Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti, Franco Baresi, and the list could continue. Italy means football. The country has a long and glorious tradition in this sport, a true religion for Italians. But what is the link with the European elections? Serie BKT, the second-highest division in the Italian football league system, joined “This time I am voting”, the special campaign launched by the European Parliament to boost the election turnout.
This Saturday, 11 May, three matches (Palermo-Cittadella, Lecce-Spezia, Pescara-Salernitana) will be played in a very peculiar environment. Special flags reproducing the official colors of the squads involved will show the logo and the banner of “This time I am voting”.
The second tier of the Italian football world already hosted this initiative last week, when the special flags, realised by the European Institute of Design (IED), were deployed for other three matches (Benevento-Padova, Foggia-Perugia, Salernitana-Cosenza).
Goal: kick abstentionism out
It could be appear as a weird decision the one of investing in the second division, but it is not. The European Parliament decided to involve Serie B KT because it has a lot of followers. Serie BTK has many teams whose supporters are very passionate and faithful. It is a league linked to the territory, and the message of going to vote can be conveyed to an important size of the Italian voters, especially in the south of Italy. Palermo, Lecce, Salernitana, Benevento, Foggia, Cosenza: these are all teams from southern cities of Italy.
“We focused in particular on the southern constituency and on the constituency of the main islands because these are the two territorial areas where the lowest electoral turnout is recorded”, the Italian office of the European Parliament explained. “The goal of the initiative is in fact that of sensitizing the audience of the stadiums, and those who watch from home, on the importance of electoral participation in a ballot which marks the future of the EU and therefore that of all Italian citizens and fans”.
The importance of the European Parliament for ‘Mezzogiorno’
There is more behind the special focus of the European Parliament on the southern part of Italy. Italy is the second biggest beneficiary of EU resources. The European Union granted the country €44.7 billion in Structural funds for the period 2014-2020. Almost the half of the money (€21.7 billion) comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), nearly one fourth of the resources (€10.2 billion) from the European Social Fund (ESF), and the remaining part (€10.4 billion) of the overall amount come from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
According to the EU parameters and criteria for the assignment of the funds, regions from the so-called “Mezzogiorno” (Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, Sardinia and Sicily) receive the majority of the total EU allocations for Italy.
Just to make an example, on a total of € 32.2 billion (current prices) for Cohesion Policy funding, €22.2 billion were given to the less developed regions (Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily), and €1.3 billion went to the transition regions (Sardinia, Abruzzo and Molise). So, around 70% of the total Cohesion policy funds went to the above mentioned regions.
The European Parliament of course played a role in all this. The Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund represents one of the largest items of the budget of the European Union. And as already explained on this blog, the European Parliament decides on the annual EU budget on an equal footing with the Council of the EU. EU budget is approved by the European Parliament, which monitors its execution. It means that MEPs contribute to indicating priorities and areas to be funded.
If Italian southern regions receive money and can develop their territories is also thanks to the European Parliament, then. The European Parliament and Serie BKT want to recall the Italians living in the most “rewarded” regions of the Peninsula what and how much the onlu directly-elected EU institution does for citizens. Not so little. That why European elections matter.