Time has also published my Q&A with Matteo Renzi.
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke to TIME on April 24 in his first interview with a non-Italian news organization since becoming premier in February. The conversation touched on a wide range of topics, from his plans to reform the Italian political system to his desire for a United States of Europe
I’ve been reading your interviews and speeches, and I’ve seen many phrases like “In a normal country, this wouldn’t happen.” In what way is Italy not a normal country?
Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice. There is in the DNA of the Italians a bit of madness, which in the overwhelming majority of cases is positive. It is genius. It is talent. It’s the masterpieces of art. It’s the food, fashion, everything that makes Italy great in the world.
But then, we’re not a normal country because we have a complicated bureaucracy, a political system that’s appalling. We have twice as many parliamentarians as the United States. We pay some presidents of [administrative] regions more than the United States pays its president. We would like to make Italy a normal country from the point of view of the political system.
Where did Italy go wrong?
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My profile of Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is in this week’s Time Magazine.
Less than a month after Matteo Renzi was sworn in on Feb. 22 as Italy’s Prime Minister—at 39, he is the youngest in the country’s history—he traveled to Berlin to meet his most formidable European partner, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Italy’s creaking economy was at the top of the agenda. Burdened with record levels of debt—only Greece has a bigger load in the euro zone—the country is struggling to recover from its longest postwar recession. Aware of Merkel’s belief in strict budgetary discipline, Renzi was at pains to reassure her that his plans to revive the Italian economy would not involve a splurge in spending. In a toast at a dinner with the German leader, he said he would follow the example of the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, who, when he began working on his statue of David, took a block of marble and chipped away “whatever was in excess.”
The moment was classic Renzi: bold, inspiring, elegantly expressed—but short on specifics. “That’s how I see Italy,” he tells Time, in his first interview with a non-Italian news organization since becoming Premier. “If we cut away all the things that are in excess, bureaucratically, fiscally, something will come out that’s more beautiful than the David,” he says, lounging across one of the yellow armchairs in his palatial office in central Rome.
“More beautiful than the David, let’s not exaggerate,” he adds, catching himself. “As beautiful as the David.”
Read the rest.
Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my story on Greenland’s prime minister and her quest to win independence through mining.
Sofus Frederiksen lives in a small river valley above a sheltered stretch of Greenlandic fjord, where in the winter slabs of floating ice fuse into a pale blue sheet. Frederiksen, a 49-year-old farmer of Danish and Inuit descent, built his house himself, and his 10 horses, 95 cows, and about 500 sheep make his farm one of the most productive businesses in the small town of Narsaq. From his kitchen, where pictures of his grandchildren cover the refrigerator, a window frames a 2,300-foot mountain, a steep slope of black rock and white snow. There, an Australian company called Greenland Minerals & Energy (GDLNF) hopes to build an open-pit mine, extracting uranium and what it says is one of the largest deposits of rare earth metals in the world. Like many in Greenland, the Frederiksen family thinks it’s a great idea. “We know that we have to move, and we have accepted it,” says Frederiksen’s wife, Suka. “We are only two people here against hundreds of jobs working in the mine. We tell ourselves that we have to give something for the Greenlandic people.”
The mountain is a reminder of the choices Greenland faces as its government scrambles to energize an economy heavily dependent on Denmark, the country that colonized it in the early 1700s. Narsaq also happens to be the birthplace of the country’s prime minister, and she is a strident supporter of mining. A native Greenlander with a broad face, bright eyes, and a smile that breaks like sunlight, Aleqa Hammond, 48, is the first woman to occupy the island’s highest office. Elected just over a year ago, she came to power on promises to mine the country and put it on the path to independence. “We have mountains with uranium content,” she says. “We have mountains with gold. We have mountains with iron. We have mountains with zinc and lead. We have mountains with diamonds. We have mountains that are there for us to use and bring prosperity to our people.”
Read the rest.