2-3/2021

The second and third issues of 2021 come out together. Another consequence of the pandemic that we have dealt with extensively.
Space, of course, at the International Festival of European Geopolitics which took place in Jesolo (Venice) on 6-7-8 May 2021, organized by our magazine in collaboration with numerous other subjects, all of great institutional and cultural depth.
To the attention of the reader, one of the articles in the book Letters on the World, edited by the Circolo di Studi Diplomatici.
Unmissable pieces by Eleonora Lorusso and Domenico Letizia.
This issue also continues the fundamental collaboration with the Geopolitics and Maritime Strategy Studies Center.

Editorial

State and Church, Law and Theocracy

In recent days, a volume of writings by the former Pope Ratzinger has been published. Coincidence or fate? A few months after the entry of the Taliban into Kabul, Ratzinger tackles the topic - a theological and political problem of burning topicality. "The typically European matrix - affirms the theologian - allows us to conceive the Church-State dialectic in the logic of distinction and mutual influence that also contemplates interference”. Ratzinger affirms that as Christians we must flee from theocratic temptation. The dominion of the Church over the State is a nonsense for him. Every possible confessional solution, for the former Pontiff, as every possible totalitarian solution must be driven out both in its confessional and secular version. Why does Ratzinger speak of the Christian faith and Europe? It is not known. But the timing is surprising and he does so by inviting us to go to the root of the democratic experiment, linking democracy to law. Ratzinger establishes that the Platonic “EUNOMY” and the concept of Europe must be understood not only in a geographical and geopolitical sense but above all in a cultural one, being a universal message, that of “GOOD LAW”, typical of European civilization. Europe, in fact, has been able to re-emerge from the darkness of a violent and liberticidal dimension, that of the hell of twentieth-century tyrannies, to assert a political system based on the limitation of powers, control and transparency, distinguishing between “STRENGTH”, “POWER” and “AUTHORITY”. Strength is the ability to act according to will; power establishes the ability to dispose of the will of others; authority indicates the legitimacy of the exercise of power which is such only when it is limited, controlled and transparent. The distinction between “STRENGTH”, “POWER” and “AUTHORITY” allows the concept of democracy to be interpreted in a complete and current sense. Ratzinger emphasizes that the Christian's task is not to raise the “Kingdom” but to go out to meet it with the work of justice. In short, from Pope Emeritus a theological lesson but also of political philosophy, very valid even for non-believers, on a concept of liberal democracy, which “protects us from the temptation of the serpent to want to take God's place”.
How can we disagree?

Economic and cultural decline of Italians and the erratic nature of our country'


