"Beyond fear, for the Italy of coexistence" is the title that the Italian democrats have chosen for their first National Conference on immigration. A path started about a year ago, preceded by important steps such as the document on immigration approved at the National Assembly of Varese in October of the 2010 and the agenda on the political participation of the "new citizens" approved to that of Rome, the last February. Two days of debates and proposals in which Italian and foreign parliamentarians and leaders of the PD will intervene, but also trade unionists and scholars.
"We would discuss the idea of a society that our party should have, the role that the community of new citizens already has within this society" and "the answers that the PD must give to create real paths of reception and integration", says Marco Pacciotti, coordinator of the PD Immigration Forum "It will be a very open and in-depth discussion that will change the document approved in Varese for the better", and that will be fed by the four working groups on asylum issues, citizenship rights, school and Italian language, work and welfare. Obviously we will talk about the proposed laws on citizenship and the teaching of Italian language and culture. But also of the reform of immigration legislation, administrative voting rights, equal access to public competitions and professions, political representation of citizens of foreign origin within the PD structures and on electoral lists.
For Pacciotti, the PD is overcoming the wavering and unclear attitude to immigration policies that in the past have characterized the center-left, even if within the party there would still be "backwardness in social and cultural reading" because "l 'immigration is a phenomenon still little known'.
The 25 and the 26 next March the PD holds the first National Immigration Conference. You called it "Beyond Fear". Why?
Beyond the fear because for the Democratic Party on these issues it is necessary to go beyond the approach adopted by the current government in recent years towards immigration, always seen in an emergency and as a threat to work and society, always fueling the fears of citizens. We believe that immigration for Italy is an opportunity. Who will the delegates be and what will you discuss?
The delegates are members of the PD, Italian and of foreign origin, who deal with these issues within the party and will come from all the provinces. We would discuss the idea of society that our party should have, the role that the community of non-Italian citizens already has, which we call "new citizens" within this society and how it is modifying it for the better. But also the answers that politics, in this case the PD, must give to create real paths of interaction within society and therefore of acceptance and insertion to create a virtuous circle.
For the PD it would be the first national initiative of this nature.
It is the first national conference that has been preceded in recent months by the three meetings of the party's Immigration Forum, from the approval at the National Assembly of Varese (October 2010 ed) of a document that will also be the basis for discussion of this conference, and then from a party we did last June on the second generations. There is a path that leads to this first conference.
Also from the agenda on the political participation of migrant citizens in the vs. structures. party and in electoral lists approved at the last National Assembly last February?
Yes of course. The agenda approved in February is very important because it opens the discussion in the PD of the political representation of new citizens.
Although the conference is part of a journey that began a year ago, immigration remains a hot topic even within the center-left and the PD. Were there any resistance within the party to undertake a similar initiative?
The theme is central not only for current events, but also for the future of our country. Because the nearly five million foreign citizens living in Italy will increase over the years, and will have roles, functions and an increasing weight within our society. So a big party has to take care of it because otherwise it would be short-sighted. In our party there were no political resistance, but backwardness of social and cultural reading. Immigration is a phenomenon still little known, in part certainly also in a large party like the PD.
As mentioned before, in October 2010 approved the immigration document, last February the agenda on the participation of "new Italians". Next week you'll hold the first national immigration conference. It seems that the PD is serious especially when it is in opposition.
Difficult to say if the PD is serious when it is in opposition because we have never been to the government. Now we are certainly doing seriously also because both the Varese document and the February agenda have been unanimously approved in the National Assembly. And it is an important political fact. Then, in the municipalities, in the cities, in small towns, there are already so many citizens of foreign origin now with Italian nationality who hold political leadership roles or are administrators. So where we govern, in small towns and provinces there are already experiences that suggest we would do it seriously even when we were in government.
However in recent years, if the center-right had a clear line on immigration, the center-left, the left-wing democrats and then the Democratic Party have always played the role of the tightrope walker, not offering an alternative in this regard. Do you agree with this statement?
This was a limitation that the PD has had less because it is a relatively young party and has not suffered from this cultural subordination of which she speaks. Surely in the DS, which I know best, there was a perception of immigration that was not clear. Thus, there were fluctuations from an entirely solidaristic system to another that was in some way affected by a subordination to some proposals, even Northern League. The positive thing I record in the last two and a half years is that this wavering attitude is progressively going beyond. In the last year the position of the national secretary Bersani on these points and of the other political leaders is also clear and indisputable.
