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Italy

Yearbook 2004

2004 ItalyItaly. According to CountryAAH, the ruling four-party coalition in Italy was drawn during the year with severe internal power struggles. A matter of dispute was the decentralization of power to the regions. The Lega Nord government party, which is working for increased self-government for Northern Italy, threatened to leave the coalition unless a far-reaching decentralization was introduced.

The fight escalated when Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's own party Forza Italia returned to the local elections and to the European Parliament elections in June, while the other coalition parties went ahead. The three smaller parties then moved forward positions towards the larger Forza Italia. The ruling parties National Alliance and the Democratic Center Union forced Berlusconi to kick his party mate, Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti. The politically unbound Domenico Siniscalco took over as finance minister. Conflicts got worse when even the influential Umberto Bossi, former leader of Lega Nord, left the government, officially in protest against the government's policy. However, earlier in the year he had suffered a heart attack. However, Berlusconi succeeded in balancing the parties' wills and in doing so kept the government together.

2004 Italy

One remission Berlusconi made to keep his fraternal party of Christian Democratic UDC satisfied was to appoint the European Minister and UDC politician Rocco Buttiglione as the new EU Commissioner. However, at the hearing in the European Parliament, the strictly Catholic Buttiglione expressed views on women and homosexuals that caused outrage among parliamentarians. Berlusconi persisted in his fight against "left fundamentalism" and refused to withdraw his candidate. EU President Josť Manuel Barroso supported Italy, but when it became clear that the whole new Commission would be rejected by the European Parliament because of Buttiglione, Barroso withdrew his Commission proposal and called on Italy to appoint a new Commissioner. The cool and uncontroversial Foreign Minister Franco Frattini became Berlusconi's new choice.

In October, the Italian government again received sharp criticism from the outside world when it decided to fly hundreds of African refugees, who have made their way to the Italian island of Lampedusa, back to Libya. Nearly 800 refugees in three boats had arrived in the island a month earlier. At Lampedusa's refugee reception, intended for 190 people, 900 refugees were crowded in September. Normally, refugees who came to the country, often in seaworthy boats with the help of human smugglers, were sent to the mainland for asylum testing. But in recent years, the flow of refugees to Italy has steadily increased, and in 2004, more than 10,000 refugees reached Italy An unknown number of people died along the way. Both within the government and among the general public in Italy there was a growing dissatisfaction with the refugee problem, and Berlusconi had earlier in the year signed an agreement with Libya's leader Muammar al-Khadaffi on cooperation to stop the human stream. Similar agreements had previously been concluded with Albania and Tunisia. Italy also suggested that the EU should set up a kind of shelter in North Africa where the refugees could seek asylum in other countries.

Italy, who contributed to the US-led coalition in Iraq with about 3,000 soldiers, received several threats of terrorist attacks from various groups that opposed the occupation of Iraq during the year. Several Italians in Iraq were kidnapped; Special attention was paid to the removal of two Italian shoes that worked for an organization that opposed the occupation. They were released later. An Italian was killed by his kidnappers.

In April, four officials at Linate Airport in Milan were sentenced to between six and a half and eight years in prison for manslaughter and neglect in connection with the October 2001 accident when 118 people died when a SAS plane collided with another plane on the ground.

In December, Berlusconi was acquitted of bribery charges in connection with the so-called SME deal as well as of the allegations that he bribed a judge to obtain benefits from his company Fininvest. The prime minister was released in the first case for lack of evidence and in the latter for the limitation period to expire.

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