We welcome comments and suggestionsincluding expression of dissenting views.
After World War II, the idea of Europe was designed to help the nation-states of Europe overcome their limitations and their divisions. During the Cold War, and especially after the 1957 Rome Treaties, the idea grew into an institutional reality that has transformed these nation-states into member-statesmembers, that is, of a European Union (EU) to which 15 of them, thus far, have transferred parts of their national sovereignty.
As the EU nears its 50 th anniversary, in June 2007, its further evolution will continue to impact the transformation of its members. Conversely, however, the future transformation of the EU will also depend on the continued evolution of its principal members, with each member relying on whatever remains of its sovereignty to ensure changes that cater to the needs and aspirations of its people.
Five of the Working Papers prepared for our project on "Europe-2007" begin to map the evolution of the EU around five of its largest members: France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Spain. For each of these countries, leading scholars were asked to identify and discuss identifiable trends in several vital areas: the emerging/changing facts of geography (including such factors as demography, resources, and the environment), the momentum of history (including the ability to sustain the processes of integration started during the Cold War), the economic engines (including the impact of globalization on Europe and the need for structural reforms), and the politico-cultural resistance to these trends (including the political temptation to renewed cleavages away from more recent patterns of centrism and normalcy, and the cultural resistance to "media-lization" and the universalization of languages). In addition, two other Working Papers were soughtone to introduce these trends more generally, and the other to discuss the "ever larger union" that might lie ahead in the context of the national trends thus identified.
I want to thank friends and colleagues who agreed to write these papers: Stan Burnett, Carl Lankowski, Mike Mazarr, Robin Niblett, Ron Tiersky, and Howard Wiarda. They, too, join me in thanking our friends and colleagues who made invaluable contributions to at least one of our discussions, including (but not limited to) Sam Barnes, Wolf Brueckman, Michael Calingaert, Jonathan Davidson, Karen Donfried, Michelle Egan, Steve Grand, Glen Harrison, Christopher Makins, Jim Miller, Kori Schake, Steve Szabo, John Van Oudenaren, and Sam Wells. I would also like to thank Jennifer Ober, program coordinator for European Studies, who contributed to the preparation of these reports.
This project was made possible by the generous help of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. As always, the early drafts of these Working Papers are presented in order to stimulate discussion. We encourage the readers to react and respond to these papers: directly to each author, or collectively to the CSIS Europe Program.
STANTON H. BURNETT
What should Europe be worrying about when it looks to Italy in 2007?
This question leads us to the Italian South. If the question is designed to emphasize what Europe has not yet fully realized that it should be worrying about, our focus becomes even sharper. Much of the economic and sociological generalizations applicable to northern Italy are identical or similar to the rest of prosperous Western Europe. The politics of the Italian State are indeed a thing apart. In 1999, Italy made a bold attempt to move toward a bipolarism that might have produced the sort of governmental responsibility and durability found elsewhere in the EU. However, the effort was frustrated by the South. Sicily, just one part of the Italian Mezzogiorno, is one of Italys largest regions, second only to Lombardy (Milan). The haunting streets of Naples, the bandits' caves of Sardinia, and the rocky, hard-scrabble villages of Calabria have great cultural distinctiveness, but they all share Sicilys intractable political, social, and economic woes that have broken the spirit of generations of optimistic reformers, usually outsiders. Yet the Mezzogiorno contains forty percent of the population of Europe's fourth industrial power. Although there was not even a highway connecting it with the North until the 1960s, it is now a part of the new Europe.
Should Europe Worry?
There was little talk about the Italian Mezzogiorno leading up to European decision time on the common currency. The numbers that concerned everyone were national numbers. Italy's north is not just prosperous; by such calculations as productivity, it would be the most successful country (if it were a country) in Europe. Measured by per capita GDP, with Europe as a whole at 100, Germany is at 113.8, England at 106, and Lombardy at 122. By now, the Veneto may fare even better. These two regions do an excellent job of masking Sicily and Calabria, which are both in the 60s. The South, taken by itself, would have a GDP below that of Greece.
Trends are also a source of concern. Straight-line projections, however misleading they may be, are probably more valuable in Italy than elsewhere because of the character of Italian politics, at the national, regional, and local level. Italian politics is about compromise and cooperation, and its magnetic pole is at the center. Even after the events from 1992 to 1996, one of the few real detours, the old tendencies quickly reasserted themselves. This has meant that policies, and the affected parts of Italian life, have few sharp declivities. Radical changes are rare, continuity and the muffling of changes in direction are the norm, and interruptions in trend lines, when they occur, are more often the result of external factors, and less often the result of political and societal change, than elsewhere in the West.
The cruel fact is that many of the economic and social trends are working to increase the gulf between the two parts of Italy. While the dependence of the South is not decreasing, the "auto-sufficiency" of many parts of the North is increasing sharply.1
A decade ago (in 1989), there were only four "self-sufficient" regions (Lombardy, Emilia, Piedmont, and the Veneto). Today, the number of regions paying more than they receive has risen to nine (the previous four, plus Tuscany, the Marche, Lazio, Friuli, and Liguria)
This term relates strictly to taxing and spending, that is, whether a region receives more from the government than it contributes in taxes ("dependent") or pays more than it receives ("self-sufficient").
Presented at a colloquium of the Fondazione Agnelli in Turin, October 15, 1998. Reported in Marco Travaglio, "Nove regioni pronte all'autonomia fiscale," La Repubblica, October 16, 1998.3
with all other regions in the North closing the gap. The rest of Italy was the beneficiary
of the productivity, and tax paying, of these nine regions. Lombardy remains at the head
of the list of "payers," while Calabria is the most dependent region.
There are spots of movement in the South in the direction of closing the "deficit."
Basilicata, for example, has reduced its paying-spending deficit by almost a half, largely
because of the FIAT-Melfi plant. Conditions in Calabria are strongly affected by the port
at Gioia Tauro. Built more than twenty years ago, and a prime example of a "cathedral in
the desert, " the port of Gioia Tauro was one of the monumental (in both senses) efforts to
inject some great centers of modern economic productivity and employment into the
Mezzogiorno. Most of these "cathedrals," exemplified by giant, never-productive steel
mills, now stand as true monuments, honoring grandiose and misguided government
spending. They are largely the products of political bargaining, not economic planning.
Unlike most of the other deals cut in Rome, however, Gioia Tauro is now starting to
produce and prosper.
These improvements are offset by strong trends in the wrong direction in
Campania (Naples), for example. The overall result is the single most important factor
feeding the northern separatist movement. Admittedly, the main party of northern
separatism, the Lega Nord of Umberto Bossi, has not done well in the last two elections.
Yet, a fading Bossi phenomenon, assuming that to be the case, does not signify that the
separatist issue will go away. Bossi speaks for a large number of northerners in attacking
In 1953, Socialist leader Pietro Nenni agreed to break his party's alliance with the Communists and
strengthen the allegiance of the working class to the regime. One of his conditions for the political switch
was Rome's commitment to industrialize the South. Even before that, in 1950, a special fund for
economic development in the South, the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno, had begun funneling enormous sums
For an indication of the party's long-term weakness, see Stanton H. Burnett, "Will Italy Split in Two?"
The International Economy, July/August 1995, p. 52-53.4
Romes refusal to produce an effective federalism, and shape new de-centralized
institutions. These are the voices of allegedly "good" separatists, not the simple "racists,"
that other body of Northerners who do not want to co-exist with the South and its
reputedly dishonest, slothful, and inferior citizens.
Amazingly, the idea of superior
honesty in the North has survived the giant 1990s Tangentopoli (Bribe City) scandals,
largely centered in the north.
Why there are two Italies need not detain us in the context of this paper. In any
event, there is no simple or shared answer to this question. The historian Federico
Chabod laid emphasis on the allies having moved only halfway up the Italian peninsula
where they were stopped for more than eighteen months. This meant that the South spent
these months of World War II as an occupied country, while the North was able to credit
its home-grown Communist-led partisan movements with much of the liberation. Robert
Putnam sees the profound difference in civil society within Italy as stemming from the
Middle Ages, especially the Norman-Swabian centralized rule in the South, as compared
to the history of civic consciousness experienced by the North and Center during the era
of the great bourgeois city communes.
Lampedusa has forever made the Sicilian
mentality, and its particular brand of conservatism, unique for his readers, and Naples has
a distinct, and exceedingly lofty, cultural history.
Hon. Roberto Rosso, the Regional Secretary of Forza Italia for Piemonte, considered one of the most
savvy young deputies in today's Parliament, asserted in a 1997 presentation at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies, that Berlusconi's Forza Italia is supported by many separatists-at-heart,
restrained by the party's moderate leadership, but ready to burst out if Berlusconi should stumble.
The system of bribes and kick-backs was country-wide, but the exposures and scandals that brought
the First Republic to an end were essentially Northern. The southern scandals that emerged during the
Mani pulite investigations would not have been enough to destroy the five parties that (in varied
combinations) made up all post-war governing coalitions, thus razing the First Republic.
Robert D. Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1993), pp.122-26, 128-30.5
Without exploring the debates on cause-and-effect, the raw facts of Italy's history
over the last three centuries dramatize both the division and the way the development of
the North has masked the plight of the South. Spencer Di Scala, going back well before
unification, says of the eighteenth century agrarian reforms that " the South suffered the
worst social and economic conditions. The reforms...had either failed or produced half-capitalistic
enterprises based on exploitation of the peasants...misery and lack of
investment...produced a harvest of social agitation...the unrest contributed to the
Industrial growth in the nineteenth century generally
occurred in areas which also had rich agricultural production, thus leaving the South
behind the North in industrialization as well. Thus, writes Di Scala, "...the southern
problem has dragged down the entire country ever since."
Di Scala notes the general European rule that "with industrialization the birth rate
decreases as living conditions improve, and emigration declines."
In Italy, however, this
"normal" formula did not hold. Thus, from unification to World War I, Italys
industrialization was almost entirely in the North, but the countrys birth rates stayed high
because of the South. Immigration from the South not from the North soared. So
Italy's overall peculiar pattern masked the fact that North and South were living separate
lives, even going in different directions, with the North able to absorb change and the
South able to resist it. Therein lies an object lesson for the Europe that applauded (with a
touch of amazement) Italy's effort to achieve the Maastricht convergence standards.
Naturally, there are strong limits to this diversity, limits that many Italians fail to
Spencer M. Di Scala, Italy: From Revolution to Republic (Boulder: Westview, 1995), p. 142.
Ibid., p. 146.
Ibid., p. 141.6
recognize. The bon mot that the fathers of the Risorgimento made Italy, and left to the
future the task of making Italians, ignores many elements of commonality and the fact that
much has now been accomplished in the making of Italians.
A key test is language. The dramatic novel (and subsequent film) Padre Padrone
was about Sards who could not speak Italian when they entered the Italian army. Indeed,
for many years NATO had to recognize that the first few weeks of military service for
conscripts from the South were not occupied, as elsewhere in the Alliance, with basic
training, but with the need, first, to study and learn some Italian. At the turn of the
century, fewer than 25 percent of the citizens of the South could read Italian, a product of
the combination of low literacy and the prevalence of dialects so distinct that Italians
considered them to be different languages.
Historians like to shock us with very high numbers of non-Italian-speakers in the
South, but the language gulf is now largely a thing of the past. Where Cavour and
Mussolini failed, Carosello has succeeded: Carosello was the half-hour bloc of well-produced
television commercials that hypnotized Italian children every night before they
went to bed. The Italian mass media have done exactly as predicted: the military has now
dropped its language training. If the trend lines for the South show a failure to move
toward European norms,
more than cultural backwardness lies behind the extraordinary
resistance to change. Rather, much of the resistance is deliberate and intended.
Ibid., p. 148.
There are exceptions. In 1998-99, for example, the growth in jobs in Puglia was better than that in
Emilia-Romagna, but not enough to make much of a dent in the overall North-South economic trends.
