Italian euthanasia petition big enough to force referendum

More than 750,000 people in Italy have signed a petition calling for the legalisation of euthanasia, organisers said on Wednesday, exceeding by far the half-a-million threshold needed to force a referendum on the issue.

Italian euthanasia petition big enough to force referendum
Photo: Jean-Christope VERHAEGEN/AFP

A vote could be held as early as next year on the campaign, which calls for changes to the country’s laws on assisted dying.

“Today, without a law to regulate it, euthanasia isn’t a right available to everyone,” said Roberto Saviano, a journalist and writer known for his investigations into the Neapolitan mafia.

“I signed to give a free choice to those unable to travel to countries where euthanasia is legal,” Saviano added in a statement from the Luca Coscioni Association.

READ ALSO: ‘Assisted suicide is not always a crime’: Italian court rules

Anyone helping another person to commit suicide can be jailed for between five and 12 years under current Italian law.

But the constitutional court added an exception in 2019 for “patients kept alive by treatment… and affected by an incurable disease that causes physical and psychological suffering they find intolerable”.

The patient must be “fully capable of taking free and conscious decisions”,the judges added.

People suffering from incurable diseases who do not fall into this category have no legal recourse to assisted suicide.

Referendum backers say that if passed it will allow “medical assistance to choose to die” for “sick people who need help from someone else to end their own suffering”.

Opponents include Mario Adinolfi, head of the small Christian political party Popolo della Famiglia (People of the Family), who said the campaign was a “marketing campaign” for a “culture of death”.

The Vatican has consistently condemned the idea of allowing assisted dying, calling it “an intrinsically evil act”.

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Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.