Interview with Roland Jace, manager of the Bologna PD and expert in immigration policies, on citizenship rights and the political participation of foreign citizens in Italy.
"For non-native citizens it becomes even more difficult to do politics since they acquire Italian citizenship, because in some way they also become competitors in active politics." To say it is Roland Jace, from 18 years engaged in politics and from June last year also secretary of the Circolo Berlinguer-Moro in one of the most popular areas of the city of the two towers and “one of the three largest of the PD in the Province of Bologna ". In step with the approach and the militancy in politics, Jace arrived in Italy in the 1988, engaged in immigration and social inclusion policies of migrant citizens in the Bologna area. Since 1996 he works for the Municipality of Bologna, first in the Institution of Services for Immigration, then in the field of policies on minors and currently in that of housing policies. Jace does not use words when it comes to talking about immigration: "Italian politics is not ripe for dealing with the question of the governance of migration policies". "On the one hand, the center-right parties are backing the immigration issue to scare the citizens and take votes. On the other hand, the parties of the center-left, which in principle are for integration, do not in practice have an alternative to offer ”. But even when it comes to citizenship and the right to vote: the discussion on citizenship can be easily solved "with an organic law" but it is a loophole to remove attention from the "real problem" or "the lack of integration policies". And the right to vote would be enough to "ratify Chapter C of the Strasbourg Convention of 1992" and citizens who regularly reside at 5 years will be able to vote in administrative elections on a par with Italian ones. Jace is also very active in the world of associations and the participation of migrant citizens in the public sphere. Founder of the Albanian association "All together" in the 1996, from the 2003 to the 2005 he was also President of the Metropolitan Forum which brings together the migrant associations of the Province of Bologna. Instead, from 2005 to 2010 he also covered the position of Vice President during the first mandate of the Regional Council for the social integration of migrant citizens. Albanianews interviewed him precisely to get his opinion on these very topical issues in the public and political debate both nationally and locally.
The Unit of Bologna a few months ago called it "the secretary who comes from afar". Is it difficult for a non-native citizen to do politics?
In today's Italy, yes. For non-native citizens it becomes even more difficult as they acquire Italian citizenship because they somehow become competitors in active politics. We know that foreign citizens do not have the passive and active elective right, therefore they cannot be elected and cannot even vote if not within the consultations within the parties as in the case of the PD primaries. So they have only a participatory right in various forms of social representation. And since one becomes Italian and has the opportunity to enhance their experiences, it becomes difficult to participate politically in Italy.
Does it become difficult to do it within the structures of one's own party or towards political opponents?
It becomes difficult in the broad sense. First of all, to express oneself in politics. There are now two trends. In the first, the parties, usually under the elections, to show Italian and EU citizens that they are in favor of integration policies, are candidates who can be distinguished from Italian citizens. In other words, citizens from Eastern Europe, for example, are not candidates, but citizens from Africa because they have to show the difference in complexion and it is a doubly discriminatory trend. In the second, during the election campaign, the parties take it out on foreign citizens. In fact, when they talk about immigration policies, they immediately connect them with security ones, talking almost exclusively about expulsions and this trend is clearly discriminatory. This is the framework in which a foreign citizen who has also become an Italian participates in politics. And how are relations with members and managers inside the party?
I am secretary of one of the three biggest circles in the province of Bologna and I was elected with almost rare enthusiasm. Immediately afterwards I noticed that there are difficulties and I see them every day in the relationship with the simple member but above all with the managers. The latter always feel superior, which often leads you to show your muscles in order to maintain your position. Surely, it is a negative reaction but almost indispensable in the internal relations of today's politics. Is the question of superiority related to your origin or to the internal structure of a party?
It will be a mistaken impression of mine but it is linked to the comparison and to the approach one has with those coming from abroad. In Italian politics, as in all fields of society, there is a considerable cultural collapse. So if one does not come from America, from Switzerland or from a community country, the mechanism of superiority is triggered. The idea is that Italians are politically and culturally superior to other people. Absolutely false consideration that leads you to counter this kind of cultural and political attitude. In elections, the center-right clearly expresses its vision on immigration, using it as a workhorse. Instead, the center-left does not offer a clear alternative: it merely follows the opponent. Will the voter not politically deployed prefer the original or a photocopy?