Diplomatic Letter 1287 of 7 December 2020

Roberto Nigido
The data relating to the economic decline of Italians in the last twenty years are known, having been extensively illustrated and commented by the media. I mention two that seem particularly significant to me. The per capita income of Italians in 2019 is substantially equal in real terms to that of the year 2000, having its growth fluctuated around zero in this period; in all other European countries the overall increase in twenty years was of 20%, with large variations from + 3% to -4%. Even the productivity of all factors in Italy did not increase compared to the year 2000; in the other European countries the increase was a total of 20%. The coincidence between the two parameters concerning the trend of income and that of productivity is significant because of their close correlation.
In his lucid and, in the final chapters, dramatically worrying “Economic history of Italy from 1796 to 2020” (Bollati Boringhieri, 2020), Pierluigi Ciocca attributes the causes to the interrelation of various factors. I would like to recall some of them: increase in the overall public debt in the period 2000-2019, after the corrections made in the 1990s; stagnation of public investments also due to lack of resources; small size of most Italian companies and consequent obstacles to their capacity for innovation; insufficient quality of school teaching as a cause of Italians' unpreparedness to face increasingly demanding jobs in an international context of increasing competition due to globalization and technological innovations.
I would like to focus on this last aspect in particular because it seems to me connected not only with the acceleration of the economic decline of our country, but also with the conduct of Italian foreign policy in the last twenty years, which I do not hesitate to define as erratic, especially when these were fundamental choices on which the government in its collegiality is right to pronounce.
The data relating to the deterioration of the school preparation of Italians are less known to the general public, because they have not been sufficiently reported by the most popular media. However, they are well documented and not difficult to find. I cite the most significant, some of which are taken from the book by Luca Ricolfi “The stately society of mass” (La nave di Teseo, 2019). Italians have the highest relative rate of functional illiteracy among European countries: about 30%. Among the OECD countries only Turkey precedes us; in Europe, the lowest functional illiteracy rate is in Finland (11%). Germany is in the European average, which is between 16% and 18%. In statistical terms, for every functional illiterate in Europe there are two in Italy.
According to UNESCO, functional illiterate is a person “unable to understand, evaluate, use and get involved in written texts to actively intervene in society, to achieve their goals and to develop their knowledge and potential”. Basically: unable to understand, logically analyze and then choose with rational coherence. The number of graduates in Italy is half the percentage of the average of European countries and that of high school graduates 20% lower. According to Ricolfi, an Italian university student today has on average the same ability to understand logic and their own language as a middle school graduate of the 1960s. It is therefore not surprising that among Italians there is the highest percentage rate in Europe of young people between twenty-five and twenty-nine who do not work, do not study, are not engaged in training processes: 30% (in Ireland 6%).
These statistical surveys are confirmed by the empirical ones found among his students by the Professor of Modern History at the University of Urbino Marco De Nicolò (“Education: a national question”, La Terza 2020). According to De Nicolò, a university professor of history, even before teaching his subject, must apply himself to the explanation of the meaning of the words and concepts used in lessons and textbooks, to fill the gaps left in students from previous years of school. I myself have had recent, and at least for me surprising, confirmations of this situation. I was thus able to ascertain that for a bank employee in charge of an ATM there is no difference in meaning between the temporal expressions “between” and “within”; as well as for a security officer of an important Roman hospital between the verbs “direct” and “straighten”. These are the beliefs of mid-range employees hired after a selection and who have studied up to at least fourteen years. According to Ricolfi, the causes are to be found in the demolition of the public school started with the reform of the middle school in 1962 which, in extending the compulsory schooling to fourteen years, has also lowered the level of training and selection to allow all students to access to a high school diploma (and then to university), regardless of skills and preparation. I add for my part, having seen it happen in the 1970s, that the phenomenon was amplified by the hiring as teachers of thousands of poorly prepared and poorly selected young graduates and graduates, to find them a job, in order to remove them from the streets and prevent them from joining the Red Brigades.
What could have been expected from the generational change of the political class that took place in the years at the turn of the new century when a political class formed by an educational system still of quality and selected from the party schools then existing was succeeded by a political class that left schools and universities post-1962 and post-1968 and no longer selected by responsible intermediate political bodies?
I start from the assumption - which I think is difficult to refute - that voters who are 30% functional illiterate, that is “unable to understand and evaluate in order to actively intervene in society”, are also not very capable of rationally choosing their political representatives. So let's see what happened in our country's foreign policy. The Italian governments that laid the foundations of our Republic have identified three cardinal points of reference since the early 1950s to guide Italian foreign policy, based on the evaluation of our permanent national interests: Atlanticism, Europeanism, multilateralism.
