The Chinese minister of trade Bo Xilai was in Paris yesterday. Most likely this is simply a happy coincidence, but the timing couldn’t have been better. The issue of Chinese textile imports has become one of the issues in the French referendum, and minister Bo was conveniently available to make all the right gestures:
“We want to soften the shockwave that there could be from the rise in Chinese textile exports,” Bo told a news conference after talks with French trade minister Francois Loos…”It is a temporary phenomenon and this phenomenon will weaken or disappear”.
The sinking of a boatload of Somali immigrants off the island of Lampedusa seems to have set off something akin to a feeling of collective remorse in Italy. (Would that the human tragedy that is occuring on a regular basis just off the straits of Gibraltar could provoke a similar reaction here in Spain!) Indeed Belusconi (always the master of great theatre) appears to have had them near to tears over in Strasbourg.
Irony apart, even his old ‘enemy’ – the good-soldier schultz – is quoted as saying he has “the impression that what Mr Berlusconi said came from the heart”. He could not however resist a reference to remarks which were last year attributed to Italian Reforms Minister Umberto Bossi to the effect that he wished the navy would open fire on ships carrying illegal migrants. Schulz is quoted as saying: “We are very happy that it is not those members of your government who want these boats sunk who are responsible for this issue in the (EU) home affairs council.”
Well this is the second time this month I find myself asking whether Berlusconi is having a change of heart. Since I try not to engage in type M speculation, I don’t need to answer this. What we might note is the way Interior Minister Pisanu is making the direct link with Italy’s ageing population and (hence) pension difficulties. After the Greeks tried to raise the question in Thessalonika, we could ask ourselves whether the South of Europe (where the demographic collapse is most profound, and immigrants are traditionally less in evidence) is about to adopt a collectively different approach on this question. Continue reading →