I was recently interviewed on Complitaly, which runs an app for Italians living in the UK, about my recent election to the volunteer consultative body to the Italian Consulate and Embassy in the UK, the Committee of Italians Abroad, London (Comites Londra). Below is a shortened version roughly translated into English.
I originally arrived in the UK in 1996 and have been engaged in high-profile campaigns on environmental and social justice for at least 17 years. I have been involved defending the rights of European citizens post Brexit since 2017, when I joined the leading activists of the non-profit group the3million. In that role I met, with a group of citizens, the head of the delegation of the European Commission Michel Barnier and several European Parliamentarians, to ask that they help us in the agreements of withdrawal of Great Britain from the EU. Later, I joined the board of directors of the organisation.
Within Comites London, we have now created a working group on “Brexit and citizenship, research and the artistic world”. There is still a lot to do on Brexit, especially on Settled Status and the problems with obtaining British citizenship. On this I will keep in touch with the3million to coordinate any initiatives. Becoming a resident of a non-EU country also entails several additional bureaucratic problems for our fellow citizens, so it will be important to put pressure on the Consulate but also and above all the Italian government so that our requests are taken into consideration, in particular with regard to a Consulate. which does not have the necessary resources to cope with the very strong demand. But it is useless, in my opinion, to blame the Consulate.
The situation is the result of the fact that our needs as Italian citizens officially resident abroad (AIRE) have traditionally not been taken seriously enough by successive Italian governments. And if there is time, taking into account that we are volunteers, I hope we will also be able to take care of something else! There are many Italian people of great talent who are distinguishing themselves in Great Britain in the world of research and the artistic world that in my opinion should be more valued and supported.
Of my experience as an Italian in the UK I’ll just say this: having children, and raising them, far from the family of origin, and in a country subject to twelve years of austerity that has reduced the school and social-health system to the limit, is “not for the faint hearted “. And this even before Brexit and the pandemic took over.
Having said that, unlike a number of compatriots who have recently returned to Italy or left for other EU countries, most of us are here, and remain here. Great Britain, and London in particular, has offered me and continues to offer me so many fantastic opportunities. I hope it will remain a place where those who – at any age – want to continue learning, find creative solutions and adapt to changes, can still find good outlets. Living here has certainly taught me how essential it is – in life in general – to always look at the glass as half full instead of half empty.
I have been elected with the Moving Forward list, which defines itself as progressive and pro-European, but we are not linked to any particular political party; it is more a matter of general orientation. Our strength, in my opinion, is the bond that many of us have with various civil society groups and NGOs. However, I have always worked in a transversal way, and I collaborate with anyone who is willing to pursue common values. I am willing to raise the requests of citizens who want to contact us, to whatever political area they belong to, in both Italian and British institutions.