In early December 2017, President Donald Trump expressed his willingness to put into effect his presidential campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thereby moving the United States embassy there from Tel Aviv. Subsequently, he confirmed his intention notwithstanding the fact that it was met with criticisms, and even protests and open hostility, by many States and it caused peaceful as well as violent manifestations of dissent in the Middle East. Disapproval of President Trump’s decision was also voiced by Italy. On 7 December 2017, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Angelino Alfano, issued the following statement:
In September 2017 the Parliament of Catalonia, a region enjoying autonomous status within Spain, passed legislation to enable the holding of a binding referendum on self-determination. Claiming a breach of the indissoluble unity of the Nation as guaranteed by Article 2 of the Constitution, the Spanish Government brought the law before the Spanish Constitutional Court and threatened to suspend the regional autonomy of Catalonia should the referendum be effectively held. The Court pre-emptively suspended the law, and later declared it unconstitutional and void due to both the lack of competence of the Government of Catalonia in calling a referendum on a matter of Spanish sovereign authority and the fact that its approval by the Parliament of Catalonia did not comply with voting procedures. In the weeks preceding the referendum, Spanish law enforcement authorities started to seize ballot boxes and occupy Catalan ministries to search for evidence of the breach of Spanish law. Some of the key figures of the Catalan pro-independence movement were arrested and put under accusation for sedition. Tension between the parties rose, and people started to take the streets both in Madrid and Barcelona.
On 29 September 2017, during an urgent question time taking place at the Chamber of Deputies (861st Meeting, XVII Legislature), the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Vincenzo Amendola, was asked about the Italian Government’s position on the promotion of the referendum on self-determination by the Catalan authorities.
Popular protests have been taking place in Venezuela at least since 2014: their targets are the Government’s crackdown on civil and political liberties and the grave economic crisis afflicting the country, which has inter alia resulted in skyrocketing inflation and a persistent lack of essential goods.
In December 2015, parliamentary elections were held and won by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of parties opposing President Nicolás Maduro and his United Socialist Party (PSUV). In the following months, President Maduro declared the state of emergency and assumed more powers, while the MUD started to collect signatures for a referendum to remove him from office before the natural end of his term. In October 2016, however, the National Electoral Council suspended the referendum process; new demonstrations against this decision took place.
Italian Governments have long considered human rights protection as a fundamental guiding principle of their foreign policy. In a number of cases, Italy has thus used its diplomatic pressure to criticise human rights infringements committed by other States. In this area, Italy has increasingly acted in coordination with its European partners and in the framework of relevant international organisations, from the United Nations (UN) to the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe (CoE). Moreover, Italy has often referred explicitly to international human rights treaties to remind other countries of their legal obligations in the field.
At the beginning of 2016, the Italian national Giulio Regeni was murdered in Cairo in unclear circumstances. This soon became a major issue in the foreign policy of Italy and a cause of tension in its relations with Egypt. The event is here illustrated through the accounts given by the members of the Italian Government themselves, on the occasion of official reports to the Parliament. At the same time, some important political and legal aspects are also briefly addressed.
NEW YORK, 71st GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETING ON THE REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE, 27 OCTOBER 2016
On 27 October 2016, at the 71st General Assembly Meeting on the Report of the International Court of Justice, Minister Plenipotentiary Andrea Tiriticco, Director for International Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reaffirmed Italy’s abidance by the international rule prohibiting the use of force in inter-State relations. In his words:
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 699th MEETING, 26 OCTOBER 2016.
On 26th October 2016, during a question time taking place at the Chamber of Deputies, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, clarified the Italian position on arms export to Saudi Arabia. He stated: