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Italians don’t want MEPs in trouble with justice

Italians want clean people in politics. This is the proposal coming from Italy for the European Union of the future. The web platform “We Europeans” asked the citizens of the EU how to rebuild, in practice, Europe. People decided to play the game, whose outcome is a in the set of the ten proposals selected for the candidates at the next European elections.

Between 4 February and 15 March, WeEuropeans carried out what the portal considers to be “the largest civic consultation ever held in Europe”. About 38 million people were asked to offer their contribution to the next political agenda. In the end 1.7 million people participated and 11.3 million citizens voted the proposals to be submitted to the European decision makers.

Basically European have been asked to provide what is supposed to be the best ideas to shape a better Europe. The most popular suggestions in each country were translated in official proposals and put to the vote of all Europeans. Italians massively spoke in favour of legality.

“We should ban those who have committed crimes (e.g. tax evasion) from working in public sectors or running for elected positions in Europe”, is the most voted proposal among those put forward in the Italian peninsula.

An example of participation

The campaign launched by “We Europeans” showed that people appreciate the right to vote. Europeans preferred much more to vote rather than put forward suggestions. Expressing personal opinion through the vote emerged as massively favoured by the Europeans, and this is encouraging for all those who are calling citizens to participate to the next May elections.

Thus, the European Parliament is in the front line. The campaign “This time I am voting” was launched before the end of 2018, with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of the democratic participation. Alongside this initiative many other events have been organized, such as debates, workshop, student-oriented activities. All is built on the assumption that voting matters, and those who don’t use the right contribute to weaken Europe in his democratic principles.

WeEuropeans is “a civic, democratic and non-partisan campaign”, the people behind the initiative explained. This particular campaign for a better Europe wants be a contribution of the citizens for citizens. WeEuropeans brings together people regardless of their opinions and puts them at the core of the European project by allowing them to reinvent it.

Italy and justice

Italians want to reinvent the EU of clean politicians. Elected positions must be for people with any sort of problem with justice. It sounds fair enough, and the principle itself is clearly agreeable. Nevertheless a short consideration has to be done, since the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, a lawyer, said that justice can be political.

During his last visit in Brussels (29 March), where Conte participated to the European Council meeting, he stated that when it comes decision makers in trouble with justice “there are different aspects, the judicial one and the political one”. According to Conte, “politics cannot wait the final judgment”. That means that those accused of wrongdoing have to leave the political scene. “It could appear penalizing, but legally speaking the person involved can also have all protections for granted”.

What Conte said is valid for many democracies: politicians upon which there are suspicions of wrongdoing should leave office, not waiting for a court decision. The fine line is between “should leave” and “must leave” there is huge difference. In the first case the person in troubles with justice is not obliged to renounce to his post. In the second situation, on the contrary, a politician is obliged to go.

In Italy there are no legal obligations to leave office in case of open investigations. Neither politicians are obliged to leave in case of a first negative ruling. This is due to the fact that according to the Italian Constitution, article 27, “a defendant shall be considered not guilty until a final sentence has been passed”.

Politicians with pending judicial issues can be asked to leave by their own party. Or, eventually, before being elected they could be obliged to sign an internal regulation with specific provisions of this kind of nature. But it is not always the case. As said, the Italian system does recognize the presumption of innocence,

Giuseppe Conte basically suggested changing the Italian established practice. For decision makers the principle of the presumption of guilt should prevail, according to the Italian prime minister.  So, what about the European Parliament? The fact that an elected person is accused of something should be enough to excluding him from politics or not? What it was proposed by Italians is nothing but a generic principle. The translation in practice will be the key issue.

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