The younger generations playing a central role in today’s challenges such as the future of the European Union or the fight against criminal organizations: contributing to the communal life by entering the institutions but also through the diverse social formations. These are the wishes expressed to the Community of Villa Nazareth by the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella, who on Monday, November 27 visited the University College and dined together with the students, answering their questions. Among the issues raised, the participation of young people in the political life of the country, the future of the European Union after Brexit, the role of the younger generations in the fight against crime, but also the thorny issue of public debt in developing countries. In these pages we report some of the considerations that the President has left to our community.
YEARS OF PEACE AND NEW CHALLENGES
The first of the questions that the students asked the Head of State speaks of future, of the fear of facing it and of the loneliness that young people often live in today’s world. A recurring and pressing question that the younger generations pose to the following ones: “What country are you passing on to us? With what values and what culture?
“We certainly pass on several mistakes, some missed opportunities but also seventy years of peace, democracy, freedom, widespread culture that had never been in our country, as in all of Europe – said President Mattarella. The most important aspect, which is the result of peace and freedom, is culture, the diffusion of education, the greater cultural awareness compared to the past. Today, we are more free and aware, but also more exposed to the open sea. In the past there were patterns of social life that weren’t actually rigid but habitual, repetitive, perhaps even protective: fortunately, they disappeared because they limited social mobility. This allows a more open navigation for young people, and the greater culture, which is providential, gives us greater awareness of the difficulties that were previously not fully perceived. We therefore give you a country with many mistakes but also many results, which, despite the difficulties, presents you with opportunities and challenges.
There are a number of problems today: fundamentalism and fundamentalist terrorism, the challenges of the environment and more. For example, a few days ago I met some Presidents of Oceanian States at the Quirinale, countries made up of many islands located in the Pacific, at risk of disappearing due to glacial retreat that could cause a rise in the sea level.
The new, global problem of the great migratory phenomenon. In just under thirty years, according to the demographers, Europe will have seven hundred million inhabitants and Africa two and a half billion, doubling its current inhabitants. With these conditions in two neighboring continents we will need to have a political vision that allows the European Union to control this epochal phenomenon by helping to develop wellbeing in the countries from which migration flows and, together, preparing legal, orderly and sustainable procedures for the reception of migrants no longer able to survive if not by moving. This phenomenon must be regulated and cannot be ignored.
These are important challenges that you will have before you. But the main one I think you have is the greater awareness of the problems compared to my generation: this is a challenge for you, a challenge that presents any moment some changes to be faced. In Italy, from the Second World War up to the beginning of this financial crisis, social mobility has made our society grow a lot, spreading wellbeing, mixing social communities but this phenomenon has slowed down for some time, also because we came out of the national and partly European dimension and we have entered a global dimension. This is another challenge for you. We give you a world with new and different challenges to face and you have the advantage – but also the risk – of a greater awareness of these problems, a condition that can cause insecurity. We were more protected by established habits. You are less protected, because you do not have – fortunately – those habitual patterns. In short, we give you an interesting world to face “.
THE FIGHT AGAINST MAFIA STARTS FROM EVERYDAY LIFE
Among the many questions, the students of Villa Nazareth asked the President what the role of young people should be in the fight against criminal organizations, in order to start hoping and believing in a fair, uncorrupted society to build a different future.
“Given the severity of the consequences of the Mafia presence – which has expanded in other regions other than those in which it has traditionally been formed – there have been consequences that not only limit the effective personal freedom, but also have serious consequences in terms of development, economy, investment – said the Head of State talking with the students -. Coping with the Mafia influence has cost the lives of many people, who have fought with strength, courage and awareness. They were people of many different categories: magistrates, policemen, journalists, politicians, professionals. They had no vocation to heroism, they were normal people who loved life and what they did. But they had a very strong sense of personal dignity and of the role they played. They were people who cared about dignity and defended it, even though they knew the danger they were in. This makes it clear that this is not a problem for the few who have a particular vocation to fight organized crime. It is a general costume that must be applied.
What can you do? We must distinguish between the great fronts and the minor fronts, which are no less important. The big fronts are the activities of prevention and repression, those assigned to judiciary and law enforcement agencies; efficient and transparent public administrations; an adequate employment condition to have a more solid social fabric. A fourth front is that of the formation of consciences, an element that is growing. Alongside these great fronts, there are other small and daily ones, those of respect for the rules and the rejection of oppression and arrogance. Compliance with the rules, even in daily life, is not secondary, because it contributes to the formation of the collective mental habit of respecting the rules, of rejection of abuse and arrogance. This is a very important criterion to teach children. Even this small front creates education and produces an obstacle to the formation of crime “.