Puglia generally stands as an exception to the statements about the South in this paper, and is a
moderating influence on most of the economic statistics. Puglia has long performed better economically
than the other southern regions (and several northern ones) and is much less a part of the questione
meridionale. Interestingly, this has not made Puglia more "advanced" socially than the rest of the South.7
Throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s, the Sicilian regional government
employed more people in Sicily alone than were employed by the government of the
Federal Republic of Germany.
The result was the creation of a spoiled middle class that
has been living well without producing anything. This class is one of the bulwarks of
resistance to change. It does not want the interruption of its splendid situation. The
intensifying disciplines of the European Union (EU) will therefore come increasingly into
conflict with this determined resistance in the South. Organized crime will, of course,
offer the same resistance. These conservative elements, not at all convinced that their
festa è finita, are supported by a large population that is living better than it used to live.
And so we arrive at the central question. If a growth rate above three percent for
the years 1999, 2000, and 2001 could produce generally good citizen support for
incumbent governments and a willingness to move ahead with the building of Europe,
what would be the effect of a lower growth rate for those same years? The answer for the
North of Italy is likely to be the same as for France and Germany, whatever that answer
might be. Northern Italians would not be the first, or the last, to descend into the piazza
and trouble the political peace with their discontent. The EU projects an overall Italian
growth rate of only 2.1 percent in 1999, but up to 2.5 percent in 2000, compared to 2.9
per cent for the rest of Europe.
Then Treasury Minister (now President of the Republic)
Ciampi was, naturally, more optimistic. Despite a growth rate of 1.4 percent in 1998, he
projected a rate of 2.5 percent in 1999.
Although the projection is not broken down by
However, as a result of the policies of the Prodi government, public works employment in the South
has declined 6.5 percent from 1996 to 1997. Mario Centorrino, "Sud, una rivoluzione soltanto a metà," Il
Sole 24 Ore, October 5, 1998.
Projection, based on Eurostat figures, announced by the Commission October 21 and 23, 1998.
The New York Times, March 4, 1999, p. A14. The figure, uncredited in the article, is produced by
Istat, the national statistical institute. Projections announced November 4, 1998 by Treasury Minister
Carlo Azeglio Ciampi at a press conference.8
regions, it is probable that a 2.5 percent growth rate for Italy as a whole (whether for
1999 or 2000) will mean that the North will achieve the overall European growth level.
The 1998 Italian growth rate was the slowest in Europe.
The signs for achieving
even the projected 2.5 percent growth rate in 1999 are so poor that, early in the year, the
European Commission ordered Rome to revise its three-year economic plan as the only
way it could hope to meet its euro-zone commitments. It was the first admonition of its
kind ever made public by the Commission. A few months later, Italy was forced to ask the
Commission to "allow" the budget deficit to exceed the two percent target. What exactly
would have transpired had the permission not been granted is unclear.
The Italians of the Mezzogiorno, pessimistic enough to expect slow growth, and
fearful of serious change, would themselves go down into the streets if these levels were
to prevail, but they would go there to sell smuggled cigarettes to arrangiarsi, meaning
the art of finding a way to get by.
WHO ARE THE ITALIANS?
In terms of population trends, Italy looks much like its European partners. In the
space of just a few generations the "demographic pyramid" has been turned upside down.
In little more than two generations, life expectancy in Italy has risen by about ten years, to
the current average of 78 years. And in less than one generation, the number of children-per-
woman has dropped from 2.4 to 1.5. Since demographers use 2.1 as the standard for
replacement of a population, Italy is now far beneath that standard. In 1998, for the first
James Blitz, "Italy examines poor state of economy," Financial Times, March 3, 1999, p. 2.9
time, there were more Italians over 65 than there were Italians under 15.
More important than these raw data, however, is the non-quantifiable improvement
in the level of health and activity of the older people. They look less and less like the
wizened Italian villagers who contribute to common Mediterranean stereotypes. They
own or manage a larger share of the country's resources, especially its savings, leaving a
smaller share for the young. Some Italian analysts project that the majority of those who
reach age 55 by the end of the coming decade will not retire, as the majority does now,
but continue to work for another ten to twenty years. Whether they burden the rest of the
population with longer pensions, or take jobs away from younger people, they are a threat,
especially in the South, with its very high unemployment figures. And these anziani will
be an increasingly large share of the voters.
The pensions given to many Italians upon early retirement are the unusual burden
that the Italian welfare system has been carrying. There is a very large population of
Italians who retired in their 40s and early 50s. Some jobs, like police work, are considered
dangerous, while others, such as teaching, are seen as especially taxing. But the
widespread early-out pension system is largely the product of the idea of clearing people
out of jobs in order to make room for the young. The result has been an historic (and
future) burden on the young.
A young Italian couple is not only "burdened" with parents who live longer (all
four of their parents are now more likely to be living), but the time when they take over
the family business, family farm, store, bar, and other property is much farther in the future
than before. In the Mezzogiorno, this longer delay in assuming control of the family
enterprise affects a much larger share of the population than in the North, and affects more
Luciano Gallino, "Sotto la piramide rovesciata: I giovani e la società," La Stampa, August 27, 1998.10
profoundly the couple's economic prospects.
The age at which young Italians leave their parents' home has been increasing
steadily since the early 1980s, and is projected to continue rising over the next few years.
Below the age of twenty, almost no Italians leave home. Between 20 and 24, 90.4 percent
of males and 78.1 percent of females are still with their parents. Both figures are rising.
In the 25-to-29 age groups, sixty percent of men and 34 percent of women are still at
home, both figures rising rapidly. And even between 30 and 34, 41 percent of men are at
home, and the figure for women jumps to 62 percent (failed marriages?).
current trends, more than 68 percent of Italian men between the ages of 25 and 29 will be
living with their parents in 2007.
These trends do not reflect an excess of family affection on the part of young
Italians. Nor is it just the failures who stay at home. A very large proportion of these
young people are employed. Yet, if they did not live with their parents, they probably
could not survive on bank clerk or postal employee salaries in the North and would live
miserably in the South. But living with their parents affords Italys young adults a lifestyle
that might include the two or three annual vacations to which they have become
An additional factor in the changing Italian population is immigration. Here Italy's
problem is most certainly Europe's problem. Seeing the difficulty is as simple as a look at
the map: to an immigration official, Italy must seem virtually all coastline. Much of the
coast is gentle and inviting. Add to this picture the probability that the Interior Ministry in
any future Center-Left government will be in the hands of a personality with a strong
commitment to human rights and humane treatment, even of illegals, and the flood-gates
"Figli 'mammoni' non lasciano casa fino a 34 anni," La Repubblica, October 6, 1998.11
seem to be open. Witness the 1998 appointment of Rosa Russo Jervolino to the Interior
Ministry by the D'Alema government. Southern Italian journalists estimate that about
forty percent of the illegal immigrants who land on southern Italian shores escape capture.
This ratio is, they report, well known among young North Africans anxious to try their
A very large part of the Africans, Kurds, Asians (who come via Turkey) and others
who succeed in landing on southern Italian shores every day are not heading for Italy.
Landfall for them is an entrance to Europe as a whole, and they will move on to Paris or
Hamburg as fast as they can. Italy's participation in the Schengen Agreement (establishing
a zone of free movement of persons among thirteen member states) was delayed
accordingly, but movement across Italian borders is now as document-free as it is in the
north. In short, with miles of easy coastline now Europe's welcoming shore, Italy is the
"preferred port of entry into the European Union."
Because much of the immigration is headed north, and also due to Italian
tolerance, this immigration has not become a political vehicle for Right-wing politicians, at
least not yet and not on the scale of, for example, the National Front in France.
Allegations that the rise of the Alleanza Nazionale (AN) is due to anti-immigrant
sentiment lack evidence and do not take account of either the strength of the AN's
predecessors or of the disappearance of the Christian Democratic Party in Italy.
Christian Democrats' more conservative "currents" were strongly supported in the South,
and this support had to go somewhere, presumably to the AN and (much less so than in
the North) to Berlusconi's Forza Italia. The fact is that the ANs national leadership has
Alessandra Stanley, "Italy Is Swamped by New Waves of Boat People," The New York Times,
November 1, 1998, p. 3.
Ché Sidanius, "Immigrants in Europe: The Rise of a New Underclass," The Washington Quarterly,
Autumn 1998, p. 6.12
carefully avoided Le Pen-style rabble-rousing on the immigration issue, and has generally
behaved as a responsible conservative party.
The most important factor in keeping immigration out of Italy's political debate,
however, is the near-total focus on a single migratory flow, one that does stop in Italy.
Italy has had a long-standing connection with Albania, a focus of investment and activity
for Italy's businesses. Dangerous chaos gripping that small country (and Kosovo) has
translated into a flow of immigration that is widely viewed, especially in the North, as a
principal source of crime. The "Albanian Mafia" runs prostitutes and drugs throughout
the North, and nearly every raid, arrest, or crime of violence in the northern underworld in
1998 was reported to involve Albanians. It is a tribute either to the rock-solid control of
the South by its own crime families (Mafia in Sicily, Camorra in Naples and Campania,
'Ndrangheta in Calabria) or to the latter's organizing abilities (if they are, in fact, running
the Albanians), that this infestation does not involve the South. Currently, Albanians, with
a smattering of refugees from Kosovo and Kurdish Iraq, hit the southeastern Italian
beaches at the rate of nearly 500 on a calm night. This does not include the large traffic in
Sicily and other ports of entry for refugees sailing from North Africa. More than 10,000
refugees have been processed in the first ten months of 1999 in the province of Lecce,
which may not be the busiest province. These statistics only include the refugees who fail
to flee into the countryside upon landing. The trend points to a consistently increasing
The pessimism described by Michael Mazarr is as alive and well in the Italian
media as it is elsewhere in the West.
If the strong presence of the state in Italian radio
and television mitigates the negative sensationalism ever so slightly, the news-stand
Michael J. Mazarr, "The Pessimism Syndrome," The Washington Quarterly, Summer 1998, pp. 93-
competition among Italy's many national and big-city daily newspapers heightens it. But
this media behavior has not made pessimists out of Italians; they were there already,
probably before Guttenberg. Profoundly pessimistic realists, Italians suffer few
disappointments. Their expectations from government, their neighbors, the weather, or
their national soccer team are so low that, while there may be anger or cynicism,
disappointment is never openly admitted. As a result, the Italians are among the least
alienated Europeans. Having a lot of enemies, or at least living in a world where one's
common interest with one's neighbor is not recognized, means that one also has allies.
They may be few, but they are very close, and offer a nice barrier against isolation and
alienation. Attachment to family, church, and party is very serious, profound, solid.
To be sure, atomization and anomie have made their way into society in Italy as
elsewhere. The closed room with the television set on, the modern habitat of alienation, is
an increasing phenomenon in Italy too. But the pace of this movement is vastly different
in the North than in the South. That absolute alternative to alienation, isolation, and
atomization the piazza full of people, their gossip and their opinions endures in the
Mezzogiorno, both literally and figuratively. All the reasons for hopelessness and
suspicion indicated above are thus met with at least some mental-health antidote.
Inevitably, consideration of the psychological make-up of the Mezzogiorno leads
to the question of education. In the war against the Mafia, the great government failure
was in this area. A young anti-Mafia magistrate who compared his work to surgery said
that it was up to others to put the patient back on his feet. By this he meant, specifically,
education and re-education. "An effective school, capable of shaping and re-awakening
the conscience, is a truly formidable weapon in the struggle against the Mafia and
illegality; the Mafia doesn't fear a prison as much as a school, it doesn't fear a judge as14
much as a teacher."