I begin with Atlanticism, that is loyalty to the Atlantic Alliance, loyalty to its member countries and sharing the values ​​and principles on which it is founded. Several Italian governments, while dutifully loyal to our most important ally, did not hesitate to detach themselves from the US line, if not supported by NATO or the United Nations, when they felt that circumstances required it for Italy's global interests. I cite some examples: in 1967 on the war in Vietnam (the Ambassador of Italy in Washington resigned because the line of the Foreign Minister did not coincide with that of the United States); repeatedly in the 1980s in Libya, in particular in 1985 (Sigonella) and 1986 (US bombing of Tripoli); in 1998 during the Kosovo crisis (when Prodi unsuccessfully asked for a consultation at the highest political level in NATO headquarters before military intervention against Serbia was decided). In the following years Italy has passed: from the total alignment with Washington in 2003, when the United States decided to invade Iraq without any international coverage (only the intervention at the last minute by the President of the Republic prevented the then Italian government from involving Italy in that senseless adventure); to the acrobatics of the current government, engaged in the attempt to identify an unlikely political point of balance for Italy between allied countries (the United States and other NATO countries) and countries that have now returned to be openly hostile to the West (Russia) or that could become hostile (China). On the challenges that China presents to the democracies of the Western world, it is useful to refer to the relevant chapter of the very recent report commissioned by NATO from a qualified group of independent experts: “NATO 2030”.
Until the 1990s, Italy was a promoter and active protagonist of European integration, of which Italians were then overwhelmingly convinced supporters, and successfully defended within Europe and thanks to Europe our national and global interests, also in the belief that the success of our country passes through that of Europe. In the following years, Italian Europeanism cooled: in part, as in other European countries, due to the insufficiency demonstrated by the Union - up to the “conversion” of Germany and the courageous initiatives of the new European institutions at the beginning of 2020 - in coping with the economic and migratory crises; but also as a consequence of the incessant anti-European propaganda and the interference of Moscow that has been going on for years in Italy and in other European countries, after the repeated provocations received from the West. This propaganda has been more successful among Italians than among other European citizens and has contributed to the growth of Eurosceptic or openly anti-European political forces, which have made no secret of being sensitive to Russian and more recently Chinese sirens. Thus in the last national and European political elections the Eurosceptic or anti-European parties collected over 50% of the votes in Italy. Unable to choose a coherent and defensible line (based on non-episodic compliance with European budgetary rules and the consequent credibility in asking for changes if deemed necessary), some Italian governments have fluctuated between: prolonged non-fulfillment; sterile recriminations; requests for exceptions; “fists on the table”, counterproductive in Brussels but considered useful for chasing the mood of the voters; forced returns to European disciplines under the reaction of the markets.
For a medium-sized country, poor in natural resources, without nationalistic ambitions, with a pacifist public opinion, with always negative budgets and consequently unable to finance substantial military expenses for a more “muscular” foreign policy, the recourse to multilateralism is an obligatory path. Italy has thus always supported the action of the United Nations in all fields; it supported with conviction every international initiative aimed at promoting peace, the reduction of arms and the economic and social development in the world; actively participated in the liberalization and regulation of world trade; generously hosts the United Nations agencies specialized in nutrition and food aid. This does not mean in my opinion that our country is also obliged to renounce all national initiatives when international ones are not available or fail.
So Italy in 1997 launched a massive military operation in Albania to stabilize the country and initially took the risks with only the precious support of France. In more recent years, in the face of the failure of the United Nations and European initiatives aimed at ensuring peace, stabilization and unity in Libya, I would have expected a more concrete Italian intervention and, in the appropriate ways, also military to help the Government of Tripoli, which had asked us to deal with General Haftar's offensive: an intervention that would also have been useful to counterbalance France's support for the latter and have a credible negotiating weapon. In the illusion of being able to count on the success of the action of the United Nations and Europe, we have left the way open to the Mediterranean and Middle East military power initiatives of Turkey, a country of ambiguous loyalty to the Atlantic Alliance of which it is also a member. Thus, Turkey now holds the keys to that part of Libya that interests us most from the point of view of controlling illegal immigration, terrorism and crime.
In conclusion, Italian foreign policy has appeared to me in the last twenty years conducted on some crucial occasions by governments that seemed to sail without a clear route and without on-board instruments in the troubled waters of today's world. Under these conditions, the expert assistance of the Farnesina services can only provide limited substitute work. Fortunately, there have been wide exceptions to these drifts, thanks to the work of responsible governments - including the current government as regards European issues - when they have found themselves at the helm of Italy in some periods of the last twenty years. However, the process has been discontinuous and has not benefited the credibility of our foreign policy: a credibility that can only be rebuilt with a coherent long-term work. To improve the quality of our governors, we must first improve the cultural quality of the governed: invest in schools; strengthen its structures; carefully choose teachers and, after hiring, improve and update their skills; adopt rigorous programs aimed at transmitting not only knowledge but also and above all the ability to reason; select students rigorously and direct them to higher education that suits them best; strengthen the vocational training institutes so necessary for our productive activities. This is the path chosen for a long time by undoubtedly successful European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands: the experience of the Covid-19 emergency has shown us once again.
From the book Lettere sul the Mondo 2021 Mazzanti Libri Venezia

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