Meanwhile, it must be said that at the national political level during the last electoral campaigns there has been a trend conversion. Unlike the other rounds, only the Northern League, rooted in a certain area of the national territory, continued to beat on the immigration issue. For a very simple reason: the center-left and center-right parties no longer talk about it because we have seen that in the 20-25 years of immigration in Italy, national policies were destined to fail. Instead at the territorial level the clash is bitter, because it is in the territory where one lives that social policies are conceived today. On the one hand, the center-right parties support the immigration issue to make citizens fear and take votes. On the other hand, the center-left parties, in principle, are for integration, but in practice they have no alternative to offer. In truth, the alternative is found in the numbers, in the composition and in the social, cultural and economic contribution of the community of foreign citizens to the Italian society and economy. The problem is another: even at European level for ten years now there has been a closure and a withdrawal of the political approach towards foreigners for what concerns not only integration policies but primarily their political participation. Why make it just a matter of numbers? Certainly to debunk the opponent's political constructs, but nowadays it is not possible to construct a political discourse based on the culture of rights that the democratic and liberal European tradition has put up over the last 300 years with great effort.
There is a known trend of closing by Europe here
institution. The most striking example is the rejection by the European Parliament in the 2008 of the proposal to extend the right to vote to the administrative to migrant citizens residing in all EU countries. This shows that Europe, for what it represents politically at the moment, is against the recognition of those main rights scratched in the Charter of Human Rights of the Union. We are witnessing a phase of political twilight in Italy and in Europe to which we must respond. Obviously, to this trend that is typical of the center-right parties, the center-left parties at both national and European level have not yet found a better alternative. We talk about immigration and we use it from politics also because foreign citizens do not have citizenship. Imagine a girl born in Italy who completed the 18 years did not request citizenship by the deadline set by the law and now in 2011 hopes to convert her permit for study reasons to one for work reasons. Have you ever known one? And why the more we talk about granting citizenship and the more it moves away from the goal?
I worked for so many years with minors and I met many young people born in Italy from foreign parents who at the age of 18 years in the six months in which the application can be presented, were not in a position to do so and were expelled from the 'Italy. We are talking about young people sent to their parents' countries of origin, a reality that is completely foreign to them. This happens because the right to citizenship does not apply in Italy. Citizenship is a concession, among other things, that cannot be unions. That is, on request, in the event of a refusal, the competent authority, ie the Ministry of the Interior, is not obliged to explain the reasons. Today it is an even more present problem because there is a growing number of children born in Italy to foreign parents. All parties have realized that this cannot go on, but to date no majority has been found that votes for one of the proposed changes to citizenship legislation put forward by the parties themselves. On the other hand, the discussion on citizenship is a loophole not to mention the real problem concerning the lack of concrete and effective policies for the integration of the almost 5 million foreign citizens living in Italy. In truth, as many jurists maintain, it is easily achievable through a non-constitutional organic law that modifies the 92 law on citizenship.
The actual proposal for amending the law on citizenship?
Meanwhile, we need to talk about amending immigration legislation. Then resume the fourth and fifth chapters of the law of 98 which deal with integration policies for citizens residing in Italy for five or more years. Instead, for the modification of the law of 92 on citizenship, it is enough to review the articles two and five in which we talk about the period of residence in order to apply for citizenship. It would be enough to add an article which says that children born to foreign parents residing in Italy from tot. years acquire Italian citizenship.
Are the unborn in Italy after how many years are they required to have citizenship?
For those not born in Italy, based on the spirit of the 1992 Strasbourg Convention, after five years of residence.
The crux of the question of citizenship is political rights and therefore also the right to vote, in the case of migrants linked above all to local elections. It has been talked about for some years with more emphasis but Italian politics is not mature enough to take on this political responsibility. How do you check it?
In fact, the fact that Italy has not ratified Chapter C of the Strasbourg Convention of 1992 is reaffirmed from many quarters, and clearly demonstrates that Italian politics is not ripe for addressing the question of the governance of migration policies. It is a dog that bites its own tail. We do not want to change the legislation because by modifying it we should recognize an infinite number of rights for foreign citizens. On the other hand, in the current context it is easy for political parties to acquire votes because they always have the person or social group to blame during the election campaign. It seems to understand from many quarters that Italy is bad for foreign citizens. Instead, Italy is doing badly because it has not done the necessary reforms, it has a political system that no longer holds up and an economic system that needs to be renewed. What advantages can derive from the granting of the right to vote and after how many years of stay in Italy should be granted?
The main advantage is that of empowerment. Foreign citizens become responsible towards the choices of the political class and the policies that are implemented on their own territory, but also towards their compatriots. To do this, it would be enough to ratify Chapter C of the Strasbourg Convention which proposes giving citizens the right to vote for five years in the territory of the state. So this is a solution at hand, made difficult because it takes away a topic from that part of the political class that earns votes in the name of immigration. A population of around 5 million residents cannot be left in silence and forgotten but must be taken into consideration and remains a problem that Italian politics must absolutely solve. Would it not be fairer to grant the right to vote on a par with EU citizens? Then from the registration document. On the other hand, being a community citizen does not mean knowing the Italian political and institutional order more than a non-EU one.