In the past, the PD or rather the center-left has had some setbacks that have affected the daily lives of migrants. One of these is the mistake of not having immediately repealed the residence contract when the center-left came to the government in the 2006. When will the PD come to the government, will it abolish the integration agreement provided for by the security package and by the legislative decree that will come into force soon?
The delay of which you speak was also linked to an objective condition of full self-sufficiency of the center-left governments from which also derived the difficulty of sinking on these issues. Even if u
The last draft of the Ferrero-Amato that we were unable to vote because the Prodi government fell, already represented a considerable progress compared to the Turkish-Neapolitan one. If we were to go to the government surely the first act would be to go beyond Bossi-Fini in a radical way, removing the entire security package. They are two unreformable measures with which one cannot mediate. They must be overcome as a cultural system and as a political proposal, otherwise it is difficult to talk about integration policies. Also because this phantom integration package was approved but no lira was issued. So it's hard to think that a law goes it alone without the funds to implement it.
On this side, an important legislative initiative of yours is the proposed law regarding the topic of the integration agreement in which you propose to shorten the terms for issuing the residence card from 5 to 3 years for citizens who are committed and they reach a level of knowledge of the Italian A2.
We propose that the teaching of the Italian language and culture is an opportunity and not an obligation because the 3 article of our Constitution provides that the language is not an element of discrimination. So it must be an opportunity given to the foreign citizen when it is accepted, giving him the residence card in Italy. If then responsibly, the government makes available to the citizen courses of free Italian language and culture through the public teaching system, even the foreign citizen undertakes responsibly. We always talk about mature people who are aware that by learning the Italian language and culture they do two things that are useful to themselves. The first learn another language and live better in the society they have chosen as their second home. On the other hand, as an incentive they see the period for obtaining the residence card reduced by two years.
But does this presuppose that the integration agreement will remain in force?
No. It is a bill that we presented independently from the Maroni package. Currently there is no law in Italy that meets this objective need. Faced with a phenomenon that is growing and will not stop, a responsible government and country has the issue of how best to welcome these people. Certainly make available a training course that allows you to learn the Italian language and culture, it is a necessary condition to be able to feel good in our country, to be able to look for work and be able to move freely. So the bill disregards the Maroni package.
What will be the strongest point of the PD program that will be discussed at the Conference next week?
In addition to the bill on the teaching of the Italian language and culture that we have already deposited in the Turkish name, there are two other important points that concern the idea of the future society that we should have for our country. The first is certainly the law on citizenship that must recognize Italian nationality to children born and raised in Italy. I refer to the text of the law Bressa - Zaccaria, resubmitted in 2009 almost equally by Sarubbi and Granata. The other fundamental issue is the recognition of the right to vote in the administrative for citizens residing in a municipality for at least five years. This is a norm of civilization that does nothing but adapt our country to what is already happening in almost all the countries of the European Union.
But there is at least another rule that concerns the issue of equal opportunities and should be carried out by the Italian political parties that want to take charge. It concerns access to professions and public competitions. We know that there are young or at least professional migrants or anything else that actually does not have citizenship but they have all the other cards in order to participate in public competitions.
It is one of the issues that we will address in one of the four working groups of the National Conference because it is clear that there is primarily a problem of recognition of qualifications and that passes a lot through bilateral agreements. In many cases they already exist but are not respected in depth with respect to this aspect. Secondly, there are old laws that date back to the 1930s and represent an obstacle to exercising some professions. Thirdly, there is the need to start a process of confrontation with the professional orders that in Italy represent a filter with respect to the possibility of access to certain professions by non-Italian citizens. Among other things, in contradiction with Schengen and Maastricht, which provide for the free movement of workers within the Community area and the recognition of their professionalism.
Another battle to be pursued would be to increasingly involve citizens born in Italy from parents of foreign origin or migrant citizens in a process of inclusion in the public administration starting, for example, from schools and services.
