Just how bad is Italy?

by Chris Bertram on April 8, 2006

The website “Sign and Sight”:http://www.signandsight.com/ (an English-language version of “Perlentaucher”:http://www.perlentaucher.de/ ) is a year old, and I’ve only just noticed it. There’s lots of excellent stuff there, including “a piece by Friedrich Christian Delius on the state of Italy”:http://www.signandsight.com/features/697.html , which tells us, inter alia, that the World Bank ranked the Italian legal system 135th/136 (just ahead of Guatemala!) for effectiveness:

bq. The main reason is that the limitation period for crimes continues to run after a trial has opened, and even after a verdict has been passed, right up until the final day of the final instance. Consequently lawyers try to prolong legal proceedings as long as possible. In 2004 alone 210,000 cases fell under the statute of limitations. The perfect scenario for well-off defendants to get away scot-free. Berlusconi himself has profited this way several times.

bq. A well-governed state might have an interest in changing this state of affairs, for example by introducing the usual procedure of suspending the statute of limitations when a trial begins. The governing majority has indeed gathered the energy to make changes, but in an unexpectedly creative way. The limitation periods have now been considerably shortened, from fifteen to seven and a half years, specifically for economic crimes and corruption. There will be no more sentences for the top ten thousand criminals, Mafiosi, corrupt politicians.

There’s much much more.



otto 04.08.06 at 8:08 am

The idea that there’s something Brussels can do about this is the rather charming delusion of this interesting piece. It means nothing more than, I call upon Apollo in our hour of need!


Henry 04.08.06 at 11:09 am

Not entirely true Otto. Brussels’ powers are limited, but they can restrain the Italian government in certain respects. See further Vincent della Sala, “Hollowing Out and Hardening the State: European Integration and the Italian Economy,” West European Politics (1997)


Kappelmeister 04.08.06 at 12:55 pm

Can anyone point me to the source of these statistics – the 2004 World Bank publication? It may be profitable to scrutinize their statistics and see exactly what method produced them.


Robin 04.08.06 at 2:33 pm

It is a great site, and you have to love the pun on Sein und Zeit.


Seth Edenbaum 04.08.06 at 2:44 pm

Claudio Magris, from the same source

In an interview with Henning Klüver, author and journalist Claudio Magris explains Silvio Berlusconi’s recipe for success with an example: “We had a family living above us, the typical Mr and Mrs Clean. They kept their home spic and span, but threw their trash onto the street. If there’d been a genocide in our stairwell they couldn’t have cared less. (…) For years this social strata was controlled on the one hand by the Democrazia Cristina, and on the other by the Italian Communist Party and the unions. It was never its own free political subject. Then Berlusconi came along and declared: you are a subject, free to vote for me! In doing so he pulled out every stop, violated all the rules of decency and brought about this strange cultural climate which is frightening even so many of his own people. These are the people we should address. It was a major mistake of the Left just to show them scorn.”

I last line rings true for my own stupid country


Bob B 04.08.06 at 3:04 pm

I know little about Italy or the World Bank’s ranking of the effectiveness of Italy’s legal system. By long-standing repute in Europe, Italy has unusually dodgy politics:

“Last year [2003], Italy’s highest court acquitted Mr Andreotti of charges [that] he ordered the Mafia killing of a journalist in 1979, in a separate Mafia-related case.”

That is fortunate as it would have added an extra dimension: Mr Andreotti served as prime minister seven times and is now a life senator. Another past prime minister was not so fortunate:

“Former Italian prime minister Bettino Craxi, who has died in Tunisia aged 65, was a key figure in post-war Italian politics and the upheaval of the bribery scandals of the early 1990s which sent him out of power.

“He was Italy’s longest-serving post-war prime minister, heading two successive administrations between 1983 and 1987, a remarkable achievement in a country known for a high turnover of governments.”

As for Italy’s economy, this OECD Economic Survey of Italy 2005: Policy Brief is illuminating on the main issues:

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