27 - 28 June 2016

On 27 and 28 June 2016, the Swiss Delegation for Relations with the Italian Parliament(Del-I), headed by Filippo Lombardi, member of the Council of States (CVP/TI), travelled to Rome. The programme included meetings to discuss matters pertaining to EU policy, transport, finance, education and migration. This trip took place within the framework of parliamentary-level dialogue on current policymaking issues. Discussions were centred on migration, asylum and refugees.

At the meeting with the Ermete Realacci, chair of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Standing Committee on Environment, Territory and Public Works (Standing Committee VIII), Swiss parliamentarians were able to express their concerns regarding railway links with the Gotthard Based Tunnel, as well as their hopes that the road-to-rail shift in freight traffic through the Alps will become a reality. For his part, Chairman Realacci explained the various measures that Italy has taken that to cover 40% of the country’s energy needs using renewable energy sources.

The delegation then sat in on a session of the Italian Senate where Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke about the tripartite summit meeting held between Germany, France and Italy following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (EU). Swiss parliamentarians also met with Paolo Corsini, Deputy Speaker of the Senate, and exchanged views regarding ongoing institutional reforms and the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU.

The Swiss delegation then visited the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers (CARA) in Castelnuovo di Porto. This was an intense moment in which CARA Director Akram Zubaydi and his staff explained organisational aspects of the centre and the various intercultural challenges that they face on a daily basis. Due to its geographical location, Italy has to contend with a strong influx of migrants. Moreover, under Dublin rules, it is required to register these persons and provide initial assistance. The CARA centre in Castelnuovo di Porto is managed by the cooperative Auxilium. Currently, the centre houses 867 persons from 26 different nationalities whose average age is 23/24.

The Italian Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Emigration (Standing Committee III) received the Swiss delegation and discussions centred on Brexit and Swiss relations with the EU. One curious note: some of the members of this standing committee actually live in Switzerland and therefore have a particular sensitivity with regards to relations between the two countries. According to Senator Claudio Micheloni, a member of the Italian Democratic Party (PD) who lives in the canton of Neuchâtel, the EU is now at a fork in the road: either it manages to create a truly solid Europe, or it will break apart. As far as relations with Switzerland are concerned, the Italian senators see eye-to-eye with their Swiss counterparts on application of the popular initiative ‘Stop Mass Immigration’. The members of Del-I explained that the Federal Council had drafted a dispatch that will be discussed in the 2016 autumn and winter sessions of Parliament. As it happens, a solution is likely to be found by 9 February 2017. One concern that both countries share is the need to promote Italian as a language. The Swiss delegation stated that the Swiss Confederation intends to allocate more resources to promoting Italian beyond its national borders (Federal Council Dispatch on Culture). For its part, Italy intends to continue to fund Italian courses organised by consulates. There seems to be openness on both sides to work together to some extent.

Swiss members of parliament also attended a conference on the ‘Jobs Act’, which included a speech by Cesare Damiano, chairman of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Standing Committee on Public and Private Sector Employment (Standing Committee XI). Mr Damiano reminded those in attendance that current economic difficulties and Brexit show that free trade agreements that do nothing more than create markets of millions of consumers are actually counterproductive for the West. This is because the middle class, which had previously been viewed as the future of democracy, is becoming impoverished. The ‘Jobs Act’ is an important step for the current government and is intended to afford greater protection to workers.

The visit to Italy by Del-I ended with a meeting with Maurizio Bernardo, chairman of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Standing Committee on Finance (Standing Committee VI) and other members of the standing committee. Here, discussions focused on ‘tax agreements and taxation of cross-border workers’. 2016 was an important one with the inauguration of the Gotthard Base Tunnel through the Alps. It was only natural, therefore, that a meeting would be arranged with Michele Pompeo Meta, chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Standing Committee on Transport, Post and Telecommunications (Standing Committee IX). Here, discussions centred on the completion of the southern rail link and the policy to shift freight traffic from road to rail.

The Del-I was led by Filippo Lombardi (CVP/TI), who is both the head of the delegation and a member of the Council of States. Delegation members also included Marco Chiesa (SVP/TI), deputy chair and National Council member, and National Council members Kathy Riklin (CVP/ZH) and Silva Semadeni (SP/GR), as well as Council of States member Claude Janiak (SP/BL).

The parliamentary group of friends of Italy – Switzerland, which includes members from all political groups within the Italian Chamber of Deputies and Senate, is chaired by Gianni Farina (PD).