If the magistrates at the front line of the struggle against the Mafia feel that the
State has let them down at the lower levels of education where fundamental literacy,
character-formation, and preparation for citizenship take place other challenges await at
higher academic levels. The reputed Italian weakness in aspects of technical training is
just part of the problem of education. Italians, even at the highest levels of government,
diplomacy, and (less so) international business are notoriously weak in their ability to use
foreign languages. For many years, special translations had to be arranged at NATO
headquarters for the Italian participant in the Alliance's semi-annual meetings of foreign
and defense ministers. While the Turkish, Norwegian, and Greek ministers had no trouble
with a choice between English and French, the Italian ministers (a considerable parade of
Italian political leaders, given the short life of governments) often spoke neither. A further
element of parochialism has been the fact that, since the war, Italy has consistently lagged
behind the other major European powers in the willingness of its scholars in the social
sciences and humanities to study abroad. One crucial culprit is the "baronial" system of
powerful professors surrounded by acolytes (graduate students and young instructors)
who dare not be out of the picture for a year because they would suffer a competitive
disadvantage among the baron's troop of followers, perhaps missing out on a job opening.
Education is both cause and effect when examining the lagging Mezzogiorno.
Only one out of ten college graduates in the North are unemployed, as compared to one
out of three in the South.
The incentive for going to the university is lower in the South;
Vaccara, "Il coraggio del dovere," Oggi7, November 10, 1997, p. 9. The magistrate Massimo Russo
adds that Mori, the legendary magistrate sent out by Mussolini to clean up the Mafia, had exactly the
SVIMEZ 1999 Report on the Economy of the South, Rome, July 15, 1999. Reports by SVIMEZ, the
Association for Industrial Development in the Mezzogiorno, are considered very reliable.15
the incentive for graduating, as compared with simply "parking" at the university, is much
lower. According to SVIMEZ, a typical young Southerner believes that neither a
university diploma nor a doctorate will open the doors of employment.
In fact, fifty
percent of northern college graduates find work in the first year, while only 22 percent of
southerners succeed. The age at which the first job is garnered is four years higher in the
South than in the North. The incentive is to stay in school: of those who graduated at 24
or younger, in the South, 65 percent are unemployed (25.8 percent in the Center and
North), but the ratio is cut in half for those graduating at an older age.
Education has long widened the North-South gulf in Italy. After unification, many
areas of the South were slow to start replacing the local dialect with Italian. The problem,
however, was not that teachers used local dialects; the problem was empty classrooms or
no classrooms at all. The first truly national effort on education focused on secondary
schools for the upper classes, and at getting the Church out of the classroom. Towns and
villages were left to their own resources to provide a required two years of elementary
education. Most southern towns failed to come up with the resources to do anything.
They would submit records claiming elementary school attendance, but most towns
preferred to have the children work the land.
Although the South lagged badly, literacy
made enough progress in the cities throughout the country in the second half of the
nineteenth century to leave the deepest pockets of hard-core illiteracy in villages and rural
areas. Nonetheless, according to Di Scala, "the quality of elementary education and
attendance remained low, and the formulas for distribution of the funds helped the richer
North and worked against the South."
"Al Sud un laureato su tre senza lavoro, al Nord uno su dieci, " ANSA dispatch, July 15, 1999.
Di Scala, op.cit., pp. 148-9.
Ibid., p. 142.16
Mussolini failed to make the schools effective machines for turning out young
fascists, but he did tighten up graduation examinations and enhanced technical education
as an alternative to the classical model. However, it is television, more than the
governments of the recently-unified state or the Fascists, that has implanted one common
language in all of Italy. In the 1960s, the democratizing of the universities produced many
difficulties (impossible over-crowding, "professional students" parked for many years in a
comfortable university life, some periods of political chaos on campus), but it probably
had an enormous boot-strap effect for the sons and daughters of the less-privileged.
Women especially benefited from the changes in the university systems liberalization, for
the reform led to a dramatic increase in the number of Italian women with university and
post-graduate degrees. Nonetheless, many Italians (along with many Frenchmen) still feel
that their country suffers a competitive disadvantage in the new Europe because of the
space occupied by classical, rather than technical, education.
Tribalism and Globalism
Even in the context of increasingly global connections and transactions, Italy
suffers from the weakness of the nation-states appeal as a loyalty-attracting tribal base.
What this means to the northerner and the southerner is different, but no country in the
new Europe has fewer problems with any transfer of loyalties to Brussels, or more
problems with making sense out of the jungle of attachments of its citizens. "As for the
Italians, luck would have it that they are the most European of the Europeans exactly
because 'the making of Italians' is an unfinished task. Our flexible nationalism, if you can
call it that, appears, in this phase of history, finally to be an advantage, not a handicap."
For many in the North, the denial of Italian identity has translated into an
Giorgio Lago, "Questo Stato, ecco l'unico grande nemico," La Repubblica, March 12, 1998, p. 38.17
important political program. The most prominent manifestation of this denial is Umberto
Bossi's Northern League. Although the Lega sometimes wanders off into comic opera, its
support is still large enough to make it the first- or second-largest party in many towns and
provinces throughout the North. More importantly, the cities and towns where the Lega
is doing well are among the richest and most productive in Italy. Indeed, the factor that
most limits the growth of the Northern League, its influence with other parties and
separatist groups, and its ability to form alliances, may be Bossi himself.
A wide variety
of separatists from the Veneto, from respectable members of the long-standing Venetian
League to the romantics responsible for the 1997 storming of the Campanile in Piazza San
Marco in Venice, have an erratic relationship with the Northern League (which they
largely equate with the Lombard League), and so the fragmentation may go on in the
The northern malcontents share a common view of the South. A geography
professor (and convinced Leghista) at the University of Milan declares that the difference
between North and South is between those who descend from the Carolingians and those
who descend from Arab emirates. He writes, "The spoken language, the memories, the
social relations, the institutions and power relationships - these are elements of division
much more than convergence."
Although, the scandals of Tangentopoli were focused on
Milan and the North, the Lombards, Venetians, Piedmontese and others persist in claiming
a monopoly on industry, honesty, and other virtues. They distinguish themselves from
those impecunious, slothful Southern thieves who, through their middle-men in Rome,
take the fruits of northern labor and spend it with southern license. The good news for the
future is that some of these northerners thirst to be governed by Brussels rather than
For the development of this argument, see Burnett, "Will Italy Split in Two?" op. cit., pp. 52-53.
Roberto Mainardi, L'Italia delle Regioni: Il Nord e la Padania (Milan: Mondadori, 1998). Cited in
Rome. The bad news is that most of them do not want to be governed at all, and are
bound to lead the first wave of protests, whenever it comes, against the "arrogant
spendthrifts of Brussels."
In the South, many of the older citizens still see the Italian Republic as little more
than the invasion, and continued occupation, by the rulers of Piedmont and their northern
allies. Some identify with their region.
Many identify with their city, town, or village.
This is the Italians' famed and very real excessive attachment to one's town of birth
(campanelismo). But Edward Banfield and Robert Putnam, a quarter of a century apart,
have tried to show that identification with village or town is feeble to the point of non-existence
by comparison with familismo. Banfield portrays a Hobbesian war of each
family against all other families, in which no appeal to the common good will permits even
minimal cooperation with one's neighbor. Better to leave the fountain broken than to
repair it and have the neighbor also enjoy the benefits of a working fountain.
A most important step in changing local loyalties and politics has come with direct
election of mayors. This has now been followed by the direct election of the Regional and
Provincial Presidents. In such unlikely places as Catania and Naples, this change has led to
The old movement for Sicilian separatism was serious politics immediately after World War II, but is
now discredited. A separatist movement remains active in Sardinia. In general, however, SVIMEZ
concluded last year that "from the Mezzogiorno regionalist demands are not heard today..." SVIMEZ, p.
Edward C.Banfield, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society (New York: Macmillian, 1967), and
Robert D. Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton
U. Press, 1993). Filippo Sabetti has powerfully contested Banfield on methodological grounds and
argues that disincentives created by government (at several levels) are sufficient explanation for the
fountain's perpetual disrepair. In "A Different Way of Knowing: The real 'Montegrano,'" Italian Politics
and Society, the Newsletter of the Conference Group on Italian Politics and Society, No. 4,4, Fall 1995,
vigorous and effective performances by elected mayors, with the result that all the mayors
of major Italian cities were re-elected after the reform, with the sole exception of the
Leghista (Northern League) mayor of Milan.
The political party also competes for allegiances. The great Italian political parties
of the First Republic claimed more than just a vote. They sought to occupy so many
aspects of their adherents' lives and thought that they bore some similarity to totalitarian
parties. After all, Italy had furnished the modern model of the latter. The assertion by
political scientists (in this case, with little debate or disagreement) that the First Republic
was a partitocrazia meant, in effect, that the parties occupied the State. Loyalty to party
detracted strongly from all other competing loyalties. To be a Communist, Socialist, or
Christian Democrat was more important than to be an Italian. The parties' dependence on
patronage and clientelismo meant that they furnished a life for their followers, gave them
membership in a supportive tribe, did far more than simply ask for their votes in an open
competition of programs and candidates. In the South especially, where the supposed
secrecy of the ballot provides little cover in many communities, the employment of one
person is supposed to bring with it the votes of the whole extended family. Loyalty means
wheeling grandpa into the voting booth.
In two areas, Italy is in line with the European movement toward economic
liberalization: its North and its rhetoric. The Italian Communist Party (PCI), even before
its transformation into the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), had begun to declare itself
in favor of privatizing some parts of the mammoth semi-national business enterprise. This
was, in fact, one of the reasons for the split in the PCI that resulted in the independent
existence of a Refounded Communist Party (which has itself split, over whether to support
a PDS-dominated government and its very middle-of-the-road budget proposal).20
Romano Prodi, who had himself served twice as CEO of Italys largest state
holding company IRI (the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction), was clearly committed
to liberalization. Nevertheless, he toted the burden of an alliance of parties with quite
varying views on the subject, with the necessity of keeping the Refounded Communists on
board in the lower house of the parliament, where their votes were essential. Prodi's initial
declaration that "we are going to take this country apart piece by piece" faded rapidly
before the challenge that made his tenure a one-issue era.
Liberalization, both in the
economy and throughout Italian society, took a step forward only when it served to meet
the Maastricht criteria of convergence for inclusion in the common currency. The fact that
Romano Prodi endured for a relatively long term is itself a European story. He was so
intense about devoting his government to Italys acceptance into the European common
currency that normally-important areas of neglect or failure were temporarily forgiven.
Toward the end of his government, some of Prodi's ministers grew weary of this narrow
focus. Interior Minister Giorgio Napolitano, probably the most prestigious internationally
among the "post-Communists," publicly called on the government to devote the same
attention to the Mezzogiorno that it had devoted to the Maastricht standards, leading to a
lively debate within the majority.
Just as Prodi gave liberalization and privatization secondary status to the grand
objective of Europe, so too the D'Alema government may be expected to put these
concerns no higher than a secondary level of priority in the general area of the Italian
economy. As a sign of good faith, the new D'Alema government announced plans for the
privatization of the Banca Nazionale di Lavoro on the second day of its existence
(October 27, 1998). Two weeks later, on November 10, it announced a five-year plan to
privatize much of Italys electric utilities. (The first piece about 25 percent of the
electricity giant ENEL went on sale on October 13, 1999.) This announcement appeared
Cited in John Hooper, "A New Italian Renaissance?" The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1998, p. 70.21
to satisfy the European deadline (February 19, 1999) for implementing the EU's electricity
directive. Although the rhetoric exceeded the action, there is little reason to doubt the
acceptance of the idea, among the Center-Left, that the days of the giant state holding
companies dominating much of the Italian economy are numbered. But it is difficult to let
go: these enterprises have furnished more in the way of illicit political party funding and
excellent patronage jobs than the government bureaucracy itself.