THE DEBT OF THE DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Among the issues raised during the discussion between Mattarella and the students, there was also that of the debt of developing countries. Debts contracted above all with private commercial operators and of complex resolution. A complex subject to which the Head of State responded by taking, for example, the commitment of our country.
“This is one of the most debated issues in international politics – the President specified -. How right is it to demand the payment of debts to countries that are not in a position to pay without bleeding? Italy has a very open policy on this subject. Usually the debt is reformed by canceling it or converting it into development programs for the same country. This is a line also followed by other countries. Of course, this is possible, and Italy almost always does it, for the debts of the State. It is more difficult for the debts of private companies, because the state cannot force them to give up their credits, also because the companies have their shareholders, even small shareholders, that have employees who could lose their jobs. That of commercial companies is a different problem. Our country has tried to solve it with persuasion, making it clear, especially to large companies, that it is convenient to renounce credit to a country in difficulty, focusing on further investment in development, because, by investing in development, a country becomes a much more interesting potential customer than a country that has nothing to spend. And this belief system is sometimes successful. Then there is another tool, that of the State guarantee on the company’s claims.
In 2016 Italy canceled debt to three countries: entirely to Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry and partly to Cuba. In part, it converted them into development projects. This is the practice that we follow and this is what can be done. Fortunately, there are countries, already in great difficulty, that are growing at an interesting pace. These are countries that have a significant growth rate and understand that, if adequately supported also by international aid, they can reach sustainable levels in a short time. This increases even more the interest in canceling or converting debts. This is what we do and I believe it is the only viable way”.
THE EUROPEAN YOUTH ARE THE FUTURE OF THE UNION
In the years of the so-called Brexit, among the topics of discussion addressed by students with the President of the Republic, a pivotal one was that of the future of the European Union. A subject that in recent years saw a sort of opposition between older and younger generations born in a continent without borders that today seems to be at risk. For President Mattarella, however, young people are the resource for the future of the Union.
“Young people are much more supportive of the European Union than people in later years,” Mattarella added. They are also more projected into the future because perhaps they feel more the sense of history and the strength of historical movements, that of a historically relevant horizon, such as that of European integration. Europe has suffered violence and bloody wars for centuries, dramatically erupted in the first half of the twentieth century, until a broad movement, led by some people with a far-sighted political vision, has decided that for Europe the only way to get out of this continuous history of mutual violence and devastation, was to share the future: this is the reason for the European Union. If you forget this, you run the risk of returning to that tragic past.
In March we celebrated the sixty years of the Treaties of Rome. Sixty years of peace, for Europe, of growth, of well-being at a pace that had never happened in Europe in the past. Young people understand this very well, because – for example – free circulation is a condition that has inevitably given rise to a generation of Europeans. The difference between my generation and the next generation is this generation of Europeans. This, in short, is what makes young people be pro Europe “.
The last of the students asked Mattarella questions concerning the role that young people could have in the institutions. “As an essential component of society and its future, do you think young people should have more room in Parliament?”. A question to which the President of the Republic responded by proposing a different and more current than ever point of view.
“I could make a politically correct consideration of making more room for younger people, but I would like to make a more detailed consideration,” Mattarella continued, responding to the students. I think the presence of young people in Parliament is precious, but we should not make an idol of it, and we should not think that this is the solution to every problem. Actually, there must be a competition of the various components: social, cultural, ideological; and even personal data “. Finally, Mattarella reminded that the political life of a country does not take place only within the walls of Montecitorio. “This legislature has the highest number of female and young parliamentarians, but one should not think that the role of a politician only takes place in Parliament. Our Constitution gives us a model that involves, alongside the fundamental representative political structures, ie Parliament, regional and municipal councils, a number of figures especially on the social side as the bodies of social representation and intermediate realities freely promoted by citizens. There are a number of forms within which we contribute to common life and common decisions in our society. It is not only in Parliament that all this takes place. Of course, it must be said that, in this period, participation is rather low and this is reflected in an alarming electoral abstention: the engaging model of our Constitution must be fully revitalized “.