Why do Italian ministries not reply?

On 28 February the SIP Forum sent an official letter – via certified electronic post – to the Minister for the Environment and for the Protection of the Land and Sea, Sergio Costa, and to the Minister for Agricultural, Food, Forest and Tourism Policy, Gian Marco Centinaio, asking for Italy to formally sign up to the 4per1000 initiative.

We have not received a reply.

This is the kind of thing that leads Italian citizens to consider themselves “abandoned” by a government that ignores us and does not take account of what we think.

Our politicians often blame Brussels and its officials for almost all Italy’s current problems. They give them the insulting label of “eurocrats”. Few reflect on the fact that “Brussels” is not some abstract entity, but a set of institutions created to allow the 500 million citizens of its member states to live together, respecting their different cultures, languages and identities. Brussels as a single unified and centralized institution does not exist. What do exist are the community institutions whose tasks and obligations are determined by the member states. These institutions have no real autonomy, because everything is discussed, negotiated and decided by representatives of the Member States. This is true of the Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, to name but a few of the most representative bodies.

And yet, despite their complexity, European institutions are very “accessible”. The information is set out on the websites of every single institution where, in addition to the names and surnames of those who have been elected, nominated or employed to serve there, you can find their phone numbers and email addresses. They are the link between us citizens and the institution. It is their job to keep us informed about what is being discussed and to take on board our views, suggestions and advice. We can contact them directly and it is up to us to decide who to contact.

If you don’t know who to contact, it’s not a problem. There are services designed to provide the information desired. For example, if you want to know what point has been reached in the approval of a law or if a particular regulation or arrangement is already in existence, you can phone a number that is free throughout Europe, 00 800 67891011, where someone will reply in your language. Or you can write, again in your own language, and get a reply within three days on the relevant website. And again: you can just send an email or a letter directly to the President of the Institution (whether this is the Commission, the Council, the Parliament or whatever). They will not reply personally, but your message will be passed on to the competent staff members. The code of conduct that applies to the institution requires them to send a reply, if possible in the language of the person who has written in, within 2 weeks.

Why then can an Italian Minister not reply to a letter sent officially by a fellow citizen, without the latter having to mobilize friends, acquaintances, parliamentarians or “friends of friends”?