Because D'Alema and his party colleagues grew up politically within the PCI
apparatus, they must put some other considerations first. Thus, D'Alema's inaugural
speech to the parliament underscored the problem of disadvantaged young people. This
was not a simple appeal for more jobs, but a class-based appeal for equal opportunity. He
was putting his finger on a major problem in Italy, especially in the South: opportunity
based, not on merit, but on connections. In the 1960s, Italy made a university education
available to all. This, as it turned out, did not produce anything even close to equal
opportunity. The jobs for graduates still went, in large part, to those with connections.
Whatever the importance of liberalization to the new government, the cold fact is
that the political incentives to reform the Italian economy are very slight. The counter-pressures
(mainly patronage jobs in a system that has long lived by a system of
clientelismo) are very strong. It is only through indirect action (lower taxes, fewer
scandals, more rewards for merit among the young) that real forward progress can be
made dependant, of course, on the true personal convictions of Italys political leaders.
Romano Prodi and the opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi are clearly sincere liberalizers.22
The South is economically different in three respects, all of which pose great
problems for Europe and Italy. First, there is the very large public sector, already noted
above. A second factor is both the inability and, in some sectors, the unwillingness, to
adapt to pressures, from Rome and especially from outside Italy, for economic
liberalization. The failure to adapt, plus the reduced availability of labor migration to
mitigate the problem, is clearly an explosive combination. But the third factor, somewhat
alleviating the second, is the existence of a far vaster private sector than ever shows up in
the economic statistics. The size of the lavoro nero sector and the black market in the
South clearly exceeds that of any other EU region, a fact that can now be persuasively
demonstrated. According to Italstat, the most reliable source of national economic
statistics, "black" labor in the Mezzogiorno amounted to an even fifty percent of all "jobs"
by the end of 1998.
Six months later, Italstat raised its figure to 51 percent. The figure
for the North was bad enough 31.5 percent but more in line with other Mediterranean
For any projection toward 2007, however, it is the trend that must be
noted. Italstat found that the gap between North and South was growing continually
wider. Indeed, when actual laborers were counted (rather than jobs), the South's
percentage was double that of the North and Center.
These raw figures require a closer look, because one economist's analysis of
Calabria found low pay, high unemployment, and a very high level of consumer
Announced to the press on December 16, 1998 and carried on RAI-TV (TG-1).
Presented at CNEL and reported by AGA on June 4, 1999.23
In 1994, the government insurance agency placed the number of business
enterprises in Calabria at 23,758, while Istat, carrying out the 1996 census, found about
90,000 businesses in the same region. The economist Domenico Marino concluded, on
the basis of 4,000 interviews in Calabria, that 75 percent of the Calabrian work force
would refuse a fairly low-paying job, despite a very high official level of unemployment.
In Calabria, with its dire employment figures, 84 percent of the families own their own
What such anomalies must mean is that real income in Calabria is far higher than
what is "on the books." Many among the vast numbers of officially unemployed are, in
fact, partly or fully employed.
They are earning no social benefits, but they are earning
the daily lire that keep their families afloat.
The "black labor" sector extends from the serious underworld, through a grey
demi-monde, to work in which society has a genuine interest. Movement along this
spectrum starts with those who are directly employed by organized crime. Much is known
about this life from the parade of Mafia pentiti who decided to turn state's evidence,
supposedly because they repented. Surrounding the actual soldiers of a don are hordes of
young men who run errands, perform chores, know little, and probably aspire to be
genuine mafiosi themselves some day. Beyond organized crimes serious troops are a
number of minions performing labor-intensive lavoro nero. They are the young,
"ambulant" vendors who offer the most popular brands of American and French cigarettes
throughout, for example, the major cities of the South. These cigarettes have been
smuggled into Italy, avoiding heavy taxes, for this enterprising sales force.
AGA interview with Domenico Marino of the University of Messina, June 4, 1999.
Monica Diamanti, "Il Rapporto Cnel sul lavoro sommerso," AGA dispatch, June 4, 1999.
Or, in many cases, they are employed for a part of the year, in seasonal labor (especially in
agriculture), and then go on the unemployment roles for the rest of the year.24
In this same place on the spectrum are thousands of omini literally "little men"
throughout Rome and the South (with a good sprinkling in the North), who have no
official status. With the purchase of a small, billed cap, they become parking attendants.
Parking in central Rome or Naples demands a deal with the omini, who wave cars into
spots in "their" piazza, providing a parking spot that would not have been otherwise
found. Because of the omini, the car will be safe from vandals, and, although the parking
space is likely to be illegal, the traffic police (vigili urbani) will not issue a ticket since
they also deal with the omini.
Omini also lounge around all important government offices where a citizen pays a
bill or gets the necessary documents to build a vacation house or take a professional
examination. Some of these transactions require multiple stops at multiple agencies.
Citizens who value their time and sanity and want to be sure of success in the transaction,
would not think of standing in the long lines themselves. Rather, they will turn the most
precious personal documents over to one of the loitering omini who will sail through the
bureaucracy. What would have taken two months to come through will arrive in a week.
The omini will navigate a line that looks to be a four-hour marathon in a few minutes.
Moreover, all decisions will be favorable. Like the vigili urbani, the bureaucrats are
business partners of the omini. This is another excellent investment.
The Berlusconi and Prodi governments already showed signs that Italian political
leaders have now realized that this is not the style of the new Europe. Certain documents
that once needed a seal from a bureaucrat now only need the citizens signature. But this
grand category of black labor, the omini, is probably not yet seriously threatened.
Omino is a very general termed, not used everywhere. More exact, but pedestrian, is posteggiatore
abusivo (illicit car park attendant). In Sicily, a more precise and dignified term (than omini) is used:
spirugghia faccende. Translated into Italian, it becomes sbriga faccende and means, to put the best face
on it, "business expeditor."25
Naples may be the largest center of glove manufacture in the West. But there are
no glove factories in the Naples phone book, just large rooms, often in basements, filled
with black-clad women sewing gloves. In other such rooms are rows of women with
cardboard and wires, soldering circuitry. This is not some sinister toy company, but a sub-contractor
of a major multinational, existing entirely via "black" labor. And, of course, the
government bureaucrats who put in half a day at their official agency and half a day
running their own trattoria, or tobacco shop, or bar, are a major reason for the
excruciatingly slow and frustrating experience citizens would suffer if they did not rely on
omini. Equally numerous are those who keep applications for employment alive (and
always unsuccessful) at ministries, with the carabinieri, with the forest service, etc.,
thereby qualifying for the dole, while actually running their own business, or being
gainfully employed by a firm only too happy to avoid a big benefits package.
These scenes scarcely tell how widespread and how "respectable" some lavoro
nero is. Baby-sitters in resort areas give vacationers freedom to go spend money. In fact,
many of the services offered at vacation resorts are lavoro nero. School teachers
supplement their income by giving private lessons. Students facing important
examinations or having trouble in one subject or can simply afford an extra advantage, buy
private lessons from a working school teacher. These teachers might have been unable to
join or stay in the profession without this extra income. In 1995, 2,500 teachers graduated
in Italy. By the middle of 1998, only 900 of them had found any work whatsoever during
the three years after graduation.
Presumably, many are surviving through private
A very large part of the South's hidden labor is made up of entrepreneurs,
Government announcement carried on RAI-TV's TG1, August 18, 1998.26
sometimes also employing black labor, and existing themselves outside official
recognition, taxation, protection, control, or counting. A recent analysis concludes that
"there exists in several zones of the Mezzogiorno a whole fabric of small and very small
businesses that escape every census, but that work and make profits, share among
themselves a serious level of production, export to other regions [of Italy] and abroad."
A map of the Souths submerged economy shows a series of ink blots in every region,
"where work is done without any controls, safe from the tax collector but not safe from
accidents and injuries, usually in violation of a number of laws [governing commercial
outlets, working conditions, etc.], totally outside official cognizance."
Every year brings plans either to stamp out or to "regularize" the South's
submerged economy. But a professor of political economy at the University of Naples
warns to go slow: "if we observe these initiatives carefully the image of a Mezzogiorno
that is forever the panhandler does not seem to be confirmed. What confronts us is a
creeping vitality, almost a new frontier."
According to Professor Meldolesi, the
submerged economy is several times bigger than officially estimated. Those who have
taken issue with such a "finding" believe that the submerged economy is a blind alley,
perpetuating the poorest industries, surviving only by competing with poorer countries
whose workers are even poorer, countries with no effective laws on job safety or
The debate between those who laud southern vigor and the capacity to arrangiarsi
and those who are unconvinced that this submerged economy can provide any durable
Francesco Erbani, "Mezzogiorno storie dal sottosuolo," La Repubblica, March 12, 1998, p. 43.
Luca Meldolesi, Dalla parte del Sud (Bari: Laterza, 1998).
One economist suggests that the greatest area of competition with the submerged economy of the
Mezzogiorno comes from Romania.27
benefit for the South asks what would happen if this broad economy were brought into
contact with the light of official recognition. Some say that it would fade like the frescoes
in Fellini's Roma. But Meldolesi and other economists fear that, in the case of the more
successful businesses, the State must arrive soon, or the Camorra (or Mafia, or other
crime families) will succeed in controlling the entire sector.
In most cases, "black" workers suffer no risk from the State. Controls on black
labor are few and not enforced. Yet they live dangerously. They work sometimes doing
heavy and dangerous work with no social net, no pensions (other than the minimal social
security that everybody gets), no other welfare assistance, no protection at the work place,
and no control over labor conditions. The State is nowhere present in their lives, as either
law-enforcer or protector.
This massive sector skews all the statistics. It means that the GDP for the Italian
South (and for Italy as a whole) is far from accurate. And the unemployment figures do
not reflect reality. Italy's overall 12 percent unemployment is really much lower than that
in the North, since it is nearing 23 percent in the South.
Brussels is trying to get a
statistical handle on lavoro nero. Whether greater knowledge of its dimensions will lead
to some reforms is hard to guess. But the cruelest factor that any reformer would face is
the undoubtedly high level of dependence of families in the Mezzogiorno on this
clandestine labor, and the great hardship they would suffer without it. If any European
trend develops toward "regularizing" black labor, its most massive resistance will come
from the Italian South.
Labor mobility a central element in any discussion of economic liberalization in
Sergio Lucino, "Senza Stato il sommerso dilaga," La Repubblica, August 26, 1998.28
Italy applies especially to the North-South phenomenon. Under-employment is
prominent in many important economic sectors in the North as confirmed by the want ads
found in all northern newspapers. Meanwhile, unemployment in the South is the highest
of any major European region. A similar situation in the middle of this century triggered
the great migration that logic would suggest. After the rapidly expanding northern
industrial sector had met its first post-war needs by recruiting workers from its own
countryside, the great migration from south to north took place. (It was, in fact, just the
post-war version of the earlier generations' great migration to America: except for a tiny
minority, the Italian-American community is a community of [former] southern Italians.)
Yet, despite the northern lure and despite unemployment running at 22 percent for
young people in the South and much worse in many areas, northern migration had slowed
to a trickle. As observed in a 1998 SVIMEZ report, the "territorial labor mobility from
the South to the North...is rather modest and limited almost exclusively to young people
having the highest levels of education, of technical qualifications and of family income."
This suggests that technological change in the North is the reason why the northern
migration stopped: as work in the north became more demanding technologically,
southern education and technical training did not keep up, and southerners ceased to be
qualified for the jobs available in the marketplace.
Other factors are also at work, however. Many of the available jobs in the North
do not involve advanced technology or require strong education. Notable improvement in
the standard of living in the South has carried its citizens over the desperation threshold,
leaving even young southerners reluctant to leave. Tens of thousands of them could find
work in the north, especially in Lombardy and the Veneto, but instead they appear
determined, against the odds, to find employment where they are. Leaving the South for a
SVIMEZ, Rapporto 1998 sull'Economia del Mezzogiorno (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1998), p. 18-19.29
little shared room in Treviso or Sesto San Giovanni would be to abandon important
comforts such as the family car or the nearby, affordable disco. Dan Spikes, a careful
observer of the Mezzogiorno, reports that over three years in Naples he did not find a
single person, outside the professional classes, who would agree to live anywhere else.
