Italy united in tribute but split over response

Squares across Italy now bear impromptu memorials and messages of support for the French people but amid the display of solidarity, Italians are divided over how to confront the threat of Isis.

Italy united in tribute but split over response
Crowds visit a memorial for the victims of the Paris attacks in front of the French Embassy in Rome. Photo: The Local

In Rome, people came to the central square of Piazza del Popolo on Saturday night and lit candles, lay flowers and wrote touching messages in support of the French people.

People gathered in Rome's Piazza del Popolo to lay candles and messages of support on Saturday. Photo: The Local.

“This reaction doesn't surprise me,” 65-year-old Angelo told The Local. “It feels natural and right to come here and show our support for the French people.”

Amid the sombre mood, there was also fear and tension.

On Saturday the Italian government raised its terror alert and warned that Rome could be a target for Isis – especially with the Jubilee of Mercy set to get underway in December.

“It's difficult not to think Italy might be next. The papers say Rome could become a target and terrorism is something that involves us all,” Angelo added.

A short walk along Rome's central via del Corso, in the square in front of Palazzo Farnese – currently the seat of the French Embassy in Rome – a sea of flowers, candles and cards lined the ground by Sunday evening.

But amid a united front in condemning international terror, there were diverging views about what Italy should do next to deal with the threat of Isis.

“We definitely need more security measures,” said Laura, a 24-year-old student from the northern region of Veneto.

“We should perhaps look at limiting how many migrants we accept too.”

But it was not an opinion everybody shared.

“It isn't about migrants really,” 60-year-old Ernesto argued.

“Many of the Paris attackers were second-generation immigrants, so talk of closing the borders is perhaps a bit excessive.”

In October, Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti stated the government was considering deploying tornado aircraft for bombing campaigns in Syria, while earlier this month the US government gave Italy permission to arm two of its Reaper  MQ-9A drones.

Calls have now been made for Nato to step up its military campaign in Syria, with right-wing Northern League leader, Matteo Salvini, leading the calls for Italy to “take arms” against Isis.

“Some people will now call for the Italian government to carry out bombing raids in Syria, which so far they haven't done,” said Ernesto.

“But let's not forget, the reason Paris was attacked on Friday and not Rome was because of France's intervention in Syria.”

Next to Ernesto was Belota, a 62-year-old from France, who has been living with his Greek partner in Rome for two years.

“This outpouring of grief and solidarity is very touching and I am here as a global citizen to stand against all forms of terrorism and extremism,” he said.

“Let's also not forget that Boko Haram gunmen killed 147 people in Kenya in April and last Thursday Isis killed 41 in central Beirut.”

“What has happened is a tragedy for France but terrorism is affecting countries all over the world.”  


Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?