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Plus, pre-Easter sabre rattling and Il Cavaliere’s health woes
With Palazzo Chigi ready to break for the holidays, the government has been busy rushing through some hasty spring legislation. First, over the weekend, Meloni’s administration continued its apparent hardline stance on tech regulation by implementing a temporary ban on the deep learning technology “chat GPT” due to user privacy concerns. The response has been mixed. Some commentators cheered the move, celebrating it as a defence of civic rights. Other more serious critics, have pointed out that, for all the posturing, the government is still allowing Facebook, Google, Amazon and others to act virtually unchallenged vis-a-vis data mining, and that this temporary policy is, consequently, better seen as a populist gesture exploiting the public’s fears about the software than a genuine effort at regulation. Whatever the case, the Italian government is increasingly distinguishing itself as one of the most national(ist) in the EU regarding tech law - though the rationale behind it is less than clear.
On the other side of the Alps, bureaucrats in Strasbourg and Brussels are also getting ready to hang up their officewear. And they did so, earlier this week, with a flourishing announcement. According to EU auditors, Italy has failed to invest adequately in infrastructure over the last quarter and it now faces possible penalties. Specifically, the EU is accusing Italy of mis-spending large sums of the Covid recovery fund that were supposed to be allocated in a structured manner via the national budget: the PNRR. Instead of investing in the promised youth, environmental and healthcare schemes, the state has apparently allocated monies to large infrastructure projects including two new sports stadiums. Vast sums, it goes almost without saying, are simply unaccounted for. This is a story as old as time regarding Italian state investment; but it could, in this instance, tarnish Georgia Meloni’s efforts to brand herself as a breath of fresh air after decades of sleaze. If fines and repayments are required there could be serious political ramifications too — so watch this space.
Finally, in dramatic news, Italy’s ex- PM Silvio Berlusconi was admitted to intensive care yesterday due to “severe cardiovascular problems.” While the prognosis in unclear (leaked info suggests the issue is due to complications arising from a blood cancer) many are muttering that, after a series of previous scares, he could now be on death’s door. Yes, the man is a tyrant, but I won’t be speculating myself. Nevertheless, it’s worth stating the obvious: Berlusconi is not just any old person – and despite falling from grace in the public eye he is still a key figure within the political and business elite. Many conservatives are actively afraid that, as and when he does die, that could mean the end for his party Forza Italia and potentially, by extension, the current government. Whatever happens next, the timing of this news – the same week that the cringe-looking show “Berlusconi The Musical” has hit the London stage - is oddly and perhaps grimly poetic. The final curtain call may indeed be near.
Finally, on a personal note, I too am ready for a break. 2023 so far has been a whirlwind. I’ve been travelling a lot, reading a lot, working too much, planning big projects, and the time now feels right to crash out with family and gorge myself on a big slice or three of colomba. So wherever you’re reading this, and whatever your creed I wish you a few days of peace: Happy Passover to Jewish readers! Happy Easter to you Catholics and Protestants! And for all you Florentines out there I’m crossing my fingers for another perfectly aerodynamic Scoppio del Carro [skip to 2:00:57 in the video below if you don’t know what I’m on about].
The Week in Italy will be back in your inbox on 20 April.
Until then, buone feste.
My name is Jamie Mackay (@JacMackay) and I’m an author, editor and translator based in Florence. I’ve been writing about Italy for a decade for international media including The Guardian, The Economist, Frieze, and Art Review. I launched ‘The Week in Italy’ to share a more direct and regular overview of the debates and dilemmas, innovations and crises that sometimes pass under the radar of our overcrowded news feeds.
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