Potential émigrés, including some who have already tested the water in the north, are
convinced they would confront strong anti-southern prejudices.
This remarkable defiance of the normal laws of economic mobility is now showing
signs of weakening, however. It is too early to speak of a new trend, but 1998 saw, once
again, an army of Southerners some 88,000 packing their bags to look for work in the
Showing the extent to which this apparent wave is a product of the gulf between
North and South in Italy, seventy percent of the émigrés are heading for northern Italy.
As one would expect, the places of highest unemployment are those of highest emigration.
It is the first swing in this direction in thirty years.
But before this is seen as the end of the stay-at-home era, its size and its local
character must be noted: there is no movement from Abruzzo and almost none from Sicily
as a whole or from Puglia. Between 1952 and 1974, an average of 240,000 people a year
headed north for work, almost three times the 1998 bulge. The new émigrés are younger
than those who made up the big wave: sixty percent of the 1998 total were between
twenty and thirty years old.
Despite its limited character, the 1998 emigration affects the Southern population
more profoundly than would have been the case in the past because of the steep decline in
Spikes, now running the Fulbright program for Europe, spent the last three years as chief of the USIS
operation in Naples, and had much previous experience in Italy. Spikes agrees that this is a new
phenomenon among southern young people.
"Nel Sud si torna a emigrare," Il Giornale, June 2, 1999, p. 20.30
birth rates. Thus, for the first time in 30 years, the population of the Mezzogiorno
declined slightly in 1998. The 1998 wave was probably driven both by very high
unemployment and by declining salaries (and a widening gap vis-a-vis the North). Salaries
in the Mezzogiorno, which stood at 59.9 percent of the Northern average, plunged that
year to 54.8 percent.
Even with the strength of the black labor sector, unemployment is the real culprit,
rising from 22.2 percent in 1997 to 22.8 percent in 1998 with the number of unemployed
rising in twenty of the South's 36 major cities.
When Italian cities are ranked according
to their level of unemployment, the worst thirty are all southern. The "champion" city is
Enna, right in the middle of Sicily, with 35.3 percent unemployment (while some cities in
the North are below three percent). In Naples, the biggest city in the South, the
unemployment rate actually fell, but the total number of unemployed people (311,200) is
still more than the entire northeast of the country.
Nevertheless, the July 1999 SVIMEZ report provides confirmation of the stay-at-home
phenomenon and its reasons, rather than any confirmation of a broad return to
emigration from the South. SVIMEZ's findings indicating widespread southern refusal to
take jobs in the North led journalists to try to find some of those jobs, and some of those
recalcitrant Southerners. They had no trouble finding northern businesses aggressively
(even desperately) seeking employees and failing to fill their job slots.
pasta-maker Barilla, seeking forty employees under age 32, could find few takers in the
South. A leading national food-distribution company, Ticket Restaurant, had the same
failure. For two months it sought fifty new employees under thirty years old and failed to
"Al Sud disoccupazione cronica," La Repubblica, July 16, 1999, p. 29.31
find them in the South.
The news service ANSA followed up on the SVIMEZ report by finding some of
the southerners who had refused good opportunities in the North.
A big transport firm
(Vaccari) near Padua contacted 150 unemployed truck drivers in Palermo and Catania
offering safe and permanent positions with salaries comparable to those of low-level
managers (about $24,000 a year) and with company housing offered for minimal rent
($160-180 a month). These were not bad and dangerous jobs that only immigrants take: it
was all day-time work within the province (no long-distance hauls).
The offer was so
good that it received a lot of attention right at the moment of jobless protests throughout
the South. Although the 150 drivers contacted had registered with the state employment
agency and although all had the necessary qualifications, all declined the job offer.
ANSA interviewed an unemployed Sicilian driver, a family man who felt that even with the
excellent salary his wife might have to work because of his belief that living in the North
would be so expensive. Another unemployed driver from near Palermo said that his
daughter was too attached to her grandmother for him to consider the move. Others
mentioned the bad weather in the North, but a little probing by the interviewer revealed
that most of the men were probably making an economic calculation. Their "occasional
work" in Sicily and Catania, compared with the expenses and taxes of the northern job, led
them to decide to stay in the South. Presumably, taxes were not a factor when they
Actually, the firm had two acceptances from Naples, but one of these quit after a few days. These
latter were not blue-collar jobs. They were in sales, with expense accounts and guaranteed salary plus
incentives. AGA dispatch, July 16, 1999.
"Rifiuta lavoro al Nord, '4 milioni non bastano, la vita è cara,'" ANSA dispatch of July 16, 1999.
Details of the jobs in Alessandra Carini, "Meglio senza lavoro che autista al Nord," La Repubblica,
July 16, p. 29.
The firm admitted that, toward the end, it was so discouraged by the results that it skimmed the last
few rather than making a serious effort to get them on board.32
worked in the South. This calculation reinforces the impression that life is much better in
the South than it was in the years of great emigration. One driver said "I make less
money, but at least I can keep on living in my homeland."
Political and Financial Trends
Economic and social trends in the Mezzogiorno have a greater importance today
because its citizens are likely to stay there. Any improvement of their condition will come
through improvement in the South itself, not through simply getting out. The political
meaning of the fact that Southerners are no longer migrating en masse is that the great
safety valve preventing southern discontent from causing much serious political trouble is
now clogged. One result is the success of local politicians who offer hope for change,
sometimes a demagogic false hope. That is not the way politics worked in the South up to
now, but it will become a more important phenomenon during the next ten years, and it
may cause trouble for Rome and Brussels.
Especially dreaded in the South is any serious effort to follow the line of Jacques
Delors and many European socialists to bring national legislation affecting employment
conditions into line throughout Europe. Seen as an effort by the richer countries (and
northern Italians) to neutralize the South's competitive advantage, many southerners and
northern liberals believe that the resultant drying up of southern employment would cause
exactly the type of migration the measures were partly designed to prevent.
Salary disparity is certainly necessary to offset a crucial investment disincentive in
the Mezzogiorno. Sicilian entrepreneurs estimate that, other factors being equal, the rate
"Rifiuta lavoro al Nord, '4 milioni non bastano, la vita è cara.'"
See, for example, Piero Ostellino, "La Scelta necessaria," Corriere della Sera, July 30, 1998, pp. 1-2.33
for a business loan in Sicily will be five-to-six points above the national average.
higher cost of money in the Mezzogiorno is caused partly by the chaotic and outmoded
structure of southern banks, and partly by what northern banks insist is a lack of rational
management. The rates are, of course, affected by the apparently much greater risk in the
South. Relative to the 1970s, the risk of bad loans doubled in the 1980s and tripled in the
1990s. In 1993, the Center and North of Italy had a bad loan risk rate of 6.9 percent
compared with 15.9 percent in the South. By 1995, the rates were 7.2 percent in the
North and 22.7 percent in the South, and they had climbed to 25.3 percent in 1996, while
the northern rate declined to 6.9 percent. In Sicily, where "non-economic factors" may be
strongest, the risk of bad loans was 36.9 percent. Although it cannot be demonstrated, it
seems likely that a large number of the loans that were made were based on connections,
friendship, and pressure rather than rational business calculations.
At the same time, small- and medium-sized businesses in the Mezzogiorno have
great difficulty in obtaining loans at decent rates. A recent study showed, however, that,
more than in the North, many of these enterprises do not really merit much investment of
confidence, for they "combine the elements of production in an inefficient way, they target
only a closed little local market, they have low technology of a non-innovative character,
with little push to exports."
The study finds many of the bank-client relationships to be
"inappropriate," with the bank having connections to local businesses that make them
partners (if not family members) rather than participants in a normal bank loan. It also
found a much higher percentage of loans going not to support the first steps into new
markets, but instead to prolong the life of non-viable enterprises "that can already be
defined as outside the market."
Albegiani, op. cit., p. 1.
Salvatore Butera, Il Mezzogiorno tra passato e futuro (Brescia: Queriniana, 1998), pp. 81-83.34
Change in Business Organization and Practice
Italy is not a place to which most people look for break-through innovations in
business practice. Italys conventional stereotype of Italian business evokes family
businesses in their most traditional family-grocer form, and massive businesses that are
creatures of the state and lack the incentive for innovation because they lack true
responsibility before stockholders. Yet, Italian design and technical innovation was as
much a part of the post-war "economic miracle" as were auto companies that benefited
from protectionism. In todays Italy, the "family business" has also come to mean
Most innovative and interesting, and most important as possible bellwethers, are
some of the Italian "industrial districts." Especially in Tuscany and the Veneto, relatively
small industries that are related to each other in the manufacturing process have gathered
around mid-sized towns in some of the most effective symbiotic relationships found
anywhere in European industry. So, for example, Pistoia, on the Arno plain west of
Florence, has grabbed an important niche of the textile industry, including the conversion
of rags into blankets and fabrics for high fashion. In these districts, many of the individual
entrepreneurs are related by family, or at least long association, to the others. The owner
of a textile factory, needing both an assured and economical source of dyes, and a good
business opportunity for his son, will set his son up in business, nearby, making the dyes
the textile factory needs. The dyes may also be marketed elsewhere, but the dye works
have a clear number one customer. Both businesses can count on each other to retain the
profitability of the entire process, and the heavy transportation costs paid elsewhere to
move materials that are part of the manufacturing process are drastically cut. The barrels
of dye are moved across the street on hand-carts. Meanwhile, the advertising agency
creating campaigns for the textiles may have only one client, may be located just down the
block, and may have a CEO with the same family name.35
The success many of the Italian industrial districts have enjoyed at keeping labor
unions out and, thereby, obtaining the labor flexibility they need is remarkable. Workers in
the Pistoia plants have no contracts, and no assured number of hours per week. They stay
home during business slow-downs, and they work long hours whenever necessary. This
miraculous docility appears to come from the provision, by the companies, of excellent
wages for the time actually worked, and many benefits that are better than those
elsewhere. A good clinic and hospital available to the workers are frequent features of the
districts, something none of the individual companies could afford to provide.
The success of these industrial districts has pulled many of the companies out of
the flow of business change. They are not searching for alliances; they are, on a modest
level, creating them. And they are staying away from alliances with enterprises that are
unrelated to their own manufacturing and marketing processes. The hierarchies of these
businesses are relatively rigid and, in many cases, employees have, in exchange for
significant material benefits, taken a step back in their role with the companies.
In the South one has, both ideally and normally, some "special" relationship,
preferably family, not just with suppliers and clients (and, as noted above, bankers), but
also with local government officials who are important to business. Further, there are
relationships with the competition. So contracts are frequently not won or lost, but
cooperative solutions are found in which there are no real losers. It would be a stretch to
see this as some home-spun version of modern monopoly capitalism. Clearly, then, in
much of the Mezzogiorno, true business competition is no more appreciated than true
Will enhanced European competition force these enterprises to change their ways?
The number of businesses in the South, excluding Puglia, intending to compete on
anything but a local level is very limited. What does happen, then, to the owner of a half-36
dozen local groceries in Palermo when a European super market chain comes in? The
dramatic answer would be that the chain had better hire good security forces. But the true
answer is that the chain, too, will find it to its advantage to strike some sort of bargain
assuring, for example, that on some product lines the local stores will not be undersold
and thus assure there will be no serious losers.
Over the last fifteen years, a number of analysts have reached a point of despair
about southern industry and have suggested that the Italian Mezzogiorno might skip over
the phase of industrialization and go directly to an (undefined) service-sector role. Others
have felt that hope lies in joint ventures between small- and medium-sized firms in the
North and South. Such ideas, often rendered without much conviction, seem to ignore
both the success stories that do exist in the area of home-grown industry and the more
broadly attractive alternative of waiting until the government does something.
