SZ podcast “On the Point” – News from 01/26/2020 – Politics

In the middle of the corona pandemic, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation. But the president should immediately entrust him with the formation of a government. So Conte resigned to continue to govern. Only with whom?

With the exception of the Italia Viva party of ex-prime minister Matteo Renzi, everyone in the ruling coalition is holding on to the non-party law professor Conte, says Italy correspondent Oliver Meiler. Conte is now looking for at least 16 MPs who should be at least Europe-friendly. And then the 84-year-old Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia suddenly comes back into play. Possibly even in a year as a candidate for the office of President. However, he thinks it is more likely that Renzi’s party will return to the government camp, says Meiler.

Other news: Debate about the debt brake, AfD in Saxony-Anhalt under surveillance, violence in the Netherlands.

Vaccine and vaccination capacities are in short supply. Many wonder when it’s their turn. With a bot you can find out interactively with us which prioritization group you belong to – and when you can expect a vaccination appointment. More at

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“Italy should be united now that the EU gives us great resources”

The Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, is playing it today and tomorrow in Parliament. After the two ministers of Matteo Renzi’s party resigned last week, thus leaving the Government in a minority, Conte goes to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate to try to add new support and overcome a motion of confidence whose result seems craving agonizing in the Upper House. Senator for life Mario Monti, who led the technical executive that saved Italy from bankruptcy in 2011 after spending a decade as European commissioner, will decide his vote based on the speech Conte offers.

– In the ‘Corriere della Sera’ you wondered if Italy is a “normal” country. Does its endemic political instability make it not?

– During the normal phases, when the EU asked to contain the deficit, many in Italy considered that this was austerity. It is true that there have been times when Brussels has gone too far with austerity, but what I am talking about is the normal rules of good conduct on the accounts. In extraordinary circumstances, as now with the pandemic, the EU instead provides great resources, from which nations such as Italy and Spain in particular benefit. Faced with this, the country should be more united and cohesive, since it is an extraordinary opportunity, but Italy, on the other hand, is suffering a crisis whose reasons are not clear.

– Renzi may be right in some of his criticisms of the Government. Have you done well to put the Executive on the brink of the abyss?

– Some of the points made by Renzi were valid in substance, but there could be other ways to push the coalition and the Government without opening a crisis. This moment looks a lot like a war over the emergency situation of the pandemic. Probably at the bottom of the question is the personality of Renzi, as he has already shown some other time.

– Will the Government pass the vote of confidence?

– Numerically the situation is problematic. I will be present in the Senate at the session. My vote will depend a lot on what Conte says. We still have two years ahead of the current legislature and, if Conte continues as prime minister after this crisis, he will have to give a clear indication of the direction he intends to give the government’s policy. It is not very easy to foresee it, since he has presided over two very different cabinets and in some radically opposite aspects.

The worst hit sectors

– What are the priorities?

–We are in a very difficult situation due to the pandemic, with also economic consequences, which justifies strong support for companies. But if we look to the future we must bear in mind at least two things. The first is that sooner or later the attitude of Brussels will change and it will return to deficit and debt regulation. I hope it will be done in a more modern and efficient way, without penetrating public investments. I would like Conte to make it clear that after a period of subsidies a policy of reducing and containing the deficit and the debt is necessary.

– And what is the second aspect?

–During the last 20 years, Italy has grown less than other countries in the Eurozone. A reflection is required on how to manage aid. It is necessary to deal with socially the most affected sectors, but it is also necessary to give the economy the possibility to develop. You don’t have to put in public resources just to prevent a renewal. Another serious problem, little present in these years, is inequality, which requires great reflection.

– You, like Conte, were not part of a party before being prime minister, although later you founded a political force. Would you recommend the Prime Minister to do the same?

– What you have to ask yourself is if that would suit the country. When I agreed to promote a party, although I did not need it as a senator for life, I did so because I saw that it was useful to have a movement in Parliament with a European and reformist spirit that prevented any of the possible coalitions from prevailing, one oriented to the right and another to the left, with antipathies towards Europe and budgetary discipline. I asked the country for many sacrifices and I saw that the difficulties were increasing and that the other forces were not prepared for the reforms that Italy needed.

