Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Gentiloni, on Freedom of Expression

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 339th MEETING, 26 NOVEMBER 2014.

On 26 November 2014, during a question time at the Chamber of Deputies, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, answered a parliamentary question by MP Gianluca Pini on Italy’s abstention during the voting of the UN General Assembly Resolution on the inadmissibility of certain practices related to the  Glorification of Nazism. The MP highlighted that in the case of the resolution – which was voted on 21 November 2014 – 115 were the favourable votes, 55 the abstentions (including Italy as well as all the EU member States) and 3 the contrary votes (Canada, the United States and Ukraine). He expressed astonishment at the decision of Italy to abstain, underlining that his country was not obliged to conform to the decisions of the other European countries.

Mr Gentiloni answered the question in these terms:

[…] to abstain means to agree upon some aspects of a document and to disagree upon some others. Moreover, the practice of abstaining on resolutions identical to the one that was approved on 21 November, is a practice that Italy and the quasi-totality, no, in the last seven years the totality of the countries of the European Union has consistently adopted.

It is true that, as you said, Italy is not obliged to conform to the behaviour of the other European countries, but in this case I believe it was the right thing to do. In some respects our abstention made the improvement of certain aspects of the document possible, even though not to a satisfactory extent.

Mr Gentiloni, then, explained the reasons underlying Italy’s choice, and by doing so he made a statement on freedom of expression:

What was unconvincing in this document, which, I restate it, has been repeatedly presented in the last many years? In the first place, it is somewhat “one-way”, because it condemns racism and totalitarianism in their Nazi and right-winged versions, but it does not mention the forms of totalitarianism that, for instance, existed in Europe after the Second World War. And, in the second place, in our opinion, the language of this document, in some of its parts, risks to impair values that we deem fundamental as freedom of expression and basic human rights. In our explanation of vote, we expressed these concepts, also on behalf of the European Union.

(A brief summary of the stance taken by Italy on behalf of the EU can be found here. A summary of the one taken by Poland, always on behalf of the EU and more in line with the reasons expressed by Mr Gentiloni, can be found here and downloaded here)

The official document, in Italian, can be found at: http://www.camera.it/leg17/410?idSeduta=0339&tipo=stenografico#sed0339.stenografico.tit00010.sub00020

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