The Age of Uncertainty: Emma Bonino's return to Bocconi

March 9, 2017


Emma Bonino, Italian politician, visited her alma mater on Thursday February 23rd for a lecture headlined "The Age of Uncertainty"

Standing ovation for Miss Emma Bonino at the XII CLAPI Day: when the historical leader of the Italian Radical Party – and Bocconi Alumna – took the floor in Room N11, the audience was expecting a strong, vibrant speech on “The Age of Uncertainty”, that is both our future and the topic of the conference.

Listeners were not disappointed at the end of the afternoon: “Using the EU as a scapegoat is good to win the elections, but it doesn’t work when you want to govern! - roared the former European Commissioner at the very beginning of the lecture, just to make her position clear - How would 27 lonely states solve the issues of terrorism, immigration, unemployment, security? I’m very critical towards Europe, but thinking that going back with the development of the EU would erase our problems is a dangerous illusion. It Is the lack of European policies which creates the problems, not the other way around”.

Strengths and weaknesses of the Union was a recurring topic in the hour and counting where Miss Bonino kept the microphone, but the nearly 70 year old (“They are nothing in history, but that’s the time it took to turn a destroyed continent in the richest one worldwide”) ex-Foreign Minister focused several times on the trends of the rest of the world too – while Italy was mentioned, but somewhat left in the background: “Even if it is a difficult time for us, the rest of the world is stepping out of poverty: China, India, Latin-America… Technologies are reshaping our lives, they are connecting people around the world: think about the impact medias had in the Arab world in the last ten years”. By her side, Dr Paolo Magri (director of ISPI, the most prestigious Italian Think Tank on International Affairs) endorsed these words; he took the responsibility to introduce the speaker at the beginning of the meeting, underlying that if 2017 will be a year of uncertainty, 2016 has been as good as, owing to the Brexit Referendum and Trump election.

In this 360° conversation, some words about the migration issue were not omitted “Do you think the poor persons will move to a poor country, or to one they see as rich? Our grandparents did not move to Albania, but to the US, to Argentina. Global mobility is deep in us, face that: we have always moved. Our Union did not do enough but that is not a reason to destroy it: we achieved so much, but there are still millions in poverty we do not want to see, like in Sudan because of the famine. It is up to you to reach more”.

Then, the floor was open to questions: the two-speed Europe? “It already exists, because of Schengen and the Eurozone. It will not disturb me, but the legal framework must be the same: a Europe 'a la carte' must be avoided”. The upcoming National Elections in some of the founder states? “Politicians will be focused on their internal issues, so I do not expect a “jump” in the European structure. Maybe we should talk less about it, in UK every European comment on the Brexit has been counterproductive: the celebrations for the 60 years from the Treaties of Rome (the founding treaties of the European Communities, ndr) can be a chance to say: there is so much to fix, going back to tribalisation will not help”. How can we increase social inclusion? “STUDY! Science is democratic. We are working on two papers: “Everything you know about immigrants is a lie” and “Everything you know about the European Union is a lie”, which will be exclusively dictated by facts”. Is there space for a pro-EU party in Italy? “We do not have an electoral law, so it’s hard to say. Anyway, we do not lack parties – overall, they love to split" (probably a cutting remark addressed to both Ms. Bonino party, which is facing a scission- and the ruling Italian party, the PD, which has just lost its “left” wing, ndr). “We need a pro-EU movement able to infiltrate the established, traditional parties”. Why are young people scared by Europe? “Because they are influenced by stereotypes. We must challenge them, even if it will cost a lot of time”. The main political error of Europe? “Not giving to the Euro the instruments to face a crisis since its beginning. When the storm arrived, we were still enjoying its benefits and not thinking about problems. The same is happening with migrations”.

The last question was addressed to prof. Magri: how can we share positive ideas? “Be proud of your knowledge! Share it, do fact-checking – as ISPI is doing with its new social column - and stand on your feet, because the real problem is that someone is still excluded from an education, which makes politics understandable”.

The duty to conclude was up to Professor Mele, course director of the CLAPI/GIO MSc at Bocconi: “This is a call to be responsible, especially to you as students. Don not be rhetorical, be analytical!”



Dr Emma Bonino is one of the most famous and longest-serving Italian politicians. She was elected to the Italian Parliament in 1976 (at the age of 28) and the European Parliament in 1979. Proactive supporter of progressive visions and human rights, she promoted and worked at the establishment of the International Criminal Court. She served twice as Italian minister (International Trade and European Politics, 2006-2008; International Affairs, 2013-2014) and once as European Commissioner (Humanitarian aids and Consumers protection, 1995-1999). She graduated in Languages and Contemporary Literature at Bocconi University in 1972.


Dr Paolo Magri is the Director of the Milan-based think tank ISPI (Institute of Studies on International Politics). He boasts a long career in International Relations, both in public and private institutions; as professor, he taught at University of Pavia and IULM, and worked as Director of the International Relations for Bocconi University.


Dr Valentina Mele is the course director of the MSc in Economics and Management of Government and International Organizations (CLAPI/GIO) at Bocconi University and the associate professor at the Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management.


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