Di Maio and Salvini (and now, Conte) should “Mind The Gap”

Everyone knows that Italians are not particularly good with foreign languages. Like their French cousins they are resistant to things foreign and foreign ways of doing things. The French get the idea across well by looking at you in the eyes and saying, “Nous sommes en France!”; the Italians by saying, “In Italia non si può fare!”. The first is a bit chauvinistic, perhaps, but gets well across the concept that when in France you do as the French do. The Italian form of chauvinism is less direct and more subtle; by saying that, “something can’t be done in Italy” the foreign idea or suggestion however great or ingenious it may appear to be, cannot possibly be made to work in Italy! So why try?

In the Underground in London, railcars carry in conspicuous language the warning to “Mind the Gap” as one gets off (the car) at an underground station, meaning watch your step. And for good reason, since there is a sizable distance between the car’s doorstep and the platform. If one has a small foot and is not careful it is easy to hurt oneself.

Which brings me to the subject at hand. The other day, Di Maio and Salvini had indicated to Mattarella their choice of “President of the Council (of Ministers) or ‘PdC’” in a gentleman by the name of Giuseppe Conte, an Italian Professor of Law and practicing attorney with offices in Rome. When the name was made public it was a matter of hours before everyone not connected with either of the two maverick political parties (that, in an unprecedented move in Italian political history, had joined forces to form a new government based on an agreed platform of 10 major points called the, “Programma”), began to look for skeletons in the closet of Mr. Conte. Before long the news was out that Mr. Conte was an Italian Professor and lawyer all right but that he had listed a number of fake foreign University degrees and certificates to make him look even better.

No one raised the issue of a possible conflict of interest in Mr. Conte’s full time employment as a University Professor and his duties an independent practicing attorney (which conflict in Italy is widely tolerated), nor in his being a consultant of the party which proposed him as PdC. But that is easy to explain: the concept of conflict of interest is as alien to Italian legal thinking as is the concept of privacy. In this Country privacy considerations are among the reasons for requiring multiple signatures when opening or closing checking or other bank accounts. Ironically, conflict of interest is so alien to Italian thinking that the National Lawyers Bar continues to see a conflict of interest baring in-house counsel, which need not be members of the bar, from defending their employers in Italian courts of law. In-house counsels cannot personally litigate for and on behalf of their employers but must farm-out suing or defending their employers in Italian courts, even if the in-house counsel is a member in good standing of an Italian bar. Go figure!

Italians, however, are generally unimpressed by a person’s language abilities or the number and quality of foreign University Degrees earned abroad because what counts here is your ability to work and function in Italy. Now Mr. Conte has all of necessary requirements to teach and / or practice law in Italy. As for becoming a PdC, there are no specific requirements. Why anyone would want to embellish an otherwise excellent professional bio with make believe certificates and fake degrees, makes absolutely no sense. The attacks on Conte are still ongoing at this time, suggesting Di Maio , Salvini (and now Conte), mind the gap!


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