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Prodi: Economic disparities complicate Italian federalism

Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi spoke about the challenges facing his country as it attempts to achieve a more efficient federal structure during a roundtable discussion Monday night in a nearly full Smith-Buonanno 106.

After expressing his happiness at returning to Brown after his appointment last year as a professor-at-large based at the Watson Institute for International Studies, Prodi immediately began to talk about the "deep political problem" of federalism and Italian unity.

The debate over how to increase regional autonomy is occurring not only in Italy, he said, but in other European countries as well. 

The question of federalism in Italy is deeply connected to the problem of economic disparity between the states of the north and the south, he said.

The former leader said he believes federalism is possible but that strict rules must be implemented to encourage greater economic equality between the north and the south.

Though the Lega Nord, or "Northern League," party, which largely represents regional interests, is vital for the Italian government, the country would collapse without the support of the south, Prodi said.

"Instead of telling stories or dreams about federalism, I want to be realistic," he said. "It is impossible to have sound federalism without (a) flow of funds from rich regions to poor regions."

The discussion also featured Professor of Italian Studies Massimo Riva and Provost David Kertzer '69 P'95 P'98, who is also a professor of anthropology and Italian studies.

Riva began the event by briefly situating the question of federalism within the context of Italy's history, particularly the formation of Italy as a nation in the 19th century. He cited the economic, cultural and social disparities between the northern and southern parts of Italy as an important aspect of the current debate about federalism.

Kertzer noted the central position that Prodi has occupied in Italian politics in the last few decades. Prodi served twice as prime minister of Italy and also served as president of the European Commission. Prodi is the current head of a joint United Nations panel established to investigate peacekeeping in Africa.

Kertzer commented on the considerable differences between Prodi and Italy's current Prime Minister, the embattled Silvio Berlusconi. Prodi joked that his rival Berlusconi would probably not be asked to teach at Brown.

Prodi said he hopes one day Italians and Europeans will grow up with federalism and, like Americans, be born as federalists, but that such a reality is a long way off.

The event, sponsored by the Department of Italian Studies, was part of the Graduate Colloquium series for 2009-2010.



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