  2. Decentralizing some of the decision making that is currently conducted in Brussels and giving more credit to the member states and subnational entities, which are closer to the everyday life of people. The EU should always respect the result of democratic elections and give elected leaders the room to pursue their own policies, also at the national and subnational level. Simultaneously, this places responsibility on these entities: their failure is to blame on themselves only, not on the EU.

Part B: European Citizenship

Solid foundations for the future of the European Union are not only the result of better institutions but depend on a shared European identity. With the aim of furthering the understanding among European peoples and of better appreciating our shared history and values, we propose:

  1. Actively promoting the core European values through Member States’ educational systems. These include, but are not limited to, Openness, Inclusivity, Diversity, Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights. Should the EU wish to remain the most ambitious project of integration between peoples, it should promote the creation of physical spaces to stimulate dialogue between people.
  2. Increasing spending on higher education and lifelong learning -especially focused on the acquisition of languages, IT and technical skills. So far much has been said about Europe as a ‘knowledge economy’, but too little has been done to achieve this. Technology changes fast and the skills of people cannot stay behind. EU social funds need to be used to help entrepreneurs starting a business. The corporate sector is welcome to contribute as part of their CSR initiatives.
  3. Expanding the Erasmus + studies program to 16-year-old students and providing guidance to the relevant actors on how to get all the grants and programs they can currently benefit from.

Part C: Building a safe Europe

In an era of several diplomatic cases of abuse where authoritarianism is thriving in neighbouring states, the safety and unity of the European community heavily depend on its capacity to collectively defend its borders by:

  1. Acting as a proud and united global actor. This includes strengthening the EU military, cooperation on cyber security and terrorism prevention, and closer region-to-region partnerships with the African Union. Also, the EU must revise the modes of integration with third countries, in order to increase partnerships with mutual benefits and reduce the insider-outsider duopoly.

Part D: A sustainable Europe for future citizens

Europe’s security and future highly depend on how it deals with climate change. Given the current American administration’s lack of willingness to face off this great challenge, it is time for Europe to take a lead and set the path towards a more sustainable future. With this in mind, we propose:

  1. Taking back our role as the global leader in the fight against climate change and in the implementation of the COP21 agreement. In doing so, the EU needs to phase out lignite and coal burning, abandon nuclear energy and diesel, while investing in renewables. The green and the circular economy will create many new jobs that can replace those lost by ceasing polluting activities.
  2. Adopting an ambitious EU infrastructure investment policy. We believe that policies in this domain should be more focused on the long-term objective of creating a sustainable, green and inclusive Europe. Thus, we call for EU investments to integrate and modernize the European railway network, because this upgrades the cleanest mode of transport, improves connectivity, creates jobs and stimulates the economy.

Part E: Society

Even though the survival of the EU should be the priority, it makes little sense to keep the project alive while not ensuring harmonic, progressive and prosperous societies, aiming at the welfare of their citizens. Bearing that in mind, we propose:

  1. Supporting the institution of a real European Social Pillar. The EU policy has been guided by macroeconomics and lost sight of the social component for too long. All policies should be tested on their social impact, and aim to create jobs and reduce poverty. The Fund to the European Aid of the Most Deprived (FEAD) must be used more to compensate those who have economically suffered from Globalization.
  2. Being a cohesion actor so as to maintain European unity and peace. EU membership must bring more benefits than disadvantages to all concerned parties. Concrete policies to benefit all might include a compensation scheme for countries that have been struck by brain drain or extending 4G internet coverage to all citizens of the EU, including those who reside in the most disadvantaged or remote areas.
  3. Discouraging unpaid internships to the youth. Europe is a rich and progressive continent, where systematic exploitation should not be tolerated. Labour needs to be rewarded even if it is done by young or inexperienced people.
  4. Establishing directives for the progressive increase of the budget for Research and Development among all member countries.

