by Julia Nelsen
Populism, immigration, and regional initiatives were among the key topics addressed in “Italy, Europe, and the Challenges of Globalization,” a panel discussion sponsored by IES in collaboration with the UC Berkeley Department of Italian Studies, the Italian Cultural Institute, and the Italian Consulate of San Francisco. Introduced by Consul General Lorenzo Ortona and moderated by Elisabetta Ghisini (Hult International Business School / COMITES), the event featured Enrico Rossi (President of the Region of Tuscany) and journalist and writer Enrico Deaglio. Over 80 community members gathered to hear this timely conversation focused on the social, political, and economic challenges Italy is currently facing, as well as opportunities that exist for political, economic and cultural cooperation across Europe and globally.
A founding member of the EU and the single euro currency, Italy is seeking ways to make the Eurozone cohesion more effective in the wake of economic pressures and growing migration challenges. It also continues to play a key role in international relations in order to advance the EU's objectives to promote stability, safeguard diversity, and stimulate economic growth. Much of the discussion centered on the upcoming EU elections amid the rise of populist and nationalist forces, which risk upending the delicate process of European unification and the single market economy.
In particular, President Rossi underscored the important role that regions can play in countering the centrifugal forces of globalization and nationalist discourses alike. For example, Rossi discussed the Region of Tuscany’s opposition to the recently passed national decree on immigration and security, which removes humanitarian protections for migrants and makes it more difficult to obtain Italian citizenship. Because they are close to citizens, Rossi noted, regional governments are often better able to understand and respond to the needs of the people. At the same time, regions are in a position to set innovative policies such as those implemented in Tuscany’s public health sector, among the most advanced in Europe. While Deaglio drew comparisons between the Tuscan system and the current debate on universal health care in the United States, Rossi highlighted that Italy also has much to learn from the entrepreneurial landscape of Silicon Valley. Regionally focused initiatives, Rossi concluded, may have a significant impact on finding solutions to today’s pressing challenges, including health care and climate change, while safeguarding individual freedoms and human rights.