– Do you regret having formed a party?

“That decision was against my own personal interests.” If I had stayed calm, it is possible that I would have been elected President of the Republic to succeed Giorgio Napolitano. At least that’s what they told me. But, frankly, my contribution was more positive for the country by avoiding with that party, Elección Cívica, a populist and sovereignist drift. It only hurt me personally.

“I made unpopular decisions”

– Is Italy’s image in Europe bad for this crisis?

–It is surely a damage to our image, which already suffered from the delay and lack of certainty when preparing the action program for the European Recovery Plan.

– What is better for Italy, to continue this government or to open a new political experience?

– Frankly I do not know what is now the best. It depends on the will of the prime minister to risk making unpopular decisions. It was my turn to take them to prevent us from ending up like Greece. Despite this, the political movement that we organized in about 50 days without financial means obtained 10% of the votes. Some could expect more, but today there are many games that are below. That result showed that in the country there are a number of people willing to understand that Italy’s future interest is not in following this or that pressure group.

– Does it distort seeing the country from the Chigi Palace, the seat of the prime minister?

-It’s possible. It is a position of great importance, of command. But it would be necessary for public opinion to be concerned not only with Conte, but with the interests of Italians.


The parliamentarians and their prospects

SIn the past, the economic interests of the deputies and senators played such a large role in the political intrigues of Rome as they did in these days of the government crisis. It is not about any conflicts of interest or consultancy agreements. Rather, hundreds of parliamentarians are said to do anything to only keep their seats in the House of Representatives or Senate until the end of the electoral term in early March 2023. That is why it is said in Rome that many would vote for whoever in a vote of confidence, if that would only avoid early elections.

Tobias Piller

Tobias Piller

Economic correspondent for Italy and Greece based in Rome.

The prospects of being able to return to parliament in the next parliamentary term have never been so bad. Because the populist five-star movement pushed through a drastic reduction in the number of seats in parliament last year. In the next House of Representatives only 400 “Deputati” should sit instead of the previous 629, in the Senate 200 “Senatori” instead of the previous 321. The five-star movement had pushed through this cut against much grumbling from the other parties. Few had dared to protest against it. In doing so, you expose yourself to the charge of defending the political establishment. And the Five Star Movement in particular had promised to tackle it. “We will open parliament like a can of tuna,” the founder of the five-star protest movement, comedian Beppe Grillo, had finally promised. The appeals to include a reduction in the number of MPs in a comprehensive reform of the constitution came to nothing. Because in December 2016, a referendum on such a constitutional reform with a smaller House of Representatives and a Senate as the Chamber of Regions failed.

Now, of all people, members of the Five Star Movement must pay for their reform. An estimate of the future number of representatives from the people based on the latest opinion polls shows that almost 200 parliamentarians would have to say goodbye to their previous life in Rome. But especially among the representatives of the five-star movement, there are many who were previously unemployed or did poorly paid temporary jobs. The top candidate from 2018, Luigi Di Maio, currently Foreign Minister and previously President of the Chamber of Deputies, keeps making nasty allusions even with his résumé: Before his steep political career, he sold drinks in the football stadium. Di Maio and his group colleagues are now said to want to enjoy the privileges of parliamentary life for as long as possible, especially the financial benefits: A member of the House of Representatives receives a taxable gross grant of 10,435 euros per month, in daily allowance, lump sums and reimbursements of around 8,400 Euros per month. Especially in the five-star movement there is the rule that a larger part has to be paid into the party or a donation fund. However, many parliamentarians are said to have lagged behind with the payments for some time. And of those elected in 2018, 48 left the parliamentary group in the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Because Matteo Renzi has now resigned from the government coalition with his split-off “Italia Viva”, there is theoretically the risk of new elections and the shortening of the parliamentarians’ term of office. But the previous Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has been looking for majority procurers for the continuation of government work for days. In the case of the five-star movement in particular, this results in a double contradiction. On the one hand, it shows how many of their representatives are stuck to the political armchair themselves, on the other hand, it could prove that both the five-star parliamentary groups and renegades are ready to compromise in any way just to stay in parliament until 2023. The policy of staying in power promotes the end of the protest movement.


