Italy. A serious crack occurred during the year in Silvio
Berlusconi's government, and its future was uncertain.
controversial leader's popularity continued to decline,
partly as a result of new revelations about contacts with
very young women. Close employees began to criticize
Berlusconi's inability to solve the country's problems.
The year began with a couple of serious clashes with
immigrants involved. In the city of Rosarno, Calabria, armed
Italian youths attacked African farmers on January 7,
injuring two of them. Enraged Africans later drove through
the city, burning cars and smashed windows. They are
attacked by city dwellers armed with iron bars and skiers.
About fifty people were injured during three days of riots.
Over 1,000 immigrants were then evacuated from the city and
placed in refugee camps.
In mid-February, a young Egyptian died after a knife
attack in Milan, according to police conducted by South
American immigrants. It was followed by violent riots in an
immigrant-dense area, and four Egyptians were arrested by
In Italy, too, the debate about comprehensive veils was
ongoing. At local level, bans can be introduced, and in
April, for the first time, a Muslim woman was fined in Italy
for her dress. This took place in the city of Novara, where
a local regulation had been adopted on the initiative of the
mayor, who belongs to the immigrant-critical party
Nordförbundet (Lega Nord, LN).
With Parliament in support, Berlusconi continued to be
successful in his many years of "struggle" with the
country's courts. At the beginning of the year, a law was
passed that shortens the time before a crime is prescribed.
The intention was stated to be to rectify the long-drawn out
legal processes, but according to the opposition, the aim
was to protect Berlusconi from future processes. And in
February, the Supreme Court upheld a verdict against
attorney David Mills. He was convicted in 2009 for falsely
testifying in 1997 after bribes to protect Berlusconi in two
cases of corruption and fraud. The judgment against Mills
was dismissed on the grounds of a 10-year limitation period.
Another new team directly benefited Berlusconi. In
February, Parliament had approved that government members
could request that legal proceedings be postponed for up to
18 months because they were too preoccupied with government
work. The two planned corruption processes against
Berlusconi were therefore postponed in the future.
Berlusconi's Coalition of the People's Freedom (PdL) and
LN achieved success in the elections held in March in 13 of
the country's 20 regions. They already ruled in two regions,
which was now expanded by four taken from the left
opposition, the Democratic Party (PD). In total, the left
got 26 percent and PdL close to 27 percent of the votes,
while support for LN doubled to 12.3 percent compared to
A battle over the political media coverage flared up
before the election. The government-dominated body that
oversees the state broadcaster RAI decided that the most
popular debate programs were allowed to discuss politics the
month before the election only if the program time was moved
to late evening or early morning, when viewership is low.
Despite the new rules, Berlusconi appeared in all major TV
channels with a speech to the voters just a few days before
New corruption havens were revealed during the year, and
in May, Industry Minister Claudio Scajola resigned because
of a bribery deal with a construction company. Many of the
scandals have come out since eavesdropping phone calls
leaked to media. The leaks have often been embarrassing for
the government, which in June presented a bill that severely
limits the police's right to interception in criminal
investigations and the press's ability to publish the news.
The Senate approved the law, but it faced harsh criticism
from prosecutors investigating serious crimes.
A long-standing political dispute between Berlusconi and
his PdL colleague Gianfranco Fini became acute in July, when
Fini was forced to leave the party after a series of harsh,
mutual accusations. Berlusconi then tried to remove Fini
from the post of Speaker of the House of Commons. Fini, who
approached social liberalism politically, had long opposed
the PdL, including on the issue of the new interception law.
The background to the conflict was assumed to be Fini's
ambitions to take over after the increasingly popular prime
Fini formed his own parliamentary group, and Berlusconi
no longer had a majority. But in a vote of confidence in
August, Fini's supporters cast their votes, which saved the
government. After the summer break, the government requested
a vote of confidence in September on a five-point reform
program. This time, Fini's faction was persuaded to vote for
the reforms, as did Umberto Bossis LN. In November, however,
Fini had tired of Berlusconi and withdrew his ministers from
the government. In December, however, Berlusconi was able to
win a decisive vote by a three-vote margin. The reason was
considered that many politicians did not want to risk a new
During the international economic crisis, Italy has
performed relatively well, despite Europe's highest
indebtedness (around 116 per cent of GDP), extensive tax
evasion and low productivity. As a reason, it has been
stated that the country has had a weak economy for almost 20
years and has already made major cuts in welfare. The banks
are heavily regulated, and no mortgage crisis exists. The
Italians save heavily and have lent large sums to cover the
government's debt. However, the government adopted a savings
package during the year with the aim of reducing the budget
deficit to below three percent in 2012.