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Italy’s political landscape discussed

Becky Hogan | Thursday, February 12, 2009

In the Gallery of Bond Hall, adorned by Roman casts and sculptures, Italian ambassador Guido Lenzi described Italy’s complicated character to a packed room on Wednesday.

“Italy is a country of contradictions. It’s a land of improvisation – things are made up at the spur of the moment, and inventiveness is part of the life of everybody,” Lenzi said.

Lenzi described Italy as a “grown-up teenager” because it is “full of life, inventive and smiling but totally irresponsible.”

He explained the nation’s history and origins.

“Italy is a very young country … younger than the United States. It is a young country that has had a hard time holding itself together.”

According to Lenzi, Italy’s fragmented nature can be attributed to the city-states, which preceded Italy’s unification.

“The city-states account for the fact that local allegiances are much stronger nowadays. People are first Florentine and Tuscan, and only eventually Italian,” Lenzi said. “They are very provincial and local-minded … which is the strength of Italy, but also means that it is not a coherent whole.”

He said that bureaucracy does not play a fundamental role in Italian politics because people have learned to live without the state.

“Bureaucracy does not work as smoothly as it should because Italian cities have not asked for the state to work properly. Italians know how to make do and obtain what they want without the state,” he said. “Italians subsist and prosper in spite of the state. We have learned to exist without needing the state.”

Additionally, Lenzi said Italy’s disorganization and incoherency must change in the future.

“Now Italy, after having survived and prospered in this very special, different way, now needs to organize itself and make itself recognizable.”

Italy needs to make itself more accessible to the international community, he said.

“Now we need Italy for the Europeans, for the European Union, for the Mediterranean, for the Balkan states. All of this has to be made coherent,” Lenzi said.

The Italian parliamentary democracy includes a strong parliament and a weak presidency, which has allowed for the spread of democracy and has ensured that the country remains united, he said.

He also discussed how the Communist Party dominated Italy after World War II, and were followed by the Christian Democrats.

“Italy had a revolving door government … there was a new government every year,” Lenzi said.

However, he argued that Italy’s current prime minster, Silvio Berlusconi, is not to blame for Italy’s political struggles.

“[Berlusconi] is not the cause of the Italian woes, Berlusconi is the consequence of such a state of affairs. He did not want to have an organized party. He was fed up with party system…. Everybody in Italy was involved in that system, you can’t point the finger [at Berlusconi],” he said.

Lenzi concluded that because Italy is a multilateral-minded country without a strong national interest, it has an important role in international relations.

“Italy is a front-line state. We have to be considered as a country that matters in presenting a united stance,” he said. “Italy is a party-goer … it is the most multilateral-minded country in Europe.”