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Divorce, Italian Style, version 2015. New law significantly shortens waiting times. PDF Print E-mail
Apr 25, 2015 at 07:59 PM

Marcello Mastroianni in Divorce, Italian Style (1961)
When I first moved to Italy in 1972, divorce in a limited form – after three years of legal separation and obligatory attempts at reconciliation
had been introduced only two years prior. The influence of the Church was such that before 1970, unhappily-married  Italians could get a legal separation but could never get remarried.

After 1970, thanks to the new law that had been pushed through parliament by a coalition of leftists and liberals, things had changed. And attitudes really changed  after 1974,  when over 59% of Italians voted in a popular referendum to defeat an attempt by conservatives and the Church to abrogate the 1970 law.

However, getting a divorce in Italy has always been a lengthy, expensive and bureaucratically difficult process, which may in part account for the fact that the divorce rate here is still far lower than that in many other countries as well as encouraging far fewer people than in the past to actually tie the knot.

But that is no more.  With the approval – by 398 to 28 – of parliament, the so-called “Divorzio breve” has now become law. Indeed, as of April 22, 2015,  Italians seeking a divorce will be able to do so (not forced to, simply able to do so) after only 12 months of legal separation (down from three years) and only six months if the desire to divorce is consensual, whether or not the couple has children.

“This is a step forward in civilization”, said Donatella Ferrante, a member of the left-leaning Partito Democratico,  and president of the Justice Commission of the Italian Chamber of Deputies”. She described the new law as “balanced and realistic, one that will make the judicial process easier by reducing the time for contentiousness” Shortening the time for obtaining a divorce, she added, will make it easier to resolve conflicts between the parties and will thereby safeguard the serenity of any offspring.

Not everyone, of course, is happy about this. Famiglia Cristiana, the Roman Catholic weekly, wrote last week that the new law is a big mistake particularly where children are involved. The magazine insists that given the greater time for reflection, many couples with children have decided not to go ahead with a separation. “To reduce marriage to something similar to a flexible cohabitation pact that can be easily dissolved is a danger for all involved, starting with the children, the real victims of these cases”.



Divorce, Italian Style, version 2015. New law significantly shortens waiting times. PDF Print E-mail
Apr 25, 2015 at 07:49 PM


Brouhaha over police wildcat strike PDF Print E-mail
Jan 08, 2015 at 10:18 PM
Too much talk, not enough work
The Italian government and top authorities in Rome have vowed to take punitive action against the hundreds of city police - 83.5% of those on call - who did not show up for work on New Year's Eve. Whether or not this will happen remains to be seen: in Italy, talk is cheap. But the unprecedented incident has refocused attention on one of Italy's nagging problems, unflagging and illegal absenteeism among the ranks of civil servants that reportedly costs the country 30 million work-days and millions of euros in attempts to curtail it. Premier Matteo Renzi said this week that reforming the civil service was high on his list. "It is unacceptable that the reputation of honourable and hard-working public servants be muddied by slicksters and tricksters", he said the other day.

According to statistics, the average Italian worker gets sick 2.3 times a year and stays home for an average of 17 plus days every year. Who knows how that compares with other countries but it certainly seems like a lot to me. When I was working for my Italian newspaper, I might have been sick 7 or 8 days a year, never more. But these figures are even worse among public administration workers, as Italians refer to the civil service, and the category most guilty of absenteeism, for the most part based on what may well be false doctors' certificates, are the country's police forces. (Interestingly enough, from this point of view the most virtuous state employees are Italy'ss magistrates, who not only get sick rarely but also often take less vacation time than the others).

What happened in Rome last week, basically a wildcat strike, appears, to have been set off by the city administration's plans to restructure salaries, linking them more to performance and merit than they have been in the past. If I understand correctly, the Economy Ministry recently ruled that bonuses used by the previous Rome administration to boost the salaries of city police, whose functions are mostly traffic-related and administrative, were illegitimate. (They included supplements for street duty, supplements for shifts beginning after 5 p.m., and reimbursement for dry-cleaning costs for their uniforms). The new system, based on performance and merit, went into effect on January 1st.

Many among the 6000 city police corps reportedly are also angry at their new commander for deciding that in the future they should not spend more than five years in the same office or seven years (still too long) patrolling the same territory. But whatever the reason was, the behavior has been deemed unacceptable, as so it should.

Abseenteism among civil servants has slowed somewhat in recent years thanks to actions taken by minister, Renato Brunetta, Minister for the Public Administration under Berlusconi from 2008 until 2011 and who put the cost of absenteeism to the Italian economy at 6.5 billion euros a year; he cut pay for civil servants during the first ten days of illness, stepped up requirements for home doctors' visits and went after doctors providing false medical certificates.

Renzi's plan for the future involves more of this and also considers transferring responsibility for checking up on people staying out of work for illness from the ASLs, the local public health units (a sort of state-run HMO) to INPS, the Italian National Institute of Social Welfare, which is in charge of most Italians pensions and social security. Like most Italian institutions, INPS has always been headed by people close to this or that party. But Renzi recently gave the job to well-known independent economist Tito Boeri, who is likely to be a serious and objective taskmaster.

