I am very sorry that Martin Kettle has changed his mind about Italy and has almost decided not “to set foot in the place again”. I am afraid that – in doing so – he will deny himself the opportunity of going beyond the “seeing only what they want to see” syndrome that he rightly blames in his article.
I believe he should, instead, visit Italy more often, because his commentary was filled with the most common stereotypes about my country. He would quickly discover how inappropriate it is to draw such drastic conclusions from secondhand accounts. He would find different stories to tell. He would probably adopt a more nuanced language. At least, he would have avoided unnecessary references to great Italians such as Dante and Verdi, which are totally out of context in his article.
I am stressing this point because I believe that complex and sensitive issues such as migration and racism call for sober and careful analysis. There is a lively debate in Italy about these subjects. Many Italians suffered in the not-too-distant past the pain of living abroad, not always in the best conditions, so we know what we are talking about. Nowadays, instead of exporting labour, we are in need of it. We have probably not yet fully grasped all the implications of such a sudden change of direction. It takes time and needs to be fully digested by the entire population, at all levels. I think we are trying our best to respond to challenges in a comprehensive way, tackling all aspects but, above all, upholding human rights and rule of law.
I am not denying we are encountering problems, but I would add “like everybody else”. We are seeking the support of our partners in tackling illegal immigration flows that target Italy as the closest entry point into Europe.
Prudence should be exercised before passing judgment on the whole of Italy. To insult an entire country (“corrupt, smut-driven, racist and lawless”) is an overemotional and – sorry to say – rather despicable reaction. I am confident that Martin Kettle, on rereading his article, will regret the bluntness of his “end of a love affair” attitude. We deserve more respect.
Giovanni Brauzzi, the minister and deputy head of mission at the Italian embassy in London.