Part F: Economic Policy

 Economic policy should be a means to the end of a more cohesive European Union, where there is solidarity among countries, generations and social groups. The European project shall be a source of prosperity for everyone. To this end, we propose:

  1. The cooperation of European countries so as to avoid tax competition and establish high taxation standards. Tax havens for big companies should no longer exist in the EU and no cooperation shall be entertained between the EU and tax heavens. An increase in transparency and taxation of profits in the countries where they are made will contribute to a more just Europe. Finally, a minor EU tax for companies acting within the single market could be established, and create the basis for a European fiscal revenue.
  2. A reform of the Euro Area would bring the members of the common currency area back to the ideals of shared prosperity and solidarity underlying the Treaty of Rome. This would be to everyone’s interest, not just of those countries that are still suffering from the dramatic social consequences of the 2009 Euro crisis: a more prosperous Europe is going to be a more harmonious Union. The institutions of the Eurozone have to change, starting from the ECB’s mandate so that in its monetary policy takes into account not only stable inflation but also full employment. In the presence of a common monetary policy, there is also the need for some forms of fiscal policy.
  3. Making the EU trade policy more transparent and aimed at enhancing EU standards globally.

 

The Budget of Fear and Individualism

An overview

Trump’s first budget proposal is out, one of the most expected budgets ever in american history that symbolizes Trump’s campaign motto: “Make America Great Again”. In case people doubt about it he made sure people would really see that on this budget by labeling it as “America First: A budget blueprint to make America great again”. As promised during his whole campaign he will do everything in his capabilities to shift priorities in Washington to make the American society safer, stronger and prosper while making other nations fear his administration. Does this budget represents this?

Yes, the most absorbing fact of this budget proposal is the fact that there will be a $54Bn. increase in the defense department with the goal to buy more jets, warships, and boost the military activity against ISIS. That will also be of the like of the Defense Industry that has ties to the Republican party. To balance the budget this massive increase in defense and military will be offset by a huge decrease across all others departments

Captura de ecrã 2017-03-18, às 15.20.22

(US Gov Departments expenditure, source: Washington post)

As we can clearly, Trump’s administration represents an inversion in what has been American policies in the last 8 years during Obama presidency. Cuts for almost every department except the Defense, the Homeland Security and Veteran Affairs departments. This ultra conservative and anti government intervention is clearly emphasized in this budget, specially when looking at the EPA department that will be the most affected one (in %) according to this administration hardline stance on global warming. Another way to look at this is seeing the decrease of nearly $10.1 Billion at the State Department which goes along the isolationist mindset that is reshaping american politics.

Proposals and a new paradigm in American policy

As we can see in the table above, Trump administration will do several large cuts in some key departments like the State, Labour and Education departments.

Among the major program cuts implemented by Donald Trump we have:

-The elimination of the USDA Water and Wastewater loan and grant program, a reduction of $498 million.

-The reduction or elimination of 20 programs within the Department of Education including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership and Impact Aid support payment for federal property and international education programs.

-Cuts FEMA state and local grant funding by $667 million, including the Pre-disaster Mitigation Grant Program and Homeland Security Grant Program.

-Eliminates funds for Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing.

-Ceases payments to the United Nations’ climate change programs for the Green Climate Fund and other funds.

-Scales back funding for the World Bank and other international development banks by $650 million over three years.

-Shrinks the Treasury Workforce by an unspecified amount

-Stops funding for the Clean Power Plan.

These measures like the elimination of funds for affordable houses and education show that Trump will do major cuts in several traditional welfare sectors contradicting his electoral promises of giving better living conditions to the American people being not so different of many traditional Republican proposals that refuse the government intervention in these key sectors. Another sector in which this can be seen is in health with the removal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which will mean that many Americans will become unable to pay health insurance meaning they cannot be assisted if they have an emergency health problem and will also become unable to pay treatment for oncological and chronic illnesses. Despite Trump’s promises that Obamacare will be replaced by something better until now, no concrete proposal was made.

Less surprising is the decrease in funds for Climate, Development and Migration issues. On these subjects Trump presents a populist evolution of the Republican stances by ignoring or in some cases, even denying the existence of some of World’s major problems, in a contrast with a more internationalist and interventionist position taken by the Obama administration.

