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Italian report Italian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-08-03 09:25:24
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Italy approves draft law banning burqa

Italy's parliamentary commission has approved a draft law banning women from wearing veils that cover their faces in public. The draft law was sponsored by Souad Sbai, a Moroccan-born member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Freedom People party.

The law, which was passed by the constitutional affairs commission Tuesday, would prohibit women from wearing a burqa, niqab or any other garment that covers the face. It would also sentence anyone who forces women to cover their faces in public to up to one year in prison and fine them $43,000. The Italian news agency ANSA reports the opposition voted against the legislation.

Italian lawmaker Barbara Saltamartini said final approval of the law would "put an end to the suffering of many women who are often forced to wear the burqa or niqab," which she said "annihilates their dignity and gets in the way of integration.''  The draft will go before the full parliament for final approval later this year. France, which has Western Europe's largest Muslim population, and Belgium have similar laws in place. The laws went into effect earlier this year. About 5 million Muslims live in France, but only about 2,000 women wear burqa.

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Markets force Berlusconi to break silence


With Italy’s borrowing costs soaring to new euro-era highs, Silvio Berlusconi has been forced to break a month of near-total silence to defend his economic policies and prevent Europe’s sovereign debt crisis from transforming into a full-blown political emergency for his centre-right government. The 74-year-old prime minister is to address both houses of parliament separately on Wednesday, aware that market pressure is translating into growing calls for him and Giulio Tremonti, finance minister, to resign.

Consensus is also building among economists and in the ranks of Mr Berlusconi’s own coalition that the €48bn deficit-reduction package passed by parliament last month is insufficient and that Mr Tremonti should impose extra measures after the summer recess. A meeting on Tuesday of Italy’s Financial Stability Committee chaired by Mr Tremonti, and including representatives of the Bank of Italy, the Milan bourse and the insurance industry, expressed confidence in the banking sector and Italy’s goal of eliminating its budget deficit by 2014.

An official said the general view was that Italy’s economic fundamentals – including a primary budget surplus before debt interest payments – were not problematic, but that thin and nervous markets were reacting to a general eurozone crisis of confidence. Yields on Italy’s benchmark 10-year bonds rose above 6 per cent on Tuesday, with the spread against German Bunds hitting a euro-era high of 385 points. The Milan bourse hit its lowest for more than two years, dragged down by banks seen to be vulnerable over their large holdings of Italy’s €1,900bn public sector debt. The weakness of Mr Berlusconi – who is facing three trials on charges of tax fraud, corruption and paying an under-age prostitute – has been highlighted by his failure to explain to Italians why, after his repeated assurances that they were safe from the eurozone debt crisis, they must now face higher taxes and years of austerity.

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Italian banks caught in sovereign debt crossfire


Big holdings of Italian bonds by the country's banks are making them a proxy for funds responding to debt concerns by cutting their exposure to Italy. Italian banks had hitherto weathered the financial crisis better than their European peers, thanks to a tradition of conservative lending and relatively limited exposure to riskier assets, such as Greek bonds. But that inward culture, once seen as strength at times of market turbulence, is now being perceived as a weakness -- making the banks inextricably linked to the fate of Italy's borrowing costs.

Shares in Italy's two biggest banks, UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo have dropped about 20 percent since investors began dumping Italian assets at the start of July. Over the same period, the STOXX Europe 600 banking index has fallen about 9 percent. At current levels, Italy's top three banks have a combined market capitalisation of around 56 billion Euros -- well below the 61.8 billion Euros of Spain's Santander. The Italian banks' underperformance has gone hand-in-hand with rising worries about the sustainability of the euro zone third biggest economy's debt -- which at 120 percent of GDP is second only to Greece in the single currency bloc.

The premium investors demand to hold Italian debt rather than safe-haven German Bunds widened to a new euro lifetime record of 385 basis points on Tuesday. The so-called spread stood at around 220 basis points before the market sell-off started on July 8. At these levels the spread is just a shade under the 397 basis points investors demand to hold Spanish 10-year bonds -- meaning Italy could soon be regarded by the bond markets as being riskier than Spain. The sell-off in Italian debt pushed 10-year yields above the 6 percent mark. Above this level, concerns about the cost of refinancing Italy's 1.6 trillion euro debt intensify.


         
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Emanuel Paparella2011-08-03 21:45:42
Just as Mussolini, sooner or later, would end up aping Germany’s Hitler and promulgating the racial anti-Semitic laws, it comes as no surprise that Berlusconi’s Italy eventually would imitate France in the banning of the burqas and mistaking integration for assimilation. As the Prince of Salina reflects in the novel “The Leopard” at the very beginning of Italian unification and modern nationalism the lions and the leopards would be followed by the hyenas and the jackals who would dedicate their lives to making money and hoarding votes and power and would construct the “little Italy”. And so a nation which had universal experiences such as the Roman Empire, and the Renaissance and the Catholic universal Church, and could have aspired at a higher vision of itself, ends up imitating all the other little power-grabbing nations of Europe, complete with African colonies… and xenophobia, eventually ushering in sheer racism and two disastrous World Wars. As I said, no surprises: monkey see, monkey do.


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