Berlusconi's Disaster Diplomacy

Italy News
by Julie Schwietert Apr 8, 2009

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake that rocked central Italy on April 6 has, at last count, claimed 272 lives and left 28,000 people homeless. Initial estimates of the physical damage range between 2 billion and 3 billion euros, an amount that poses a considerable challenge to Italy’s debt-ridden national economy.

Photo: Alessio 85

As is customary when any country faces a natural disaster, other nations immediately began extending aid offers to Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Russia, and Switzerland were just a few countries offering assistance.

When asked by international media whether the country needed financial or rescue assistance, Prime Minister Berlusconi’s initial response was to politely decline aid, indicating that no tangible international support was needed at the moment. His the Interior Minister elaborated:

“We have the resources needed for reconstruction, including European funds, and we need to move quickly to avoid the problems of wasteful or slow spending that we’ve seen in past interventions.”

Yet rather than view this statement as a sign of the Italian government’s self-sufficiency (why not decline resources politely when so many other places are in need and the world economy is in a shambles?), critics complained that Berlusconi was snubbing his counterparts in a diplomatic faux pas. He has since agreed to accept some assistance for the rebuilding of historic buildings.

What do you think? Should Berlusconi have accepted aid that he believes his country doesn’t need?

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