La destra sovranista e il fantomatico super stato europeo

Essendomi occupata della #Brexit e delle drammatiche conseguenze sul Paese in cui vivo, la Gran Bretagna, vedo con enorme preoccupazione che le stesse identiche falsità che hanno portato al voto per l’uscita del Paese dalla UE nel 2016 vengono riproposte in Italia, dalla maggioranza ora al governo.

Quando la nostra nuova presidente del Consiglio Giorgia #Meloni nell’iniziare la sua guerra ideologica sul #PNRR al suo debutto internazionale, dice che la #Commissione Europea ha troppo potere, o parla di UE come “super stato” come sta facendo, dice una falsità.

La Commissione Europea fa proposte sulla base di indicazione normalmente degli Stati membri o del Parlamento Europeo, e poi le proposte vengono discusse e votate a livello estremamente dettagliato da ministri degli Stati Membri e nella maggior parte dei casi, dal Parlamento Europeo.

Le falsita’ su come funziona l’Unione Europea dette da politici senza scrupoli, con il beneplacito di gran parte della stampa – disinformata, se non genuflessa – furono alla base della #Brexit, la disastrosa uscita della Gran Bretagna dalla UE (insieme a una serie di falsita’ sulla libertà di movimento, una vera e propria campagna di odio nei confronti anche dei vostri stessi connazionali).

Naturalmente la procedura che ha portato al PNRR, nell’ambito del #NextGenEU fu diversa, e nuova (data l’urgenza dettata dalla pandemia e in un contesto in cui si gestiva contemporaneamente la complessa questione dell’impatto sul budget UE proprio della Brexit), ma la sostanza non cambia affatto: dare la colpa alla Commissione Europea o a un fantomatico “super stato” semplicemente non ha senso. E’ vuoto slogan populista. Se mai uno dei problemi e’ che non ha sufficiente ruolo decisionale in questo caso il Parlamento Europeo, che essendo eletto dai cittadini dovrebbe davvero avere maggiore peso.

Informatevi, e spingete i giornalisti che conoscete a capire, prima di tutto, e poi spiegare al lettori come funzionano le decisioni a livello UE. Dove sia davvero il deficit democratico, se mai ci sia.

La destra sovranista mistifica, confonde la acque, avvelena un dibattito che sarebbe da avere, su come rendere maggiormente democratiche le decisioni a livello UE, ma sulla base di fatti e non di slogan. E pagheremo tutti le conseguenze dell’incapacità della stampa di informare meglio i cittadini su questioni davvero importanti come queste.

Per uno schema chiaro su come vengano prese la maggior parte delle decisioni nella UE, si veda questa ottima infografica.

Interview on my new role in Committee of Italians Abroad, London

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.

Elected to Committee of Italians abroad

I am pleased to announce that on 3rd December 2021 I was elected by Italian voters in the South England and Wales constituency to represent them in the London “Comites”. With me, three other long-standing campaigners for citizens’ rights were also elected: my good friends and fellow campaigners Elena Remigi, the founder of the InLimbo project for EU nationals in the UK and British citizens in the EU; composer and orchestra director Dimitri Scarlato; and Anna Cambiaggi, a campaigner for citizens’ rights post Brexit. Our coalition Moving Forward also proudly elected Golam Tipu, representing the very large number of Italian citizens living in the UK but not originally born in Italy.

The consultative, volunteer Comites London committee represents the interests of the largest community of Italians living in a foreign country, namely around 350,000 Italian citizens who live in this constituency (there are separate Comites for Manchester and the North of England and for Scotland). The main role of the Comites is to liaise between residents and the Consulate and Embassy, to bring forward issues that may arise, although it can also liaise with the authorities of the country of residence when needed and in coordination with the Consul. The Comites also organises social and cultural activities including those that promote the Italian language.

The Comites London is one of the most active in the world, particularly since the exit of the UK from the EU has thrown up a lot of issues for hundreds of thousands of Italians as well as millions of other EU nationals in the UK.

A difficult electoral campaign during a pandemic, but we succeeded in electing 5 people to the Comites anyway

I stood as an independent candidate within a progressive and pro-European coalition, to bring my experience on the board of directors of the3million group, which by its nature is without party affiliation. However, my candidacy was endorsed – like that of other candidates not affiliated with any political party – by the Rt. Hon. Massimo Ungaro, an Italian MP representing Italians who live in Northern Europe, simply on the basis of our track record in representing citizens’ rights. I would therefore also like to take this opportunity to thank him publicly for endorsing people based on their skills set rather than party affiliation.

I will write more about the Comites and its activities particularly in the context of Brexit – with its wide ranging implications for EU residents in the UK – in the coming weeks and months (in fact I’ve been elected for 5 years which feels slightly daunting!)