Italian Coast Guard and Navy shine PDF Print E-mail
Jan 04, 2015 at 03:00 PM

The Norman Atlantic on fire
While the Italian government still has little to show for its plans to help the country out of its economic doldrums, the Italian Coast Guard, its Navy and Air Force get kudos for saving travelers aboard a stricken ferry and rescuing hundreds of illegal migrants arriving from war-torn and/or poverty-struck countries and abandoned in the open seas by unscrupulous human traffickers seeking to avoid arrest.

In the last few days alone, some 2000 people have been rescued from possible death in several dangerous ocean incidents. On December 28, a fire that is still smoldering broke out on the Norman Atlantic ferry en route from Greece to Italy and Italian rescuers played a key role in a high -eas situation in saving 427 passengers from the ship and take them to safety in Italian ports. The often-daring rescues by helicoptes and ships in the area were coordinated by the Coast Guard in Bari, in southern Italy.

So far some 13 people (including two Albanian sailors participating in salvage operations) are believed to have died because of the incident although the exact number of people aboard still seems to be uncertain. According to the ship's manifest, the total number of passengers and crew was 475, which would mean some more than 30 people are as yet unaccounted for. Althugh there is also speculation that there may have also been more people aboard (and this more deaths), including perhaps a number of stowaways, possibly illegal immigrants, maybe hiding in the garage, which is where the fire reportedly broke out.

The ship, owned by the Italian company Visemar di Navigazione, and chartered in December by the Greek ANEK Lines is now docked at an auxiliary port near Brindisi in the Adriatic sea while investigations are under way. Although muck-raking Greek and Italian newspapers have been focusing on the defects of the ship, - for example, the poor functioning of the lifeboats, - the rescue operations were undeniably brilliant and deserve high praise.

A few days later, a vessel called the Blue Sky M bearing as many as 970 migrants, including pregnant women and many children, was abandoned at sea by the traffickers who arranged the illegal travel. The ship was guided into the southern Italian port of Gallipoli on New Year's Eve after Italian Coast Guard officers were lowered onto it by an Italian Air Force helicopter.

And then shortly after that, a cargo ship, the Ezadeen, carrying some 450 migrants, was also abandoned to drift in the Mediterranean by the criminals seeking to avoid arrest. After distress signals were sent from somewhere near the Greek island of Corfu, Italian Coast Guard officers again were lowered onto the ship from an Italian Air Force helicopter and sailed the ship to safety to the Calabria's Ionian coast.

Last year, some 170,000 illegal migrants (a mind-blowing number) landed on Italian shores, often after rescues from perilous situations. Clearly, the rescuers were applying orders by the Italian government whose Mare Nostrum policy deserves high praise, not least because of the problems it causes for a country with serious economic and financial problems. But it has allowed the Italian Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force to show of just what fine mettle they are made.


Wettest summer in 35 years PDF Print E-mail
Sep 08, 2014 at 03:40 PM
ImageFinally, a real summer day and I am heading off to the beach. This summer, these unblemished sunny days have been a relative rarity at least in Rome and much of northern Italy. The fact is that this has been just about the wettest summer for 35 years with an understandably negative effect both on tourism and on the national mood: July was noticeably rainier than in recent memory meaning there was far less beach-going than in the past and even mountain holidays in August have been characterized by cold and damp.

According to figures from the national research council's institute for atmosphere and climate sciences (ISAC-CNR), July 2014 was 73% rainier than the July average for 1971-2000. CNR scientists also report that temperatures were slightly below average. Italy's center-north, which includes the Dolomites and Tuscany, saw rainfall twice as high as normal, making 2014 the 13th rainiest July in these regions since way back in 1800. Many in northern Italy said it often seemed more like autumn than summer.

Experts say that Italian weather reflects not only the general trend in much of the world towards more extreme weather but that other anomalies also influenced things here this summer. Some blame it on the excessively warm water in the Gulf of Guinea, which interacted with the atmosphere to weaken the high pressure of the African anticyclone that usually brings Italy intense heat.

Others says it's the ‘El Niño', the cyclical Pacific Ocean weather event that prevented the anticyclone from reaching the Mediterranean and bringing good weather with it and may also have kept the Indian monsoon from appearing and weakened the Azores anticyclone. And, but of course I don't understand most of this, the African monsoon that pushes the Libyan anticyclone has also been weak, meaning that atmospheric disturbances have tended to stay in the lower Mediterranean instead of shifting north. In fact, this summer, Scandinavia - to the delight of its inhabitants - found itself treated to the warmest summer in ages with temperatures above 30 °C throughout July, while the Côte d'Azur in France had the same rainy weather as Italy.

There were a couple of good weeks in August where tens of thousands of Italians rushed to the shore, but that didn't last either. But there's a good side to all of this, particularly for people like me who don't do well in great heat. This has been the coolest summer in decades and is the first summer I remember in which I myself have rarely been seriously uncomfortable. Furthermore, the countryside is still a lush melange of green. So I'm not very tan this year. Who cares?


