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POLITICS

Clocks go back in Italy despite EU deal on scrapping hour change

The clocks go back this weekend in Italy - but EU-wide disputes mean it’s unclear whether this will be the last change of the hour.

A factory worker moves a clock.
Is it time for Europe to move on from daylight savings time? Italy doesn't think so. Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

European countries move to winter time this weekend, with 3am on Sunday, October 31st, marking the moment when clocks go back by one hour, giving most people an extra lie-in on Sunday morning.

But it remains unclear whether daylight savings will soon be scrapped or if, as Italy hopes, the system will continue.

READ ALSO What changes in Italy in November 2021?

In place in the EU since 1976, the twice-yearly changing of the clocks has been controversial for some time and in 2019 lawmakers in the European Parliament voted by a large majority – 410 MEPs against 192 – in favour of stopping the changing of the hour from 2021.

However, following the vote, Parliament specified that each EU member state would decide whether they would keep summer time or winter time.

In a Europe-wide survey in 2018 some 80 percent of Europeans voted in favour of stopping the clock changes, with most people appearing to prefer to stay on summer time rather than winter time.

Countries overwhelmingly in favour of scrapping the hour change include France and northern European countries, but Italy has filed a formal request that the current system be kept in place.

This is because in southern countries such as Italy or Spain daylight savings actually lengthens the days – and helps people save on their energy bills – while in northern Europe the change doesn’t bring any such benefits, according to Italian media.

Photo: Ludovic MARIN/AFP

The 2021 European deadline for changes however was derailed by Covid which disrupted the normal parliamentary timetables in most countries.

And as normal political life resumes a further problem has emerged – although EU countries agree on scrapping the hour change, they cannot agree on whether to stick with summer or winter time.

There have been suggestions that the continent could be divided into blocs – with countries like Italy which favour daylight saving time allowed to keep it, and others scrapping the system.

But having many different EU countries in different time zones would create all sorts of practical problems for business and trade, not to mention the substantial number of cross-border workers who live in one EU country and work in another.

Green MEP Karima Delli told French TV channel BFM: “The ball is in the court of the Member States.

“We agree on the time change, but what really blocks us is: do we stay on summer time or winter time? This is a real problem because the Member States cannot agree.”

She underlined “indirect problems on connectivity, on transport… All this must be organised”, adding: “If I am French and I work in Germany, I am not going to change my watch in the morning and in the evening. We really need harmonisation.”

With clocks slipping down the political agenda in favour of more urgent problems, it seems unlikely that this weekend will be the last time the clocks change in Italy.

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POLITICS

Second Italian minister takes anti-mafia reporter Saviano to court

Just weeks after going on trial in a case brought by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Italian investigative journalist Roberto Saviano was back in court on Wednesday facing allegations of defamation lodged by Meloni's deputy, Matteo Salvini.

Second Italian minister takes anti-mafia reporter Saviano to court

Deputy Prime Minister Salvini, whose far-right League party is a key member of Meloni’s coalition, is suing the journalist for calling him the “minister of the criminal underworld” in a social media post in 2018.

In November, Saviano went on trial in a case brought by Meloni for calling her a “bastard” in 2020 over her attitude towards vulnerable migrants.

READ ALSO: Press freedom fears as Italian PM Meloni takes Saviano to trial

Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party was in opposition at the time, but won September elections on a promise to curb mass migration.

Saviano, known for his international mafia bestseller “Gomorrah”, regularly clashes with Italy’s far-right and says the trials are an attempt to intimidate him.

He faces up to three years in prison if convicted in either trial.

“I think it is the only case in Western democracies where the executive asks the judiciary to lay down the boundaries within which it is possible to criticise it,” Saviano said in a declaration in court on Wednesday.

He said he was “blatantly the victim of intimidation by lawsuit”, on trial “for making my opinion, my thoughts, public”.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about press freedom in Italy

Press freedom watchdogs and supporters of Saviano have called for the suits to be scrapped. Meloni refused in November, despite criticism that her position of power makes it an unfair trial.

Armed guard

Saviano has lived under police protection since revealing the secrets of the Naples mafia in 2006.

But when Salvini was appointed interior minister in a previous government in June 2018, he suggested he might scrap Saviano’s armed guard.

The writer reacted on Facebook, saying Salvini “can be defined ‘the minister of the criminal underworld’,” an expression he said was coined by anti-fascist politician Gaetano Salvemini to describe a political system which exploited voters in Italy’s poorer South.

READ ALSO: Anti-mafia author Saviano won’t be ‘intimidated’ by Salvini

He accused Salvini of having profited from votes in Calabria to get elected senator, while failing to denounce the region’s powerful ‘Ndrangheta mafia and focusing instead on seasonal migrants.

Salvini’s team are expected to reject any claim he is soft on the mafia.

Saviano’s lawyer said he will call as a witness the current interior minister Matteo Piantedosi, who at the time was in charge of evaluating the journalist’s police protection.

The next hearing was set for June 1st.

Watchdogs have warned of the widespread use in Italy of SLAPPS, lawsuits aimed at silencing journalists or whistleblowers.

Defamation through the media can be punished in Italy with prison sentences from six months to three years, but the country’s highest court has urged lawmakers to rewrite the law, saying jail time for such cases was unconstitutional.

Saviano is also being sued by Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano in a civil defamation case brought in 2020, before Sangiuliano joined the cabinet.

A ruling in that case could come in the autumn. If he loses that case Saviano may have to pay up to 50,000 euros in compensation, his lawyer told AFP.

Italy ranked 58th in the 2022 world press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, one of the lowest positions in western Europe.

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