My piece on Italy’s post-Gaddafi maneuvering has just been published in Time.
If one of the first casualties of the six-month-old uprising in Libya was Italy’s relationship with Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, one of the first dividends of its conclusion could be renewed ties between Rome and whoever replaces the fallen dictator. Even as gunshots continued to ring out in the streets of Tripoli, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was on the phone with Mahmoud Gebril, Prime Minister of the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council (NTC), congratulating him on the rebels’ rapid advance on the Libyan capital, promising him Italian support and warmly inviting him for a visit. “The National Transitional Council and all the combatants involved in Tripoli are realizing their aspiration for a new, united, democratic Libya,” Berlusconi said in a statement. “The Italian government is at their side.”
The last time a Libyan leader visited Italy, he took an entourage of hundreds of people and pitched a tent in the grounds of one Rome’s historic villas. As long as Gaddafi ruled Libya, Berlusconi was bent on pleasing him. Before fighting broke out in February, Libya was Italy’s largest provider of oil and gas, providing roughly a third of Italy’s oil production to the country. Gaddafi’s government owned substantial shares of Italian companies, including 7.5% of UniCredit, the largest bank in Italy, and 7% of the Torino-based Juventus soccer club. In 2009, Gaddafi was given a seat at the table during the G-8 summit in Italy. And at one point, Berlusconi leaned down to kiss his hand.
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Time has just published my story on the future of Europe.
It may be called the European Union, but at least part of that name is being called into question. The market convulsions of the past week are clearly about short-term concerns, about the balance sheets of countries like Italy, Spain and even France. But they’re also about a problem with a more distant horizon: Does the E.U. still make sense in its current form?
As long as that question remains unanswered, uncertainty is bound to continue. Short-term measures, like the propping up of Spanish and Italian bonds by the European Central Bank “are quick fixes that smooth things over the short term,” says Stephen King, chief economist at HSBC in London. “But they don’t answer the questions the markets are asking: What are the political and fiscal arrangements that would create stability in the future?
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My piece on Italy’s (most likely) upcoming Burqa ban has just been published in Time.
The thing about Italy’s proposed law to ban women from wearing veils that cover their faces is that it’s not clear what difference it would make.
Just like in France or Belgium, which have introduced similar measures, Italy does not have a large population of women who wear the burqa or the niqab, which cover almost the entire body and face. “In my 20 years in Italy, I don’t think I’ve seen ten women who wear the veil,” says Izzeddin Elzir, head of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), the country’s largest Muslim organization. According to Elzir, most Muslims in Italy subscribe to a school of Islam that doesn’t require women to keep their faces covered. “In summer, there are more, because there are lots of tourists [from Arabic countries],” he says. “But here in Italy, we see few cases.”
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