As it is typical in a nationalist budget proposal this also marks a shift is the balance of the United States policy that will give now less importance to Global Affairs and more importance to Internal Affairs following the concern of many Americans that worry about their living conditions and jobs but not about a war in some Middle East country or a big natural disaster in Asia.

In the limit this could mark the return of an isolationist America. This can appear surprising if we consider the United States policy after the Second World War but in fact if the US was quite isolationist and protectionist during the XIX century and most of the first half of the XX century. However unlike in the XIX century this position is now much more irresponsible because some problems like the Climate Change, Islamic terrorism and the Migration crisis are global and require agreements between the World’s most powerful nations, among which is included the United States, in order to overcome them. There is also a moral imperative because the United States has responsibilities in some of this problems specially in Climate Change and in the instability in the Middle East.

Economic prospect

Above we’ve seen how the budget might be for the next year, but numbers alone don’t mean anything, however if we take into consideration its implications for the american economy now that’s something even more interesting to think and look at.

One of the most famous economists ever, that is still a reference in our days, John Maynard Keynes said that Aggregate demand, in other words, a country GDP is represented by the below equation:

Y= C+G+I+Nx, where Y is the country output (we refer it as GDP most of the times), C is private consumption, G government spending, I is Investment and Nx is Net Exports ( Exports – Imports).

Taking into consideration the proposed budget G will decrease in 2018 due to government slashing some expenditure on social programs, as a consequence many poor families will lose their subsidies which will make them poorer, and since Investment is divided between private and public, we see that it might have a negative variation (seeing for example the Transport Department projected expenditure variation). With this in mind we could already see that, all things remaining constant, American 2018 GDP might degrow a bit, however there is still one thing to take into consideration, which is Net Exports, for that we need to take into consideration the effect of the Interest Rate and Exchange Rate.

Last week, we saw an announcement by FED’s president Janet Yellen stating that FED interest rate will rise from 0,75% to 1%, which has its economic consequences.

fig32

(Exchange Rate, Rate of Return, source:University of Colorado Boulder)

Represented in the image above, we have the vertical line which is the domestic interest rate, the horizontal line the foreign interest rate, the vertical Axis the Exchange Rate level and the horizontal Axis the expected rate of return. We see that an increase in the american interest rate (From left to right) will mean an higher expected rate of return of american investments. This means that the dollar will be more desirable and demanded which will trigger it’s value, that is to say, it’s exchange rate goes up, a dollar now is worth more Euros, Kwanzas, etc.

This interest rate hike and consequently Dollar appreciation might deteriorate American Net Exports, since the dollar is now more expensive and so are the american products.

This combination of raising interest rate while cutting government expenditure can lead to a deceleration of the american economy in 2018.

In the end, we should bear in mind that this is just a budget proposal and needs congress approval to become a reality. Even though it is creating some divisions among republicans this proposal seems a plausible budget and it seems likely to be approved by a congress in which Republicans have the majority of the seats. This is a budget proposal that represents fear, individualism and isolationism focusing on military activity, instead of supporting social, education and healthcare programs that can be a social uplift for many poor families and improve the living conditions of many americans. Sectors like the environment are also ignored by this budget proposal. These measures will not only be negative for the economy because it lacks enough of a stimulus, but will have the likely result of dividing and polarising even more the American society which can create more social unrest special among the poor and minorities.

 

Luís Carvalho, economics student and proud 2015 graduate of democracy

Pedro Diogo, economics graduate

Disclaimer: This Post reflects solely the author’s opinion it does not represent the whole platform

A Guide to the Dutch Elections

The Dutch elections feature the European version of Trudeau, a hardline Dutch version of Marine Le Pen, the current head of an extremely unpopular government who is polling at half of his weight back in 2012, a Christian Democrat who is suddenly considered as his more reliable alternative on the centre-right, and the evergreen pro-European progressive liberal. What is more, all the parties headed by these leaders currently average between 11% and 16% of the polls, making this the most uncertain election in years. The main electoral themes are social security, the pension age, healthcare, education, immigration and integration. Only to a much lesser extend the environment, Europe and the global geopolitics are being discussed during the campaign, as these items are not considered a priority by most voters.

Continue reading “A Guide to the Dutch Elections”