A sad letter from Italy

A sad letter from Italy

Association of European Journalists (EJ) chairman Paolo Magagnotti is someone who devoted his entire life to the cause of the European Union, European identity, norms, values and the consolidation of European institutions — most of the time at the expense of national identities or norms.

Yesterday I received a letter from Paolo reflecting the collapse of his great hopes from Europe, with very strong resentment as regards to his country not being given a hand in solidarity.

“The world has entered one of the darkest moments of human existence, it is not the dreaded nuclear war, but a ‘war’ of an insidious virus that enters our bodies to destroy us, threatening the peoples of nations and continents. After China, it is now our dear Europe is under enemy fire. Italy is the country of the European Union that was most seriously hit first and still struggles by all its ‘national health system’ and involving the efforts of many volunteers and the entire population. I have to say, with bitterness, that, as was the case with the epochal phenomenon of migration, this time too Italy did not receive the European solidarity - the fundamental principle of solidarity - enshrined in the EU treaties. It was left alone, and the most concrete and timely help came from China,” Paolo wrote in his letter, adding, “Setting aside the EU and MSs Institutions, it was also very sad to see national and international media painting Italy as a plague-stricken country guilty of originating and spreading the virus epidemic beyond its borders. You know the European spirit that has always animated my thinking and my actions, and my aversion to policies that exalt national value as opposed to the spirit of the European unity, but I cannot avoid expressing my disappointment with the lack of European sensitivity towards Italy.”

As a friend of Paolo for so many years, I was appalled with the very strong disillusionment he has fallen into, his sadness. From his letter it was sad to see the strong feeling of “segregation” Paolo felt in his “mountain house” in Trento, a town where he just a few years ago hosted a delegation of the Association of Journalists delegation from Turkey at the EJ convention. “I can only go out to buy food and, if needed, to go to the pharmacy or in cases of serious need. Before going out I must sign a self-certification indicating, under my responsibility, the reason and time of leaving home and the place where I have to go. If the police find that the self-certification is not justified, we face criminal consequences, which are even more severe for people being in quarantine,” he wrote. Worse, Paolo wrote in all bitterness that “the most tragic situation is in the region of Lombardy, especially Milan and Bergamo, where there are churches with coffins laying outside in a row waiting for a funeral service.”

In the letter, there was very strong resentment with Brussels, as well as the governments of the EU’s member states. He complained that Italy was left alone by both the EU as well as the member states’ institutions and warning that the post-crisis EU would not be the same.

“What is certain is that after we get out of this tragedy the world won’t be like before. The European Union will certainly not be the same as before. We will have a significantly weakened Union, because of the mistakes and feckless idleness both at the European institutions’ levels and on the side of its Member States,” he said, stressing that the way Brussels, as well as member states, acted in this crisis so far “offered new arguments to nationalists and populists to blame it. We will have a further loss of citizens’ confidence in the already low degree of trust for this European union.”

What will tomorrow bring? Naturally that cannot be foreseen while sailing through a worsening coronavirus crisis. What’s clear is the bitter fact that like Italy, Netherlands, Greece and the rest of Europe, Turkey is passing through a very serious challenge. Everyone must abandon the “I won’t be affected” ignorance and abide by the rules of isolation.