Special thanks to all the people who voted and helped spread the word about the elections and the Moving Forward list that I am part of. We will strive to represent and support the Italian community in England and Wales in the best possible way.

Migrants Are A Part Of British Society – Why Shouldn’t They Have Full Voting Rights?

Some ten million contributors to society, from fruit pickers to nurses and teachers to builders, are barred from having a say on what happens in Westminster – the #LetUsVote campaign would put this right.

Today, the Let us Vote campaign launches, backed by the3million, British in Europe and Another Europe is Possible. It estimates that there are ten million people who are part of British society but are barred from having a say on what happens at Westminster.

Read the rest On Huffington Post UK.

My Europe Day speech

I was honoured to speak at the European Movement’s Europe Day celebrations on the 9th of May 2018 alongside Lucy Anderson MEP, Stephen Dorrell, Brendan Donnelly, Jean Lambert MEP, Femi Oluwole and John Stevens. This is the full text of my speech. 

I am here today as a member of the3Million, a grassroots organisation set up by volunteers in the aftermath of the referendum aiming to protect all the existing rights of millions of citizens who made this country their home thanks to freedom of movement. Some of what I will say is in a personal capacity, as the organisation does not take a stance pro or against Brexit per se, but focuses on protecting citizenship rights under all scenarios.

This is a day of celebration and I want to give you the positive side of the story, and reasons for hope. But first a bit of background. Our key activity right now is campaigning for clarity on the government’s proposed settled status, a registration process for more than 3 million citizens. We believe there are major, worrying issues with it, and our lawyers in fact have compiled 150 questions to the government which we are waiting an answer for.

As of today, I can announce here that we are in fact stepping our campaigning up a gear, planning to take the government to court over a clause that was passed today in the data protection bill which strips foreign citizens of the right to access data held by government departments, including the Home Office, making it impossible to challenge any decision it takes, and which risks making the appalling Windrush scandal look like a walk in the park compared to what is coming our way. Please check our twitter feed for info on how to support our legal challenge fund.

But on this Europe Day celebration, let’s talk about what we love about the EU.

Firstly a bit about my story, plus some other ideas I crowdsourced from our 30K strong online forum. People mentioned a variety of pieces of EU legislation on the environment and consumer protection, but overwhelmingly they talked about the wonders of freedom of movement as a key achievement of the EU.

I have worked in 3 different EU countries and all without major paperwork. The opposite was true when I attempted to get sponsored for a work visa in the US. It was complicated and upsetting, so my British husband and I decided to give up – why should we bother, when we have 28 countries to chose from where neither of us needs a work visa?

In fact after that I immediately got a high profile UK campaigning job, and I remember feeling amazed about the fact I was working with UK MPs and debating the need for a new Climate Change Act with them all over the country, and they were – rightly – treating me as entirely equal to other British campaigners, even though technically I was not even a British voter.

When I went to Brussels, I would work with politicians from all over the EU and they did not seem to care which country I was from. Thanks to EU law, I was in fact able to chose to vote for British MEPs rather than Italian candidates, which in the absence of a vote in national elections gave me a better sense of belonging to this country and the confidence of being a politician’s treasured constituent. The European Parliament has been in fact leading a fight to protect the rights of the3Million as well as the British in Europe, so thanks to the MEPs who are here today.

Since I first arrived in the UK in 1996, I’ve changed jobs many times, and then set up my own pan-European consultancy business, mostly with no sign of discrimination or difference in treatment based on my accent or nationality.

Up to 2016, this really was the land of opportunity for many people. And no, I am not a particularly privileged person and I know plenty of people from working class background –who are taking advantage of this freedom.

In a similar way, British people have been moving across the EU and settling in other countries, contributing to the local economy. Far from just the stereotypical pensioners in Costa del Sol, they are largely of working age, and contributing greatly to the culture and economic life of their host countries through their businesses and jobs.

AS a fellow Italian said on the3Million forum, one of the best things about the EU is “the understanding that there is a core set of rights which has to be respected in any EU country, that each citizen is to be treated on the same terms of their fellow residents, obeying the same rules, having access to the same opportunities and contributing to the cohesion of society to the same degree.”

Of course we all know that the EU has made peace possible on this once war torn continent.

When I think of it properly, I still find it shocking to think that that Britons and Italians of my grandfather’s generation fought each other in the Second World War. Yet here we are, living and working in peace in each others’ countries, becoming neighbours and friends and colleagues and partners, having children with dual nationalities and the ability to speak two or more languages. And running businesses across boundaries with great ease.

