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As Italy approaches the G7/G8 summit in Okinawa, it would be safe to say that a relatively low key approach will be maintained by the Italians. There has been very little mention by the Italian media and government about preparations for the summit, most likely because of other matters occupying policy makers.
Internally, the best way to describe the Italian government's attitude is one of fear and reluctance to act, much of the activity in parliament dedicated to the maneuvering, rhetoric and posturing of preparing for the upcoming elections in 2001. Parties are reluctant to take positions which could come back later on and harm their chances at the polls. The Centre-left has announced its new name “Ulivo - insieme per l'Italia” (or the Olive branch party - together for Italy), but it is still not certain whether Giuliano Amato will remain as head of his coalition; meanwhile it would seem that the centre-right coalition (Polo) is going to go with Silvio Berlusconi as leader. Much of the indecision and deadlock is reflected in other issues: the deadlock over jail reforms and the continuing protests by prisoners for better conditions (and the proposals for amnesty, shortened sentences, and methods of monitoring released inmates being put forth in congress), as well as in debate over electoral law reforms.
However, economically speaking, the Italian economy is growing with employment growing by 0.6% (especially in the South). The growth is such that the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pedro Solbes stated that Italy's economy is continuing to grow, allowing Italy to move forward more rapidly in balancing its accounts.
Aside from the internal concerns, Italian policy-makers have been quite occupied with European affairs, perhaps explaining the apparent limited amount of G7/G8 specific preparation. Most recently, with Italy's position as head of the EU being taken over by France, Italy's main concern was to keep from being left out of major initiatives and to be provided with assurances that it would not be relegated to a second tier position below the French and the Germans (the French having intimated that they intend to pursue a more established European Union with a constitution, secretariat, expansion to the East, and - of most concern to the Italians - a two-speed Europe).
Though Italy loses the European Union's presidency, the minister of Foreign Affairs Lamberto Dini traveled to Strasbourg on May 10 on the eve of Italy's term of office in the Chair of the Council of Europe. In this position, Italian proposed initiatives are numerous and may reflect what opinions will also be expressed at the summit in Okinawa. Aside from ceremonies and the celebration of the signing of the European Convention on Human rights, the following are initiatives which Italy wishes to pursue through its Chairmanship in the Council:
It should not be surprising if opinions of a similar sort are voiced by the Italian delegation and the Okinawa summit.
More directly related to the summit in Okinawa is the Italian Foreign Ministry's introduction of its new IT system for use in the ministry's administration both in Italy and overseas. The launching of the system formed part of an overall effort to integrate IT into ministries workings, this along with a training program for staff. Related to this is the meeting in Paris of G8 members to discuss cybercrime, and the fact that Italian ministries' sites had been attacked by hackers. The agenda was meant to cover computer piracy, credit card fraud, bank code and cell phone abuse, security issues in electronic commerce, and in general new criminal concerns which accompany the “new economy.”
Though there was no official agreement or proposal, members of the G8 (including Italy) have already stated that they are against the American proposal of creating an international cyberpolice.
Finally, in terms of development and a point which the Italians will surely be eager to point out, is the fact that in the Italian Parliament it was agreed to begin canceling third world debt, an agreement which as of June 29 was being passed to the Senate for approval. The agreement would see the cancellation in three years of at least 8 billion U.S., with the benefit mostly going to African countries. However, in order to benefit from this debt forgiveness, developing countries must:
Finally, these countries must accept international monitors to confirm that progress in these regards has been made. How strict the conditions are was not specifically mentioned in the source used for this report.
Report by Michele Mastroeni
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