Certainly, in our opinion, it is an unstoppable process. In Italy, the presence of foreign citizens will not only increase due to a demographic hole, but over time these foreign citizens will inevitably occupy more and more jobs that they do not cover. This concerns the professions but also the subjects of teaching. One of the working groups is precisely on the theme of the school where an intercultural approach is equally important because the encounter between different cultures represents an opportunity for everyone, both for those children of foreign origin born in Italy, and for their peers born from Italian families. It is no coincidence that a few months ago, the mayor of New York, a moderate man, an independent republican, hoped for a hundred million new immigrants to the United States because he considers immigration an element of enrichment not only in economic terms but also in social terms and cultural. Without thinking of one hundred million foreigners in Italy because objectively they would be many, but such a historical process cannot be stopped and must be governed in terms of opportunities, not only economic but also of cultural and social advancement. And this has as its premise what she said, that some mechanisms that now filter or prevent access to foreign professions for all professions are removed.
He agrees that it is not enough to create only opportunities, but it is necessary to encourage people to seize them and then activate a radical cultural change process in order to carry them forward.
The first theme is that of the school and it is fundamental. Defending public schools, making it a place of joint training for all children who access the public school system is the first major driver of this process. Then there are those other resistances that we said before, that is, old laws to be deleted, internal regulations for professional orders to be modernized. But the first great engine of integration, of development, of integration, of this great wealth, of this human heritage is certainly the public school, where children find common tools for growth and personal social affirmation.
Yet another area where resistance is encountered is political participation. Albania News interviewed citizens of foreign origin active in the PD on various levels who denounce a sort of closure and mistrust towards them by party structures. They are often even "confined" to immigration. Confirmation?
It is true because we started working in this direction recently. The meaning of our proposal to recognize the right to vote in the administrative for non-Italian citizens is exactly to remove these resistances or cultural deficits. As you want to put, they are those convinced that when a person votes, he votes like another. And therefore recognizing the right to vote, means creating that strength to be able to represent oneself within the parties, which must do more, but above all to give weight and voice to these citizens when choosing their administrators in order to vote or apply . It is the only real way to break these barriers because those who do not vote count less than those who vote and this is unthinkable in a cohesive civil society.
At the National Assembly last February you approved a very important agenda that if it actually works, will change the Italian political scene. You have committed as a party to guarantee second generation and migrant citizens a representation within the PD but also on the electoral lists. Will they only remain good intentions?
Meanwhile, having had the agenda approved unanimously was not a given, precisely because of the difficulties we remembered before. So it represents an important first signal. I am a very realist. That agenda is a commitment and the commitments must be respected. As a Forum, with the help of the national party and the Bersani secretary in the first place, we are convinced that it is within the leadership groups starting from the circles to get to the national assembly, both on the electoral lists, space must be taken and inserted candidates or managers who are of foreign origin because in the PD to be a manager, you don't have to be Italian. And it is another important aspect to always remember. We already have around Italy, many of our party comrades who carry out leadership roles not always related to immigration issues. For example, our deputy of foreign origin Jean Léonard Touadi is in the Justice Commission, does not deal with social policies or directly related issues, although he obviously has a sensitivity and attention to these issues.
However, Mr Touadi was elected to Italy of Values.
Yes he was elected as an independent in Italia dei Valori, and had already been an assessor of the Veltroni junta. Immediately after being elected, he joined the PD and he clearly decided with the group to stay in the Justice Commission.
One month after the approval of the agenda and two months from the local elections, how many foreign citizens have you actually applied for?
The lists have not yet been approved. It is a fact that we can review in two to three weeks when the lists are prepared. Around Italy we already have many elected foreign-born directors, many of whom will stand for re-election. It is obvious that we need to do more extensive work. Our commitment is also to open a discussion on this point at the Conference in which national leadership groups will also participate. I'm pretty confident.
Many what percentage corresponds to?
I can't tell you the percentage, but we are discovering it gradually. We have never done in party an organic reasoning of recording the data of the elected representatives of foreign origin among the administrators. Since we started the Forum process, so last May, we have found several dozen. Unfortunately I have to say more in the North of Italy than in the South. This is certainly something to fill.
Since 1 January 2007, the number of EU citizens who can vote in administrative has grown a lot. Because the PD has not approached EU citizens in the elections that took place in these 4 years. Are you not interested or are you afraid of the outcome?