Yes, but the European Union has unified the procedures relating to many spheres of life, compressed that of the right of electorate active and passive. This presupposes that an EU citizen already in his or her own country has the same concepts and the same experiences as a citizen of another EU country. This is why EU citizens have the same rights in the administrative elections of Italian citizens. In short, it is assumed that today the Romanian or French citizen is on a par with the Italian citizen able to choose in being elected or elected.
What does it mean that an African citizen is not?It is an absurd principle but the meaning is precisely this: an EU citizen is better prepared to cast his vote in another European Community country than a non-EU citizen. To think and make official that an Italian or French citizen is more capable than a Senegalese or Albanian in expressing his vote is a clear discriminatory expression that also shows how Europe today lacks strategies of social and political openness.
In the past he was very active in the Bologna Metropolitan Forum and also its President. Today, the Forum brings together more than 60 migrant associations. It seems that migrant associations are more focused on the development of cultures, inter-culture and services. Is it enough to change today's society? Isn't something missing?
It is absolutely not enough and it also depends on the fact that in Italy there is no legislation that promotes and supports associations, unlike France, Austria and Germany, where checks are carried out on an association, this is supported by the state with various forms and local and national funding. In general, the associations have few rice
rse, foreign ones even less and they are weak not only from the organizational point of view but also from the operational one. And therefore they are able to find spaces simply where it is a question of re-evaluating tradition, distinguishing themselves in the independence celebrations of their own country, in moments of cultural and artistic exchanges or in multi-ethnic festivals. And a factor that shows how in Italy we are far behind other European countries as regards the true participation of foreign citizens.
Speaking of participation, are rights acquired or granted?
To be able to obtain the rights, remember that no one gives you anything and therefore it is a journey made of strong battles. On the other hand, we live in a democratic country that must recognize the fundamental rights of the person, including the political and participatory ones.
As for the citizens of foreign origin engaged in politics, it seems that often and willingly from radical position on the side of political rights and citizenship, they move to very moderate positions. Does politics soften?
There are two trends. In the first policy hardens, and in this case it puts you off, in the second it softens you and then becomes part of it, forgetting the real reasons and principles for which you started to do politics.He was also the Vice President of the first Regional Council on immigration. A balance sheet of the first mandate?
The consultation was born with excellent prospects. It must be said, however, that the ways in which it is elected already demonstrate the first defect. It is a nominative consultative body without decision-making power formed by Italian and foreign citizens. Members of foreign origin are nominated by the provincial councilors for social policies: two for each province and it is assumed that they are active in public life and know the territorial dynamics of the migration phenomenon. In truth it was not so, they were very subjective choices. It is enough to remember that one of the two representatives of Parma worked as a family assistant for whom he lived a very closed life and the contact he had with the provincial councilor had also determined his appointment. The same cannot be said for the Province of Bologna. The Assessor asked the associations of the Metropolitan Forum and the others that were not part of it to identify one member each. Well, to propose his, the Forum convened a meeting with two representatives for each of the 48 member associations then. From the nominations proposed, the four most voted were sent to the Councilor who chose one.
Instead, the objectives of the Consulta have been achieved in part. The first was to influence the decisions of the regional Legislative Assembly. We did it not simply during the approval of the three-year planning of the 2005 -2008 integration policies but first of all with concrete deeds. The consultant was the promoter of 4 memorandums of understanding that improved the life of foreign citizens at the regional level. He promoted the creation of provincial centers against discrimination in the territory and also the Memorandum of Understanding on intercultural communication. We had strongly placed before the regional council the importance of supporting and promoting intercultural communication and therefore of journalism by foreign citizens, most of them young people. The Regional Council on Immigration is on a nominative basis, instead those municipal and provincial on an elective basis. Do they work?
Meanwhile, the consultations are not autonomous organs always depend on the local administrations. These are experiences on an elective basis, but again the lack of experience in both organizational and promotional terms is highlighted with regards to approaching foreign citizens. I followed the elections of the Council of the Province of Ferrara, I participated in the elections of the Council of Forlì-Cesena, we promoted the consultation of the five municipalities bordering on Bologna, we worked on the constitution of the Consulta of Monzuno and of the Provincial Council of Bologna. In all these experiences, the operational and promotion level of foreign associations was low. We lack the experience we haven't worked much on this side. However, it is a defect destined to disappear with the advent of the second generations who live within society, better understand its communication codes and know how to interact much better than us. What should be the three priorities of Italian immigration policy?
First of all the immigration legislation needs to be modified. With the Bossi Fini law you can't go further. The second should be the modification of the legislation on citizenship because only with full citizenship can one have full participation. The third should cover training policies. Even today, after 15 years of promotion of territorial policies, the largest part of the funds goes for Italian courses instead foreign citizens would need professional training courses on a par with Italian citizens.
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