the Calabrian mafia facing justice

It is in a volleyball stadium, with a capacity of 3,200 people and refitted for the occasion, that this Wednesday, January 13 in Lamezia Terme in Calabria opens one of the largest trials against the Mafia . The most famous precedent is undoubtedly that of Cosa Nostra in Palermo in 1986-1987.

We knew the Neapolitan Camorra, Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian. This time, it is to the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta that belong the 355 defendants who appear before the judges, among whom are political leaders, civil servants, police officers and businessmen. The mafia organization is the most powerful today, the richest crime syndicate in the Western world.

Kidnappings and drug trafficking

At the stand will parade 58 prosecution witnesses, repentants, who will testify against the Mancuso clan, whose leader Luigi has been in prison for nearly twenty years, and his associates, one of the largest families that make up the ‘Ndrangheta. ” It got richer thanks to the cocaine trafficking in Europe and invested in public works ”, explains Antonio Talia, an investigative journalist, himself a Calabrian and author of a book on the subject (1). “In the 1990s, the kidnapping money with which the organization was financed having dried up, it turned to the more lucrative cocaine trafficking by associating with the narco-traffickers of Colombia and Mexico. »

At the origin of this trial is prosecutor Nicola Gratteri. This 62-year-old Calabrian is from the temper of Judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borselino, both murdered by Cosa Nostra in 1992 and coming from anti-mafia pools. He lives in Catanzaro, never goes out to restaurants or the cinema. He lives with his wife in a confined atmosphere. He declared war on the ‘Ndrangheta whose main actors he knows for being on the school benches with them.

« It is important to tame fear, to dialogue with death and to tell yourself that even if I die tonight or tomorrow, it will not be a disaster, because I will have had a good life », Says the one who relaxes by cultivating his vegetable patch, surrounded by his bodyguards, under the watchful eye of surveillance cameras.

Calabria, one of the poorest regions in Italy

Italians usually shrug their shoulders at the mention of the mafias, thinking that nothing can stop them. ” It’s too simple to say that, this trial marks precisely the enormous work the justice system has done over the last ten years, in fact since the first government investigation. “Crime-Infinite” in 2010-2011 », continues Antonio Talia. “It had made it possible to identify the operating structure of the ‘Ndrangheta and to arrest a certain number of its members. ».

Like all Italian mafias, this one was born locally, on the Ionian coast of Calabria, one of the poorest regions of Italy. The migration of its population around the world has created a breeding ground on which it relies.

However, the organization follows a different structure from Cosa Nostra. “The Sicilian Mafia has a supreme leader and had chosen to strike the state in the 1990s by assassinating anti-Mafia judges”, recalls the specialist. “Calabria has a very particular, collegial organization: an elected council of 10 to 12 people, a sort of constitutional tribunal which sets the rules of the organization but does not give orders. Then, each group that reigns over a country or an area is free to do its business as it sees fit on its territory. In the event of infighting, the board must decide. »

Mafiosi excommunication

The organization is characterized by unprecedented violence that has nothing to envy that of the South American drug cartels, including against children. In 2014, Pope Francis, traveling in Calabria, declared in front of the prison inmates the excommunication of all the Mafiosi and launched: ” Never more children victims of such atrocities, never more victims of ‘Ndrangheta ». “It’s a good thing that we did, plays Antonio Talia, because the Mafia organization hides behind all kinds of secret Catholic rituals, mixed with Freemasonry, which have absolutely nothing to do with religion. »


The ‘Ndrangheta in figures

Calabrian emigration, the breeding ground for the Mafia: since the end of the XIXe century, Calabria is a source of labor for many countries around the world such as Argentina and Brazil, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. This emigration dried up in the 1970s, heading towards the north of Italy.