There have been successful attempts in some realities. In others there was not, in my opinion, even the perception of the magnitude of the phenomenon. When I said before that there were delays of analysis on the part of the PD it is exactly that. There are over one million new EU citizens who could vote. To be clear, they represent a larger region of Umbria, and no organic work has been done towards them. Instead, in some realities they were contacted and involved in some way, and we proceeded to incite them to join the electoral lists. This is another issue that we are beginning to address, especially with the Romanian and Polish communities and the other so-called neo-comunities.
And have you nominated anyone for the next election?
It's still early because the lists aren't there yet. In Padua there is already one of our municipal councilors of Romanian origin. There, work was done with the community.
Another important point to be found in the Varese document and which you will certainly discuss in the Conference will be that of the European residence.
Yes, it is one of the issues that will be discussed at the first session of the National Conference next Friday. There will be several reports, including that of prof. Zaccaria, our deputy and constitutionalist of an absolute level who is addressing this issue together with our group in the European Parliament. In fact, part of the conference will have a cut very tied to European dynamics, including citizenship. Amongst others, David Sassoli, our group leader in the European Parliament, and Antonio Panzeri, MEP who will follow these issues in committee, will be present. It is certainly one of those issues that we would begin to speak not only within the Forum but in a conference on immigration issues that is of the whole Party. This is another step and a quantum leap compared to a few months ago.
Is the conference organized in various sessions and working commissions?
It is divided into two days. There will be three working sessions in plenary and on Friday afternoons four work groups on specific themes of asylum, work and welfare, school and citizenship rights.
At the end of the conference will you come up with what should be the PD's immigration program?
At the end of the Conference it will come out with a series of suggestions and suggestions that will come from the discussion, therefore nothing pre-established. It will be a very open and thorough discussion that will change the document approved in Varese for the better. This will also happen through the work groups that will serve to rewrite and deepen the topics that will be discussed.
On the other hand, the PD should not work to change the political and public discourse on immigration, which is often disparaging towards migrants, starting from the one on the respect of the rules, creating the idea that we are not respecting them? In fact it is not so. For example, the 10% of the Italian population composed of foreigners would not be enough to cover the 40% tax evasion in this country.
Sure. We have chosen the title "Beyond the fear". Fear is a term that serves as an element of communication and beyond fear means exactly beyond a backward cultural vision with respect to the presence of immigrants. It is a battle not only of a political nature but also of a cultural nature that puts the theme of immigration in the right perspective. All the more, and this is an incontrovertible historical fact, any person who immigrates to another country tends to assume the behavior of the country of which he is a guest.
The last few years are growing out of proportion to cases of foreign citizens whose stay card is revoked and replaced with a residence permit because they have lost their jobs. An absolutely illegal practice not provided for by immigration legislation, which erodes the very concept of integration. The PD has the opportunity to investigate this issue and carry it forward from a parliamentary question to Minister Maroni?
We have already presented a draft law on this aspect. Bossi-Fini is an unreformable law and has this mechanism that makes those who lose their jobs after 10 - 15 years of permanence in Italy, unstable and irregular. The first step to be taken as a political commitment is to remove Bossi-Fini. Waiting for this to happen, a few months ago with one of our senators we presented a bill that extended the period of research work from six months to two years for foreign workers residing in Italy regularly for years losing their jobs. On the other hand, we want to abolish the idea that to be able to work in Italy a foreign citizen must necessarily have a permanent job. In an economy of the economy where the various forms of contracts tend increasingly to be flexible and part-time, maintaining undetermined time only for foreign workers is certainly an element of discrimination.
However, as regards the residence card that is open-ended, the law clearly states the cases in which one may lose it and the loss of work is not among them. It is a practice that is illegal and must be fought not only politically but also institutionally.
It clearly goes against the law itself. We are discussing this, our parliamentarians participating in the Forum are aware of this, and I believe that it will be the subject of a parliamentary initiative. The first objective waiting to be able to have the political majority to be able to cancel it, is to denounce it, knowing however that it is necessary to change the cultural system that leads to discriminatory laws and attitudes of this kind. It is a work that must be done very deeply, a parliamentary question is not enough.
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