The Souths Finances
The regional governments of the South face truly intimidating challenges over the
next eight years, which means, in some measure, that Europe faces this problem too. The
best available figures are for Sicily. Essentially, they show that the region is bankrupt but
keeps spending. With no money in the regional treasury, officials still travel, commission
fancy studies, and support moribund agencies, all out of Palermo's splendid Palazzo
d'Orleans, a symbol of the profligacy of Sicily's rulers. The ninety members of the regional
assembly earn the same salary as senators in Rome. A staff of 200 keeps the assembly
going, with parliamentary ushers earning over $40,000 a year. The deficit is so great that
a feverish search for new loans has sent regional officials to Switzerland and the United
States. As described by an official of the regional presidency, "The region has now arrived
at the point of no return Nobody is facing the need for reform and, instead, one spends:
This is the pattern already established with the arrival of La Standa and other big Italian chains.37
startling spending, discretional spending, client-based spending, not based on any program
criterion. And all this is happening when there's not a lira left in the treasury."
In the last few months, as the bankruptcy became apparent to all, the region spent
large amounts of new money for "propaganda about regional autonomy," for a vague
program to publish "on subjects regarding the region", for the repair of windmills, for the
restoration of church organs, to support Byzantine and neo-Hellenic study centers, and for
the re-structuring of the debt for the Sicilian institute for World War I wounded. These
are new expenses. Each political party has a study center, supported by the region.
Recently, the region paid to acquire a large shipment of books of poetry exalting oral sex
written by a regional ex-parliamentarian. The region supports festivals, dedicated to the
anchovy or the artichoke, in every town of any size. But things are getting better. The
regional government just cut off financing for a youth cooperative some of whose
members had passed the age of seventy.
The current crisis is one of liquidity. Monthly salaries to regional employees are at
risk: the region maintains 16,500 officials, another 12,113 pensioned officials plus 32,000
temporary hires (with a tendency to become permanent), 50,000 foresters and gardeners,
800 file clerks, 3,000 non-teachers working for the schools, and 5,000 inspectors who
assess fines for illicit construction projects. An important continuing budget item is
hospital construction. Sicily currently has 39 hospitals whose construction is not finished
to the point where they can begin to be used. The Green Party just completed a study of
hospitals in the South to see what percentage were even close to being within the law for
basic security. The percentage was zero.
Attilio Bolzoni, "Sicilia, la Regione fa crac," La Repubblica, November 4, 1998.38
This is not a chronic situation. Spending guided by clientelismo rather than
rational planning is, of course, very old. What is new is bankruptcy and Romes failure to
provide as lavishly as it once did (the result of Prodis policies as well as those of his three
predecessors). The reaction to this slide toward the cliff's edge has been to keep spending
in the belief of an eventual bail out from either Rome or from Brussels.
The noble families of the South can be tagged as initially responsible for the
growth of organized crime in the Mezzogiorno. They had long used criminal bands to
keep order, protect their property, and defy and sabotage those from Bourbon kings to
Garibaldini who sought to rule them. Unification brought no improvement since it
meant a weak, distant state.
Organized crime, as measured by the Interior Ministry, rose in 1997 relative to the
previous year, motivated mostly by a sharp increase in Campania, especially Naples.
Crime levels for the rest of the rest of the South remained constant with 1996 figures.
According to the Ministry, there were 20,151 full-time mafiosi by the end of 1997, with
4,271 serious crimes for every 100,000 Italians.
The capture and conviction rate
remained very low, with an estimated one-in-six chance that perpatrators of a crime will be
identified by name, let alone arrested. In Sardinia, several major kidnappings since 1997 in
which hostages were kept in the area of the kidnapping for several months have publicly
frustrated the law enforcement agencies. To recover the victims, it was necessary to
violate the law supposed to sequester the assets of the victims' families in order to prevent
ransom payments. Yet the per capita number of law enforcement officers including the
State police, the Carabinieri, and the Guardia di Finanza is one of the highest in
Europe (one per 219 inhabitants). They are not equally dispersed however: on a per
SVIMEZ, Rapporto 1998 sull'economia del Mezzogiorno (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1998), p. 627.39
capita basis, twice as many are stationed in Rome and Naples as in Milan and Turin.
In 1986, the Italian government estimated that profits from organized crime
amounted to 12.5 percent of Italy's gross national product.
One business association
estimated that criminal activity in Italy accounted for about 130,000,000,000,000 lire
(more than eighty billion dollars) of business in 1997.
The study cited breaks this down
by organization and, surprisingly, shows Cosa Nostra (Sicily) running a close third behind
the Camorra (Naples) and Ndrangheta (Calabria). It is difficult to have full confidence in
these estimates. In 1998, Luciano Violante, former chairman of the Senate's Anti-Mafia
Commission and now President of the Chamber of Deputies, attempted a "quantification"
of the criminal economy and its cost to the country.
While these estimates may be
questioned, most reports agree that the Sicilian Mafia has got the European spirit and is
reaching out to the continent. Indeed, the capture of some of the most important Mafia
dons and secrets revealed by some of the pentiti confirm some re-structuring in the
Recently, the EU has been trying to get a statistical grip on the economics of
organized crime. Beginning in 2000, the EU will begin recording criminal activity as a
"legitimate" part of a country's GNP, including separate statistics on profits from drug
trafficking and prostitution and using the same methodology for estimates used in other
economic sectors. Ironically, this is good news for Italy. With the South thus making a
major contribution to Italian economic achievements, a significant rise in GNP is to be
expected in 2000, permitting a larger deficit without exceeding levels agreed on at
Di Scala, op. cit., p. 319.
Quando il crimine entra mel mercato, Rapporto 1997-97 (Rome: Confcommercio, 1997), p. 16.
Luciano Violante, ed., I soldi della mafia: Rapporto '98 (Bari: Laterza, 1998), and Mario Centorrino,
"Il giro d'affari delle organizzazioni criminali," in Violante, p. 7.40
Maastricht. Thus, a truly strong criminal sector will be able to contribute to a picture of
stability and discipline.
But will the South be able to hold up its end and maintain a healthy criminal
sector? The maxi-trials of mafiosi in the 1980s and 1990s were real. The recent arrests of
Toto Riina and other important dons are also real, and important. The stool-pigeon
pentiti delivered huge amounts of partly reliable information to southern magistrates. The
assassinations of General Dalla Chiesa and the magistrates Falcone and Borsellino can be
seen as indications that the families were feeling serious heat. Naples Mayor Bassolino
booted some of the henchmen of the Gava family, the archetypal political bosses, out of
the Neapolitan bureaucracy. Items of "good news" such as these were also announced
proudly by the Mussolini regime, which claimed to have finally eliminated the Mafia. But
allied forces were barely into western Sicily in 1943 before it was clear that they would
have to cut deals with a structure of organized crime that was alive and well, if
Despite such arrests and related events, however, the Mafia can still maintain a
remarkable consensus. Some of the extraordinary stories demonstrating Cosa Nostra's
authority would not be otherwise credible. As publicly diagnosed by Elda Pucci, a
physician who became mayor of Palermo in the early 1980s: "We are sick; our sickness is
mafiosità." Mafiosità is shared by a large part of the people of Sicily. It is not the simple
consensus of consent or respect; it is similarity. (Pucci was attacked and destroyed
politically within six months.) An example of the factors that produce this consensus
comes from Palermo, where Mafia families control almost all construction work, including
all public contracts. A few years ago, when a combination of anti-Mafia laws started
blocking public contracts that could not clear the law's hurdles, everything stopped. There
was no work anywhere in the building trades, except for a few tiny private projects. Even
jobs in public utilities started to dry up. Huge street demonstrations followed with signs41
reading: "If this is what it means to fight the Mafia, we prefer the Mafia. Viva la Mafia!"
These were not ordinary Mafia sympathizers: a large part of these workers were
Communists and carried red flags in the demonstration.
Organized crime in the Italian Mezzogiorno is more than a security problem and a
cause of limited social blight, or a twist put on the question of tribalism. It profoundly
influences the entire authority structure of Southern society, and is such an important
economic factor that any projection omitting estimates of its impact will be flawed. A
massive study by the Centro Studi Investimenti Sociali (CENSIS) failed to find direct
causality between economic underdevelopment and criminality.
It found, for example,
that Basilicata and Sardinia, with a low level of organized crime activity, had development
profiles that were about the same as those of Sicily, Campania (Naples), and Calabria.
Interestingly, they found a high level of criminal activity in the one truly prosperous region
of the South, Puglia. (The Sacra corona unita of Puglia is increasingly recognized as the
equal of the Camorra and the 'Ndrangheta, with some family links with both of them.)
The study, notable for its breadth and seriousness, arrived at two more limited
conclusions: first, wherever organized crime is widespread, it is always associated with a
low level of development and, vice versa; second, there is no economic and social growth
in the presence of high levels of organized criminality.
The study found that the areas of
the South currently showing the highest economic growth are those that have historically
escaped the grip of the Mafia (or the others). This is true for whole regions, such as the
CENSIS, Cultura dello sviluppo e cultura della legalità: Programma integrato per il mezzogiorno
(Rome: Gangemi, 1997), p. 22.
It may seem surprising to find Sardinia in this category, given its reputation for banditry. But
L'anonima sequestri, the system of kidnapping-for-ransom to which the island's rough hills are so well
suited, is not put, by Italian authorities, in the "organized crime" category with the Mafia and Camorra.
The Sardinian criminal bands are generally not connected among themselves, and are not well organized,
but merely very effective in their business specialty, kidnapping.
CENSIS, op. cit., p. 23.42
Abruzzo, or for provinces within crime-ridden regions, such as Avellino in Campania,
where the Camorra has found it difficult to penetrate.
Organized crime may be a result of economic growth that fails to bring about true
socioeconomic development. The cases invoked for this hypothesis include, most
strikingly, the period after the 1980 earthquake in Campania. As disaster-relief funds
flowed in, the Camorra rapidly organized a large-scale operation to divert this wealth.
Later analyses showed that few funds ever reached their intended destination and, where
they did arrive, were not part of any serious development strategy. Whole towns still live
in tents and containers.
The vicious circle is easy to draw: criminality slows or stops development of the
society, which in turn becomes increasingly vulnerable to the attack of organized crime.
So organized crime, according to the CENSIS study (which, on this score, parallels other
studies and much southern literature), is not the direct cause of under-development but is
one of the factors that inhibits economic and social growth in a limited geographic area.
Mafia-like organizations, the CENSIS study emphasizes, "discourage productive
investments on the part of private capital, contributing to the maintaining of a negative
image on the national and international level; constitute an incentive for the flight of
qualified human resources; cause the exportation of the profits of illicit activity, through
money laundering and investments in other zones; provoke a non-rational allocation of
resources, substituting their own interests for the logic of the marketplace; and feed a
growth of the illegal and submerged economy."
A similarly-catastrophic 1976 earthquake in Friuli, in the far north-east corner of Italy, provides
contrast. A strong flow of disaster-relief funds was not only actually used to rebuild Gemona and other
towns, but became determinant in the economic development of the area, which has enjoyed
extraordinary progress since then.
CENSIS, op. cit., p. 23. Italics in the original.43
During the last two decades, two magistrates have become national heroes
(Falcone, Borsellino), three lawmen have become celebrated martyrs (Falcone, Borsellino,
General Dalla Chiesa), and some local magistrates, such as young Massimo Russo, have
pulled off massive trials leading to convictions that have profoundly disturbed the Cosa
Nostra power structure. But the state has a crucial role to play beyond sending
magistrates into battle. Russo uses a medical metaphor: "We magistrates are like surgeons
who open up the patient, cut out the disease, but then must leave it to others to put the
patient back on his feet: that's why we are 'dangerous', because we can be devastating, we
smash up this society... If, alongside our work, a strong action of the State doesn't
intervene, rebuilding and re-educating at the same time, the patient dies or rebels against
The record, on this score, is so poor that, at some point, the question of
what Europe intends to do about it will certainly be posed.