The prosecutor Nicola Gratteri estimates’ Ndrangheta’s turnover at 50 billion euros per year, largely derived from cocaine trafficking and construction revenues.

Its workforce would be, according to Italian justice, at least 20,000 members.


In Italy, the “risky bet” of Matteo Renzi

As the devil comes out of his box, Matteo Renzi chose his moment, the third wave of Covid-19, to provoke yet another political crisis in Italy by withdrawing his party, Italia Viva, from the ruling coalition.

The government of Giuseppe Conte (coalition between the Democratic Party, PD, the 5 Star Movement, M5S, and small centrist parties) is therefore suspended until Tuesday, January 19. After a vote of confidence from the senators, we will know at the end of the day whether or not the president of the council obtains the majority necessary to continue to govern.

→ ANALYSIS. In the midst of a pandemic, Italy is facing yet another political crisis

“A high risk strategy”

In the event that Giuseppe Conte does not obtain the confidence of the Senate, he can resign and the president will appoint another personality of his choice to take the leadership of the government – the name of Mario Dragui, former president of the European Central Bank (ECB ), is mentioned. Or elections will be organized within at least three months, which would most likely see the right of Matteo Salvini (23% of the vote) and the far right of Georgia Meloni (16%) come to power.

→ TO READ. Italy: Matteo Renzi jeopardizes the Conte government

« It’s a risky bet that Matteo Renzi is making, and it’s a high-risk strategy, says Luigi Scazzieri, a researcher at the Center for European Reform. We’ll see if Renzi manages to take down Giuseppe Conte or if it’s Conte who will take down Renzi. »

Officially, Matteo Renzi disagrees with the President of the Council on his choices regarding the use of the stimulus program of 222.9 billion euros drawn from the mega-plan of 750 billion euros, adopted in the summer of 2020 by European leaders, and of which Italy is the main beneficiary. He criticizes Giuseppe Conte for aligning himself with the M5S and “Squandering public money” by granting tax rebates and ad hoc aid for electoral reasons instead of taking advantage of this windfall to invest and reform structurally.

It also calls for recourse to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a fund with a lending capacity of 410 billion intended for euro-zone countries in difficulty. In this context, Italy, a contributor of 17.9%, could receive up to 37 billion additional euros.

European financial manna

Big money business? A little, but not only. Certainly, the European financial manna whets appetites, and the head of government, whoever he is, can do a lot with it, which is not negligible for someone who wants to relaunch his political career. This is the case of Matteo Renzi who fell into the oblivion of Italian politics. He certainly has a party, Italia Viva, but he only accounts for 2 to 3% of the vote.

More likely the “Florentine” – Matteo Renzi is from Florence where he was the mayor from 2009 to 2014 – is looking for a way to bounce back politically. The “Scrapper” (demolisher) as he was nicknamed at the time of his splendor, stormed, at 38, the reins of the Democratic Party for, he says, “ send the old ruling class to the scrapyard ».

In 2014, the young chairman of the board succeeded in a master stroke by winning the European elections with 40% of the vote, it is the consecration. But in 2016, his arrogance and megalomania, which earned him the nickname “Renzusconi” or “little Berlusconi”, played tricks on him. His constitutional referendum was a failure followed, in 2018, by a sanction vote in the legislative elections. Matteo Renzi leaves the Democratic Party with record unpopularity.

Today, the man at 46, he is still young and ambitious. ” On the one hand, Conte has gained popularity with his management of Covid-19, on the other Renzi has lost some. Conte is a threat to Renzi ”, judge Luigi Scazzieri.

« Matteo Salvini has never digested to no longer be President of the Council. He thinks he will succeed by putting the knife to the throat of the government, analysis Ludmila Acone, historian, specialist in Italy, researcher associated with Paris I. But the secretary of the Democratic Party, Nicolas Zingaretti, does not welcome his return ”.