But one thing that is rarely talked about is how freedom of movement has in itself been crucial for keeping the peace in Europe. You know about the importance of freedom of movement for peace in Northern Ireland. But do you know this freedom to move around has brought peace to other parts of Europe? In the North east of Italy there is a German speaking minority. When I was a child I remember hearing stories of bombs planted by people who wanted to leave Italy and hated Italians. Guess what, now those fellow citizens have freedom to work and move across the border with Austria and now this is one of the most peaceful and prosperous parts of Italy, a magnet for walkers and skiers from across the world.

Also on our forum, a person said: “Growing up in western Poland I remember having to queue for border checks as a child just for a day trip to Germany, and since Poland joined the EU it never ceased to give me that little tingle of joy going over the German border and having to look out for a sign that said “Germany” or else you’d miss it completely. I met so many fantastic people from across Europe when I moved to the UK (not to mention meeting my other half, who is Welsh) and I think every young person should have this opportunity, as it really expands your mind.”

And ultimately let’s not forget that a lot of EU countries were until not so long ago struggling with undemocratic hostile regimes, from Spain and Portugal in the west to the communist block in the east.

The closeness these countries have now achieved within a few decades and the integration and freedom of movement between them – whether through young people doing erasmus programmes, or workers enjoying reciprocal rights to access the job market, or tourists accessing each other’s health services in emergencies through the EHIC card – is simply amazing. There is no need to talk about the 2nd world war to make this point, this is far more recent.

But let’s be clear, freedom of movement is not perfect. No, it’s not about the mulch talked about “legitimate concerns” about too much immigration. Those were – I am sorry to say – fuelled by politicians playing with people’s fears rather than addressing their real causes. And to some level these fears have been stoked up by some perhaps well meaning people, including some remainers who perhaps inadvertently keep feeding myths about freedom of movement when they talk about renegotiating free movement with the EU in order to prevent a hard Brexit, with emergency brakes, etc. This is unrealistic at this stage, and in addition, if there is no real evidence of any problems caused by immigration, and in fact many EU nationals are actually leaving the UK now, why bring this up at all?

That sounds depressing and on this Europe Day celebration I am not meant to do that. But the good news is that there is something we can all do something about that.

Just like we learnt the EU referendum could not be won with a half-hearted, almost embarassed approach to arguing for remaining in the EU – while constantly apologising about its faults, the same is true for freedom of movement.

Please, while you campaign to remain in the EU, consider that you will not succeed unless you have the courage to challenge the lies about immigration. Actually I’ll go further, you will not manage unless you are prepared to speak positively about freedom of movement. Guess what? It is in the name of taking away the rights of EU citizens living here that the UK government is trying to persue a type of Brexit that will kill British people’s own freedom of movement.

But Freedom of movement is not the same as old fashioned immigration. It is a freedom that is reciprocal, it is the choice that countries have made, freely, to give each other’s citizens reciprocal citizenship rights and the choice to not discriminate against them on the basis of nationality, to treat them like equals. This should be celebrated and not talked about as a necessary evil, needed just in order to get a trade deal. It is a fundamental part of human progress in this continent and a model for the rest of the world about what citizenship rights are and how they can evolve.

Celebrating this should be easy. Far from being a burden, EU nationals in the UK are in fact an asset. Their influx has been a sign of this country’s success – but I don’t hear enough people with the courage to say this. It is a fact that non British EU citizens are more likely to be working than on benefits compared to the average British citizen, and are more likely to be propping up public services as doctors, nurses or teachers than causing queues for those services. And there is no evidence of a reduction of wages caused by immigration. Honestly, that is nonsense and shame on some supposedly progressive politicians and commentators for periodically fanning the flames of xenophobia with these myths.

And finally if you campaign for a People’s Vote, which seems like a good idea, please ask for 3.6 million Europeans to get the vote this time. Unlike Commonwealth citizens, EU27 nationals (and British in Europe, in fact) were despicably denied a say in 2016 on something that would fundamentally alter their lives.

Is this what British values are about? Voting to take away the rights of a minority without even giving them a vote? What would people say if there was a referendum on abortion that excluded women or a vote on gay rights that excluded gays? Surely that would be considered unacceptable in a modern democracy.

So on this Europe Day of celebrations I say – don’t just assume that stopping Brexit will stop the Hostile Environment and the slide of this country into an intolerant and racist backward looking place – in fact it quite possible that foreigners will continue being subjected to a tide of hatred under any kind of scenario. So let’s all be far more proactive in standing against lies on immigration, as well as for the rights of EU nationals and more broadly for freedom of movement.

Let’s campaign to give everybody a fair say in the future of the country we all call home, so that we can better protect ourselves and work together to explore the true meaning of what it means to be British AND European.