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Italian report Italian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-05-17 09:52:55
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Italy's 'Super Mario' anointed as ECB head

Mario Draghi, who on Monday was anointed to head the European Central Bank come October, is known in Italy as "Super Mario", and has stature abroad and respect at home for restoring the image of the Italian central bank. Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker announced that eurozone finance ministers had unanimously designated Draghi on Monday as their chosen successor to Jean-Claude Trichet.

The banker, once a Roman Catholic school student, and later a banker at Goldman Sachs, is well known in Italy for his discretion and able handling of the banking system. And he has acquired international status during the economic crisis by overseeing a process of global reforms. The publicity-shy 63-year-old has cultivated relationships across the political spectrum in Italy. But he has steered away from the social scene in Rome and has not publicly expressed any personal political ambitions.

The economist -- who is sometimes referred to in the press as "Super Mario" -- is known as a protégé of Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, an influential former central bank governor who served as Italy's president between 1999 and 2006. Draghi restored credibility to the Italian central bank. The bank's image had been tarnished by a scandal involving former governor Antonio Fazio. Fazio was accused of insider trading in 2005 for allegedly rigging the competition to take over an Italian bank and he is under investigation. Draghi, appointed to replace Fazio in 2005, quit his job as a senior investment banker at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs where he started in 2002.


Berlusconi coalition reels after Milan poll

Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition was reeling on Monday night from sweeping losses at local elections in Italy including, most markedly, a defeat in the prime minister’s homebase of Milan.  The polls, which Mr Berlusconi had presented as a referendum on himself and his government, showed the prime minister’s People of Liberty party and his main coalition partner the Northern League had lost support across their voter heartland in northern Italy.

In Milan, where Mr Berlusconi built his commercial and political career, the centre-right coalition won 41 per cent of the vote, trailing the centre-left opposition by an unprecedented seven points. It was the first time in 20 years that the centre-right had failed to get more than 50 per cent of the vote. As neither candidate won more than half of the support, the vote will now go to a run-off at the end of the month. Early indications showed the centre-right coalition had also lost in at least another 14 cities in northern Italy.

Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, described the result, which came amid historically high voter turnout, as a sign of a “change of mood”. “A wind of change is blowing from the north”, he said. A close contest in Naples, another key test for Mr Berlusconi, meant his People of Liberty party failed to win the city outright as expected and will also go to a run-off. This is expected to pose more difficulties for Mr Berlusconi whose supporters have historically shown a low turnout for second-round polls.


'Made in Italy' is not made in Italy

Your car is Japanese, your vodka is Russian, your pizza is Italian, your kebab is Turkish, your democracy is Greek, your coffee is Brazilian, your movies are American, your tea is Tamil, your shirt is Indian, your oil is Arabic, your electronics are Chinese, your letters Latin but 'Made in Italy' is not made in Italy. Yes, that's true, that made in Italy is not the label of origin that can be applied indiscriminately to every product manufactured in Italy; it is in fact an abstract concept, a signature of quality that defines products that Italy actually specialises in, and where there is distinctive advantage in term of style, innovation service and price.

Made in Italy is an expression through which we attempted to differentiate and re-evaluate the products of their country. It was inevitable in those areas where Italian companies attained top positions in the world, such as fashion and clothing. Today, there are numerous areas where the Italian production is able to excel and made in Italy "has become an expression that is both a source of pride for Italian companies and a seal of quality that accompanies their products in international markets".

Italian customers are the most demanding in the world, though they are also willing to pay the premium price for quality and design. The renaissance effect, a consequence of living in the world's biggest open air museum influences the aesthetic sensibilities of Italians. Italian buy products made in Italy not for patriotism like the Americans but for the appreciation of beauty, which allowed Italian companies to continuously raise the quality of the products they offer.

Unlike French products, the Italian products are not considered as work of art, but they are valued for their usability, functionality and their capacity to give an aesthetic dimension to their routine life. Made in Italy is identified with certain products (clothing, food, coffee, shoes, bags, home decorations, marble, cars) but not with any specific style. From Gianni Versace's rock-n-roll sensuality to the sartorial minimalism of Giorgio Armani, from high-tech rigour of Prada to Roberto Cavalli's wild exuberance, 'Made in Italy' is much more complex concept because it finds as many expressions as there are ways to interpret beauty.

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