Supported by Liliana Segre

« It is very difficult to know if Giuseppe Conte will manage to find enough support in the small centrist parties or in the opposition to gain the confidence of the Senate on Tuesday, estimates Luigi Scazzieri. Many try to monetize their participation. But the fear of new elections that would bring the right to power can be a strong motivation to find another solution. If Giuseppe Conte resigns, Matteo Renzi can choose to support a new candidate ».

In the meantime, for 70% of Italians, this political crisis is unwelcome. So the left is mobilizing behind the president of the council. He received the support of independent senator Liliana Segre, a Holocaust survivor, a highly respected figure in Italy. Despite her 90 years and the health risks she runs, she will move to the Senate on Tuesday. ” Italy is in danger, I’m going to Rome to vote for confidence in Conte », She declared.


Vaccines delayed: the quarterly plan in Italy is downsized | EU “displaced”: summit with AstraZeneca | Italy thinks about the Russian Sputnik 5 vaccine

Italy, number of doses much lower than expected – Italy’s vaccination plan assumed that 28.2 million doses of the vaccine would be available by 31 March (including 2.3 million Curevac, the product of which is however late). But, as reported by the Morning, even limiting itself to vaccines that are already administered in many countries around the world – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca – 25.9 million should have arrived in Italy in the first quarter. Instead, if all goes well, we’ll have about half of it. The delay that we are accumulating cannot be recovered and this means that the famous achievement of immunization of at least 70 percent of Italians (first decisive step to achieve herd immunity) will not be reached in October, as expected, but allbeginning of 2022, as long as any new ones variants don’t force a new campaign with an adapted product.

The hypothesis: buy the Russian Sputnik 5 vaccine – At the summit on Saturday 23 January (Ministers Boccia and Speranza, Commissioner Arcuri and representatives of the Regions were present) the hypothesis was put forward to buy the Russian Sputnik 5 vaccine (and also the Chinese one), urging EMA to evaluate them and authorize them quickly, so that you have a wider choice. Hungary has already done so with Sputnik 5; a member country can autonomously authorize a vaccine for emergency purposes, but the Italian line is to comply with the indications of the EMA.

EU late: counter-moves are being studied – The European Union has called AstraZeneca for Monday (tomorrow) to ask for clarification, but at the moment the numbers available are not very encouraging. Moderna will send 65,000 doses on Monday, Pfizer 455,000 (instead of 530,000) in the coming days (favoring those regions that have been penalized by previous cuts). AstraZeneca has committed (if Ema’s authorization is granted on 29 January) to three shipments: 15 and 28 February and 15 March, for a total of 3.4 million doses. The vaccination plan will be totally rewritten, even if Italy, unlike France for example (the cuts concern all of Europe), has decided to respect the timing of the second dose which must be administered 21 days after the first. There is a further variable: the hypothesis that Ema authorizes AstraZeneca on January 29, but accepting only the data of the experimentation for the less elderly, therefore the vaccine can in that case be administered only to those under the age of 55. At that point, the first supplies would go to school and law enforcement personnel.


6.9 magnitude earthquake in Antarctica, Chile evacuates base – World

A strong earthquake of magnitude 6.9 occurred in Antarctica near the Chilean base Eduardo Frei, which was put on evacuation alert due to tsunami risk. The earthquake was recorded at 20:36 local time (00:36 in Italy) with hypocenter about 15 kilometers deep and epicenter about 210 km east of the Chilean base. The National Emergency Office of the Chilean Interior Ministry (Onemi) has asked to “leave the coast of the Antarctic territory”.

“We are fine, we did not feel the earthquake. We only noticed it because friends from Italy sent us sms to get news”, Angelo Domesi, technician of the Department of Earth System Sciences and Technologies for environment of the CNR which is located in the Italian-French scientific station Concordia, in Antarctica, after the earthquake of magnitude 6.9 which occurred near the Chilean base Eduardo Frei. “We are very far away, 3,000 km from them and 1,200 km from the coast. Our base is in the Antarctic plateau,” explained Domesi. “the earthquake was still recorded with our Ingv instrumentation which is part of a global network”.