Government Policy on Organized Crime
Since Spadolini and Craxi broke the grip of the Christian Democrats on the Italian
prime ministers office, there has been a rainbow of governments in Rome. None of them
has altered the prevailing southern disillusion with, and pessimism about, the Italian
government. It is this pessimism that nourishes the extraordinary success of organized
crime, especially in Sicily, in providing an alternative. Because people do not perceive an
alternative, they rely on the Mafias feudal order. Over time, however, the perception of
the Mafia has changed. A couple of generations ago, the Mafia was seen as offering
protection in situations where the State did not offer protection. Today, it is almost
entirely about fear of the Mafiosi themselves.
Vaccara, op. cit., p. 9.44
The D'Alema government has not inspired any great hopes in this area, even
though some political figures among the Communists and post-Communists have been
considerably more serious about stemming the blight of organized crime than most of their
colleagues to the right. Without challenging the sincerity of the efforts of many in the
other parties, it is fair to say that there was a significant difference between the anti-organized-
crime record of the Italian Communist Party and the others. Much of the real
post-war opposition to the crime families in the South came from the PCI. In Sicily, the
landmark date is May 1, 1947, when the citizens of three villages near Palermo gathered at
an open plain called Portella delle Ginestre to celebrate Labor Day and the strong gains
made, ten days earlier, in regional elections by a Leftist bloc of Socialists, Communists,
and the Action Party. A large band of mafiosi and bandits hired for the occasion opened
fire on the families seated amid the red flags. This massacre was the beginning of a
running battle in which the Communists continually tried to organize workers and peasants
against the Mafia and were usually out-gunned in politics and local influence.
Part of this Communist role is circumstance. Since the PCI never took power,
nationally or at any significant location in the South, deals were never cut and there was
no reason for the crime families to labor to infiltrate it.
The PCI tried to fight by using ideas. Organized crime, uninterested in ideas,
fought with power. There was an important exception to this. In the spring of 1982, the
Mafia murdered the head of the PCI in Sicily, Pio La Torre, who had campaigned to
strengthen the laws against organized crime. His assassination led to the "La Torre Law"
which permits investigation of the bank accounts of mafiosi and the seizing of their assets,
and makes it a crime to belong to a criminal band. But La Torre, who said "we don't fight
with slogans," was a short-lived exception to the normally unequal terms of struggle.45
There may be a hero (or heroine) in the ranks of the DAlema government, but the
next few governments will probably come and go before there is a genuinely fresh
approach and devotion of political and material resources to the fight against Southern
crime. It would need, among other things, the absence of other crisis-proportion issues in
which the government must invest its energy and focus. That is unlikely to happen before
2007. Indeed, most would agree that the current effort by magistrates in Palermo, Naples,
Reggio Calabria, Catania, Bari and elsewhere, if it were to continue at the same rate of
success (and there is some to report), will not add up to a significant decline of the crime
families by 2007.
If all the Mezzogiorno needs for better economic performance is investment, then
crime is a central issue. Any business there, new or old, needs security against criminality.
To spur investment in the 1990s, the Italian parliament passed Law 44 giving considerable
tax advantages and other benefits to small, southern businesses. The businesses covered
by the law must be relatively small and independent of large chains, be based entirely in
the South (although they may market anywhere), be run by southern entrepreneurs who
have not run a business before, and they must fill some identifiable niche in the market. A
few dozen enterprises have availed themselves of this opportunity. While these efforts are
not enough to have a serious impact on the South's economy, comments made by several
of the entrepreneurs are telling. Although not asked directly about security against crime,
about half of those interviewed used the occasion to emphasize that they would refuse to
pay protection money if asked. Rather than pay, or resist, or go to the authorities, these
entrepreneurs would simply close their doors. Clearly, this was an issue which these
young businessmen and businesswomen viewed as explicitly pivotal to the future of their
companies, and the intended audience for these statements was the crime families
Impedocle Maffia, Giovani del Sud (Rome: Laterza, 1995).46
All too often in the past, an entrepreneur who refuses to pay but tries to stay in
business, has usually either died or watched his business die. The best known case is that
of Libero Grassi, who ran a tiny pajama factory in Palermo. In 1991, Grassi was invited to
pay the usual pizzo, or protection money, to the Mafia. Instead, he refused, and went to
the police and denounced, by name, the mafiosi who had demanded money from him. He
attended an anti-Mafia meeting in Palermo at which only five other people showed up.
Grassi then took the even more unusual step of appearing on one of Italy's most popular
television talk shows, where he was featured as a businessman who was not afraid. Soon
after the people Grassi had named were arrested, he was shot and killed in the street in
front of his house. In the North, Grassi was hailed as a hero, but in the South he was
The pizzo has finally met Europe. In some sectors of Sicily, protection money is
usually paid in response to a formal billing process, complete with the value added tax and
proper fiscal receipts.
The extortion rate, according to the SVIMEZ study cited earlier,
has the geographic break down one expects. The populous and prosperous areas of
Grassi's death led to the passing of the "Grassi Law" in Rome a short time later. It provided funds to
come to the aid of businesses that had suffered damage because they had refused to pay a pizzo to
organized crime. But with the help of southern parliamentarians, the law carried a few loop-holes which
were later exposed. Thus, the owner of a small construction firm in Foggia was refused any
compensation because he had once paid some protection money and then said no. The State ignored
him, but others did not, and he was murdered. Another loop-hole was that no compensation was
provided for damage that was not physical. So a Sicilian tire-repairman who refused to pay simply lost
his business because, after it became known that he had balked, nobody would bring their tires to him,
carrying them to a nearby town instead. He went broke and moved out of town, and the Grassi Law was
no help. The law provides compensation for the loss of windows and grills, but not for the loss of life.
The victims of this loop-hole were the family of Libero Grassi. Eight years after the murder, in February
1999, they were refused any compensation because the Mafia had not damaged the premises, only killed
the entrepreneur. Stella, Gian Antonio, "L'imprenditore ucciso nel '91, no dello Stato," Corriere della
Sera, February 25, 1999.
"Mafia estorsioni: 'Pizzo' con fattura ed iva a Palermo," ANSA dispatch, June 30, 1999.47
Lombardy and Veneto had 241 and 99, respectively, of the extortion cases reported in
1996. Campania and Sicilia reported 515 and 579 cases that year. When one factors in
the much lower likelihood that an incidence of extortion will be reported in the South, the
gap widens. In 1996, the number of assaults in the Center and North of Italy was down
8.8 percent from 1995. For the Mezzogiorno, the 952 cases represented an increase of 3.5
THE GOVERNMENTS POTENTIAL TO ALTER CURRENT TRENDS
Recent Reform Efforts
In the West, local, regional, national, or European governments are expected to
alter trends, stimulate what is considered to be good, and force detours around what is
considered worrisome. Serious, managed reform and long-term improvements in citizens
lives require governmental capacity to pursue programs over a prolonged stretch of time.
This requires the clear assigning of responsibility, with the means for citizens to reward or
punish, according to their view of the results. This has been difficult in the Italian
Republic because of the extreme brevity of governments. Although many of the same
faces kept cropping up after each ministerial reshuffling, ministers knew, throughout most
of the last fifty years, that they were just paying a quick visit to their ministry. Because
usually unable to carry out even mid-term programs, the most prudent ministers did not
even risk an attempt.
An impressive number of Italian political leaders have spent at least eight years
trying to move Italy from proportional representation to a majoritarian system in the
election of the parliament. This would permit majority parties to stay in office for a
For the latest figures from the Interior Ministry see SVIMEZ, p. 629. Judith Chubbs study, The
Mafia and Politics: The Italian State Under Siege, was not used because her figures are now more than
a decade old.48
serious stretch of time. Citizens would see their votes translated directly into leadership,
instead of a merely slight shifting of the balance in never-ending coalition negotiations. A
first reform in the early 1990s appeared to do part of the job. Both houses are now
elected by first-past-the-post competition, except for 25 percent of the seats, assigned
according to a proportional representation formula that compensates a party that finished
first nowhere but still garnered a certain share of the overall votes. The reform was not
useless: it created a more direct relationship between geographic sectors and some of
those representing them. But the 25-percent exception has proved fatal to hopes of
reducing the number of parties in parliament (there are more now than before the reform)
or of making coalitions simpler or even unnecessary (post-reform governments have
involved more partners than did pre-reform governments).
The referendum of April 19, 1999 was seen as crucial to the future of stable and
effective governance in Italy, crucial to the country's successful operation in the European
context. Amazingly, such a profound change was not very controversial. The campaign
mounted in behalf of a "No" vote was flaccid and dispirited. In fact, more than 90 percent
of those voting said "Yes" to the proposed change. But the voter turn out in the
Mezzogiorno was so low, under forty percent in many places, that the referendum fell
short of the required quorum (fifty percent of registered voters).
The wishes of the
overwhelming majority of northern Italians were, one more time, frustrated by their fellow
citizens to the South. Despite the tones of shock in the media, the result did not surprise
those who knew the Mezzogiorno. It was in tune with the typical southern attitude: the
reform seemed to many Southerners as just one more big idea from the North being
imposed on (not coming from) the Mezzogiorno.
Because of the odd way in which the law is written, a few thousand more "no" votes would have
allowed the referendum to pass. The law requires only that 51 percent of registered voters take part in
the referendum and that half of those voters cast "yes" ballots.49
When an election involves real men, with faces known to the voter, with the clear
capacity to do favors for, or harm to, the voter, the southern voter troops to the polling
station and does the necessary to protect his/her clear interests. These are not votes for
ideas (such as party platforms) but for flesh-and-blood friends and foes. When the vote is
for a mere idea, or even for a candidate who seems irrelevant to the voter's direct, earthy
interests, such as a candidate for the European parliament, then there are better things to
do with one's time. All politics is local politics and the rest is just roba del Nord, northern
Italys Judicial System
This issue of Italy's governability in the European context raises the question of
justice. As Spencer Di Scala wrote in late 1998, "Can the European Union permit the
existence of a brand of justice that is an anomaly and that is a liberty-killer? Italian justice,
and not its economy, will be the burning question for the EU..."
Di Scala is most
probably correct in this judgement but, while he worries about Italian justice increasingly
becoming an anomaly in the EU, there are strong indications that Italian justice may cause
an equal amount of heartburn as an inspiration for imitation. Clearly-politicized French
magistrates have cited the Mani pulite pool as their inspiration, and comparable situations
are already arising in Spain and Greece.
The Milan magistrates continue to condition the life and political environment of
Italian governments. They had a hammerlock on Romano Prodi, who was the head of IRI
during an era of a large flow of funds from that organization to political parties. The
authors of The Italian Guillotine spoke of the Enimont scandal as "the mother of all
bribes", because the full IRI story had not yet broken, and still has not. But the D'Alema
government is no more free of potential threat from the magistrates than was Prodi: the
Spencer M. Di Scala, "La Ghigliottina italiana: Lettera dall'America," Voltaire internet magazine,
October 20, 1998.50
Milan magistrates' files are full of the details of the illicit financing of the Italian
Communist Party, and its successor Democratic Party of the Left (now Democrats of the
Left). Revelations that emerged from Vladimir Bukovskys examination of Kremlin files
confirm Soviet financing of the Italian communists up to 1989, but also indicate a link
between the partys fear of a political scandal on the subject and the triggering of the Mani
pulite campaign by left-wing Milan magistrates.
There are three separate, but related, problems of justice. One is the threat to
normal politics by an aggressive magistracy sweeping over the barriers of the separation of
powers. The second is the specific threat to political leaders, including those currently
governing (as noted, Berlusconi, Prodi and D'Alema seemed vulnerable). The third is the
system of justice itself, which demonstrates an extreme case of several illnesses: (1)
slowness to the point of disfunction, (2) a serious tilt in favor of the prosecution, (3) use
of preventive detention to force citizens to talk, and (4) use of friendly media both to ruin
opponents and to influence political decisions, especially institutional reforms that would
mitigate these and other ills.