Donor insemination to come to Italy PDF Print E-mail
Sep 07, 2014 at 10:57 PM
{mosimgae}Childless Italian couples will soon be able to use donor sperm for insemination. The new law will be passed in deference to a ruling last year by Italy's Constitutional Court that declared a previous law banning assisted fertilization unconstitutional.

The Italian health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin said earlier this month that by the end of the year it should be possible to carry out donor insemination at health service hospitals all over Italy on a co-payment basis, the same as for homologous insemination.
This will represent a huge change in Italian legislation as for years Italian couples with severe fertility issues have been forced to go abroad for treatments with non-homologous sperm.

One issue that has not been resolved is that of compatibility, that is to what extent couples can ask fertility centers to guarantee compatibility of blood group, hair color, eye color and skin color, although some say the latter would smack of racism.

Another thing that will have to be written into the law is some kind of safeguard to make sure that in in-vitro fertilization there won't ever be a repeat of an embryo mix-up last year which left a Rome couple with twins who are not their biological offspring and a second couple (the biological parents) with no children.

Italians gearing up for Ferragosto holiday PDF Print E-mail
Aug 14, 2014 at 02:03 PM
Image I'm about to rush off to the Coop to buy some chicken as my contribution to a Ferragosto barbecue tomorrow in the countryside near lake Bolsena where I am spending most of my summer. Ferragosto is the biggest Italian summer holiday, actually the only one, and the week preceding it is the week in which, as tradition dictates, the majority of Italians still take their summer holiday. In big cities such as Rome, the majority of businesses are closed this week although not restaurants, cafés or even monuments since the hordes of tourists must, after all, be catered to. Hundreds of thousands are at the beach. Other tens of thousands of people will be spending the day in the mountains. And still others will be celebrating in small towns where they or their families, or some relatives, have a second home or even live. Food, as usual in Italy, is of major importance, although there are no special dishes associated with the holiday. And the day usually ends up with fireworks. Here in this area the best ones are supposed to be accross the lake at Capodimonte so the idea is to go out in someone's boat and to see them from the water.

In Bolsena, during the week, almost everything is open because the population of the town, like that of myriad others, swells enormously during the summer. The shops will even be open tomorrow morning. But then everyone will be out celebrating even if they really don't know what it is they are celebrating, except as a general metaphor for pleasure - sun, sea, relaxation, meals with friends and unadulterated leisure. It is also the time that animals and elderly people often get left alone, as you may know if you have had the pleasure of seeing the charming 2008 Italian film, "Mid-August Lunch" (Pranzo di Ferragosto), in which a somewhat down in the dumps middle-aged Roman ends up cooking meals over the holiday weekend for both his elderly mother and the mothers of several other people who want to enjoy the holiday without having the burden of an aging parent.

The term Ferragosto is derived from the Latin expression Feriae Augusti (the holidays ordered by the Emperor Augustus for the first time in 18 BC during the month that took his name). There were pre-existing holidays in ancient Rome at the same time of the year- the Augustali - to celebrate summer harvests and to rest up from all the hard work in the fields. And in pagan times, this holiday also included the honoring of gods-in particular Diana-and the cycle of fertility and ripening.

It also has a significance for the Roman Catholic religion which marks it as the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven, the dogma holding that Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." But you won't find practically anyone who is dedicating tomorrow's holiday to her.




Caution on Italian roads PDF Print E-mail
Jul 01, 2014 at 07:01 PM
ImageIn 2013 3.5 million vehicles, or 8 percent of the total on Italian roads, did not have insurance coverage according to a report published by the Italian association of insurance companies (ANIA) on Tuesday.
This compared to 3.1 million uninsured vehicles in 2012, the report said.
There were considerable differences according to geographical area, with southern Italy showing the highest percentage of uninsured vehicles (13%) followed by the centre (8.1%) and the north (5.3%).
Southern Italy also held the record for the number of potentially fraudulent accident claims, at around 25%, ANIA said.
The premium for third-party insurance cost an average of 410 euros in March 2014, down 6.3% over the same month in 2013, according to the report. The average cost of car insurance has dropped by 10% over the last two years, ANIA added.
Consumer association Codacons slammed the figures, saying if third-party rates had dropped "Italian motorists hadn't noticed".
Insurance premiums in Italy continue to cost twice as much as those in other European countries, the association. (ANSA)
Strikes galore. Same old same old PDF Print E-mail
Jul 01, 2014 at 06:54 PM
Image Labour unions representing public sector workers only proclaimed 2,339 strikes in 2013 according to figures published on Tuesday by the government commission overseeing strikes in essential services on Tuesday.

This was the equivalent of 666 days of strikes or almost two strikes a day, the watchdog said. The sectors most affected by strikes were transportation, garbage collection, health and justice. The number was unchanged with respect to the previous year

In 2013 the commission of guarantee issued fines amounting to a paltry 113,700 euros mostly to unions (but also to employers) for failing to guarantee minimum essential services during strikes. In 2012 the strike watchdog issued fines to the tune of 365,000 euros.

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