Thursday, October 7, 2010

For 'Real Italians' only...

The mayor of the northern Italian town of Tradate is angry, very angry. He is convinced the court ban on his "baby bonus" is a political decision, because he belongs to an opposition party, the Lega Nord. He may have a point, but the baby bonus was itself a political move.


Tradate is situated around 50 kilometres northwest of Milan in the heartland of what the Lega Nord refers to as "Padania". In 2007 Mayor Stefano Candiani came up with a plan to welcome brand new additions to the town's population with a 500-euro bonus, as a form of encouragement for young parents in these financially troubled times.

However there are conditions attached. The parents must have been registered in Tradate for at least five years and they must both be Italian nationals. So if you're Dutch, say, and living there with your Italian husband or wife, you can forget it. Strange, when you consider that all citizens of EU countries have the same rights.
Preventing EU citizens from claiming the baby bonus is not the main thrust of Mayor Candiani's plan. He is primarily concerned with excluding the extracommunitari, the immigrants from outside the European Union who populate the factories in the prosperous north of Italy, doing the jobs Italians no longer want.
The mayor defends the scheme on the grounds that Italian nationality is something everyone can obtain. "We have an African family here. Both parents have Italian nationality and they got the 500 euros too."

The courts, however, have ruled that the baby bonus is discriminatory. Tradate says the money is an encouragement to have more children in order to "protect European culture, which belongs to the people of Europe". In other words to ensure enough European, or rather Padanian, babies are born. Eighty years ago Mussolini encouraged Italians to have more children and create a large and powerful nation.
Mayor Candiani wants to counteract the high immigrant birth rate. A policy supported by many people on the streets of Tradate. "They have so many children, it's good we can get this bonus" says an elderly woman pushing her granddaughter in a baby carriage.

The policy is not unique in northern Italy. Other Lega Nord mayors want similar baby bonuses or are agitating against the presence of foreigners in their towns in other ways. Keeping pigs on a piece of land intended for a new mosque, for example. Some towns impose income thresholds on immigrants.
These are only incidents but they are becoming more common as the Lega Nord gains ground. It now controls two of the four northern provinces, Piedmont and Veneto. Silvio Berlusconi's party rules the other two, Lombardy and Friuli, but he is dependent on the support of the Lega Nord.

You may wonder why immigrants would want to live in Padania, but what many Lega Nord officials know and don't mention is that northern Italy desperately needs them. Without the extracommuntari its economy would be seriously shorthanded - beyond the help of any baby bonuses.

Arash's World: On Being a Father: Two Years Later

Arash's World: On Being a Father: Two Years Later

Day Opening - October 7

In fact a very sad picture.