On November 11, 1998, the Constitutional Court gutted the most important
reform attempt in recent memory, a procedural code that requires the presence in the
court room and availability for cross-examination of those whose statements and
accusations are used to convict.51
hat should Europe worry about now that it is truly in bed with Italy? When
the Prodi government fell, Corriere della Sera reported that "for the first
time the pathological instability of Italian politics is not only a 'national
anomaly,' to be observed with amused clinical detachment. Italy is in the euro. And the
political convulsions in Rome therefore become a common cross that risks becoming a
burden on everybody's shoulders."
But political instability will not be the chief concern
about Italy in the years leading to 2007. Every current tendency in Italian politics is
toward the Center, as it was in the First Republic. Trasformismo, in which one becomes
increasingly similar, politically, to one's opponent (making it easier to slide in and out of
alliances and coalitions), was strongly at work in the forming of the majority for the
D'Alema government. Achieving the majority required that at least a dozen
parliamentarians "cross over" from the zone they inhabited at the time of the 1996
elections, the zone their electors understood them to inhabit, to the area that was, in 1996,
the opposition. In politics, as in business competition for contracts, the tendency is to find
a formula by which there are few real losers. That humane tendency to cooperate, strike
deals, and share is the ultimate guarantee against dangerous instability.
In the political arena, Europe's greatest concern should be over who is ruling the
rulers, or by whose permission they are allowed to rule. This is the problem of Italian
justice, and the profound impact on Italian democracy made by aggressively political
magistrates. Productive and democratic politics is difficult when Jacobins are in the
streets. Finally, Europe must worry that it has not embraced a big country whose vital
statistics showed it to be something close to a "normal" European partner. Instead it has
Andrea Bonanni, "Europa, allarme per il 'caos italiano,'" Corriere della Sera, October 10, 1998.
embraced two countries, one of epic economic accomplishments and a social fabric that
fits nicely with its European partners, the other a very large and significant region with
profound and intractable differences from mainstream Europe, differences that will not
diminish by themselves between now and 2007.
What are the implications of the size and intractability of the Mezzogiorno for
further European integration? What is the relation between the condition of the Italian
South and the EMU? During the young lifetime of European integration, Europe has been
effective as a lever to force change in Italy, especially during its Maastricht chapter. The
question now is whether further moves toward integration can successfully include the
Italian South. From many standpoints, including competitiveness, the Mezzogiorno is
more exposed now than it was before. One scenario for the period to 2007 must be that
economic (and therefore social) conditions in the South will worsen over these years.
In some sectors of the South, the expectation is the opposite: there is a fairly
widespread belief that Europe will bring help, that a windfall from Brussels is due. That
belief will, of course, be disappointed. It is conceivable that excess reserve holdings in
central banks in Europe could be used to enhance economic development in some of
Europes "difficult" regions. However, Brussels will be very cautious in the light of the
South's history of being unable to use EU funds effectively. And the simple growth of
trade within Europe should benefit all regions with, presumably, the result of increased
economic integration and the benefits to laggard regions which this integration will entail.
Help might be on its way, but it will not take the form of the great bail out for which the
still-exuberantly-spending regional powers are hoping.
Equally significant is the developing northern tendency to see Europe as a way to
wash its hands of the South. Since 1958, the policy statements of Italian governments
have declared that the Mezzogiorno is a European problem, and have asked Europe to53
address it. The next step is to declare further that it is exclusively a European problem
and not an Italian problem at all. The Majority Leader of the Chamber of Deputies, Fabio
Mussi, unwittingly dramatized this inclination in late 1998. He acknowledged that the
Mezzogiorno was Italy's "historic problem." He then affirmed that "what is new is that it
is now confronted in the context of a European space, not a national space. The problem
must be solved in Eurolandia."
Aside from the nervousness one experiences when
European politicians start using the word "space," the beginning of the hand-washing
process is manifest. Northern Italians seem prepared to engage in any sort of
constitutional and institutional reform that would further the effort to dump the
Mezzogiorno in Brussels' lap.
The South may be expecting money, but it has long since proved that the problem
is not money. For years huge appropriations from Rome went unspent in the South
because of failures to meet the requirements that had been written into the law. And it has
already established that it will find the same difficulty in spending EU resources.
Politicians want to spend, but southern bureaucrats and/or power brokers are not always
up to the task. The real problem is, without question, that of incentives. How will
Brussels and Rome get the South to produce more, to live less off the State? Some
analysts believe that the shape that "social Europe" will take in the next few years may
actually have adverse results in the Mezzogiorno.
The poignancy of the challenge to Europe goes beyond what social and economic
statistics can convey. As this study was being completed in July 1999, there was an
incident that put into bold relief the contrast between the Italian Mezzogiorno and the rest
of the EU. After the mayor of Palermo had declared that it was now a "normal" city, a
38-year-old bureaucrat, Filippo Basile, was shot at point-blank range in his own car in his
Fabio Mussi, "The New European Way: A Changing Italy in the Europe of the Euro," New York
University's Casa Italiana, December 10, 1998. Translation by Burnett and Vaccara.54
own parking place under the palms in Piazza Carnevale, near the center of the city. The
killers had slashed Basile's tires so that the car was immobilized, and then waited for him
to emerge from his office (at the same time every day) for the drive home. Basile was
described by co-workers a "model administrator, far from any political connections." He
was chief of personnel of the Agricultural Assessor's office, the bureau responsible for
administering huge resources of the state funding and other benefits for local agriculture
that flow into the Region, with a staff of 2,700. It was precisely in the area of the proper
distribution of funds in the agricultural sector in the Mezzogiorno that Brussels had
already expressed concern, and had held up some payments. The chief prosecutor charged
with the case said that we "must not forget that this bureau is an administrative office into
which flow all the pressures exerted by the bosses." The Director General of Basile's
office said the killing would have a "paralyzing effect."
The region has asked that no bureaucrat be allowed to stay in the same position for
more than three years.
While such measures are usually seen as a protection against
overbearing officials, the belief that Basile was "clean" suggests that the measure is also
for the protection of the officials themselves.
This most recent in a string of killings has special meaning for the ability of the
Mezzogiorno to administer any EU-related programs. But it also contains an element that
speaks volumes on the question of whether the South's mentality has changed. Basile was
killed at 2:30 in the afternoon in a busy area near the center of Palermo. For two hours,
no one chose to see or report what had happened, nor to hear the ringing of Basile's
cellular phone as his wife, a pediatrician, grew increasingly worried about his lateness for
The mayor now admits that perhaps the Mafia does remain strong, but to suggest that Palermo cannot
change simply makes it strong.
"Mafia: Dopo uccisione funzionario regione chiede verifica," ANSA dispatch, July 8, 1999.55
lunch. Two hours after Basile had died, an anonymous phone call told police that
"someone was bleeding." The police chief was described as looking around at all the
balconies that overlooked the scene of the crime, "the balconies of three palazzi where no
one saw anything until 4:30."
Two days after the event, the story had entirely
disappeared from the national editions of major daily newspapers. It had become southern
local news. For the rest of the country, the South is far away and the slaying was business
Sicilian sociologist Ennio Pintacuda commented that "the terrain is being given
back to the Mafia, the humus that is ideal for its growing: the lack of jobs...."
Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, the former Archbishop of Palermo, probed deeper for the
meaning of the Basile murder, saying that the only people who should be surprised by the
killing are those with the illusion that this chapter of Southern history was closed.
Echoing Elda Pucci, the cleric declared that "it's the mentality that hasn't changed.
Thinking like mafiosi. Even today too many people think that way. Even people who
don't commit serious crimes still don't respect the law." It is the mentality that the young
magistrate Massimo Russo said could only be changed through education and reeducation.
This mentality is seen throughout Italian life, only, perhaps, a bit more so in the
South. For example, Italy has the lowest credit card usage of any of the advanced
European countries. One could speculate that the disadvantage of a credit card
transaction is that it leaves a record for tax purposes. Successful evasion of a significant
part of the heavy tax burden is considered essential to the survival of many small
Felice Cavallaro, "Palermo, la mafia torna a uccidere," Corriere della Sera, July 6, 1999.
"Pintacuda: sbaglia chi parla di città normale," Corriere della Sera, July 6, 1999.
In an interview with the daily Giornale di Sicilia, carried in "Mafia: Pappalardo, illuso chi pensava
che tutto era finito," ANSA dispatch, July 7, 1999.56
businesses. This makes the cash transaction especially popular in Italian shops.
A heightened awareness of the challenge of Mezzogiorno may be dawning in
Brussels. Romano Prodi's assumption of the presidency of the European Commission will
certainly advance this awareness. But if Europe is not entirely ready for the Mezzogiorno,
parts of the Mezzogiorno are ready for Europe. Turin's La Stampa reported on February
27, 1999 that, in the hills between Palermo and Catania, seven Sicilians were arrested as
they were using sophisticated computer software to turn out counterfeit ten- and fifty-euro
The analyses of social scientists may fail to capture the most important factor with
which Rome and Brussels will have to deal during the next decade when considering the
Mezzogiorno: the rich mixture of attitudes and perceptions of the Southerners themselves.
So many observers turn to the literature of Southern writers, to Sciascia, to Silone, to
Verga and especially to Lampedusa. In Il Gattopardo, the Principe is graciously offered a
seat in the new Senate by the government of the fledgling Italian republic, affording him a
chance to do something to help the people of Sicily. His reply, although it speaks of Sicily
and not the entire Mezzogiorno, and although it "took place" more than a century ago,
opens a window on what the new Europe faces in the old Italian South.
"We Sicilians have been accustomed to a very long hegemony of governors that
were not of our religion, that didnt speak our language In Sicily it doesnt matter
whether one acts for good or ill: the sin that we Sicilians can never pardon is simply that
of taking action. We are old, very old. For almost 25 centuries, we have borne the
weight, on our own shoulders, of magnificent heterogeneous civilizations, all coming from
The authors informally contacted 16 scholars, journalists, and government officials with special
knowledge of the Mezzogiorno to see what elements of the Principes reply were, they believed, no
longer valid. None of those contacted would change a word.57
the outside already complete and perfected Sleep is what the Sicilians want, and they
hate whoever wants to wake them, even if its to bring them beautiful gifts Our
voluptuous immobility produces the arrogance of people here, of those who are half-asleep
But I speak of the Sicilians; I should add the atmosphere, the climate, the land.
This land know no halfway point between lascivious softness and cursed harshness not a
land in which to live a rational life
"You were wrong when you said the Sicilians want to improve themselves. No.
The Sicilians do not want to improve for the simple reason that they believe themselves to
be perfect: their vanity is stronger than their misery: every intervention upsets their raving
about having achieved perfect refinement. Do you really think youre the first to want to
channel Sicily into the mainstream of universal history? The difference [between us and
those who would improve us] is found in that sense of superiority that glitters in every
Sicilian eye, that we ourselves call pride, but that is, in reality, blindness They [the
Garibaldini] are coming to teach us good manners, but they wont succeed because we
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1957), pp.188-227. Translated
and arranged by Burnett.58
Stanton Burnett was CSIS Director of Studies from 1988 to 1991 following his
retirement as Counselor at USIA, the senior professional position in the agency. Dr.
Burnetts earlier assignments at USIA included director of European affairs,
director of research, and counselor for public affairs in Rome, Italy and at the U.S.
Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium. A prolific writer, Dr. Burnett is the author,
most recently, of The Italian Guillotine: "Operation Clean Hands" and the Overthrow
of Italys First Republic (with Luca Mantovani). The book received the 1998 Ignazio
Stefano Vaccara is a columnist and journalist for America Oggi, the largest Italian
language daily newspaper in the United States. His articles have appeared in Il
Giornale, Liberal, and other Italian publications. Mr. Vaccara is also an instructor
at the New School University for Social Research in New York City.