128947 11/6/2007 18:08 07ROME2305 Embassy Rome CONFIDENTIAL VZCZCXRO9376 PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHRO #2305/01 3101808 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 061808Z NOV 07 FM AMEMBASSY ROME TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9362 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST PRIORITY 0604 RUEHMIL/AMCONSUL MILAN PRIORITY 9086 RUEHFL/AMCONSUL FLORENCE PRIORITY 2753 RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES PRIORITY 2897 RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY 4582 RUEAHLC/DHS WASHDC PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ROME 002305
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/06/2017 TAGS: PGOV, KCRM, PREL, IT, RO, PHUM SUBJECT: ITALY: MURDER BY ROMANIAN SPARKS EXPULSION ORDER, XENOPHOBIA CONCERNS
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Classified By: Jonathan R. Cohen, Acting Political-Minister Counselor, for reasons 1.4 b and d
1. (C/NF) The mugging and murder of an Italian woman by a Romanian immigrant last week in Rome has set off a political firestorm and prompted the government to issue an expulsion decree for EU citizens residing in Italy who present a threat to public safety. The victim's funeral was attended by a range of leading Italian political figures, including Rome Mayor Veltroni, National Alliance leader Fini, Interior Minister Amato and CHOD Di Paola. All sides of the political spectrum are now debating the expulsion decree and immigration and security issues generally. Controversy over growing numbers of Romanian immigrants in Italy and their alleged ties to crime, particularly in Rome, has placed Veltroni at the forefront of the debate. Prime Minister Prodi will meet with Romanian Prime Minister Tariceanu on Wednesday, November 7 in Rome. END SUMMARY.
2.(SBU) On October 31, Giovanna Reggiani, wife of an Italian Navy officer who is a close Embassy contact, was mugged by Romanian immigrant Nicolae Romulus Mailat who allegedly assaulted Reggiani at a train station and threw her comatose body into a nearby ditch. Reggiani's death was headline news for several days and touched a nerve with an Italian population increasingly uneasy about immigration. Unlike most other EU countries, Italy did not impose a moratorium on immigration from Romania and Bulgaria when those countries joined the EU this year. According to an annual immigration report by Catholic charity Caritas, Romanian immigrants make up less than one percent (approximately 556,000) of the Italian population. The Italian Interior Ministry, however, reports that 5.6 percent of suspects arrested on murder charges are Romanian. Veltroni has said that 75 percent of all arrests in the city in 2006 involved Romanians. The Italian public's perception that most violent crime is carried out by Romanians was reinforced by the Italian media which highlighted several recent crimes in which Romanians were detained as suspects, including a mugging this summer that left a Rome cyclist in a coma for weeks before dying.
GOVERNMENT REACTS WITH EXPULSION DECREE
3.(SBU) The new expulsion decree authorizes prefects (the local representatives of the Ministry of Interior) to expel EU nationals with criminal records or who present a danger to public security; a judge must sign off on the expulsion order. Although the decree technically covers all EU nationals, the introductory language makes it clear that the measure is directed against Romanians. The decree was effective immediately upon issuance on November 1, but Parliament must vote the decree into law within 60 days for the measures to become permanent. As many as twenty expulsion orders have been signed in Genoa and Rome, and Milan's prefect expelled the first four Romanian citizens on November 2. Authorities also tore down a squatter camp in Rome where the alleged assailant lived.
4. (SBU) While the decree appears to have near total support among the Italian political class, the grounds on which an individual can be expelled and the breadth of the expulsions are under debate. Prime Minister Prodi, who has stated that the decree is necessary for public safety, is negotiating with the opposition and parties in his own coalition about the provisions of the law. The center right will not vote for the decree without provisions to enhance it. National Alliance leader Gianfranco Fini* one of the most vocal lawmakers on this issue* has urged the government to expel 20,000 Romanians and said that the government's proposal is not strict enough and should be expanded to include non-EU citizens as well. Meanwhile, the far left is calling for the government to scale back the decree to exclude lack of sufficient income as grounds for expulsion. The Senate Constitutional Affairs Committee began discussing the decree on November 6.
5.(U) EU Security Commissioner (and former Italian Foreign Minister) Franco Frattini stated initially that the Italian decree is in accordance with EU law, which allows member states to expel citizens of other EU countries if they are a threat to public health, public security, or have
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insufficient financial means. Frattini added that Romania has an obligation to take back its citizens who are expelled from Italy. A European Commission spokesperson stated on November 5, however, that the Italian decree will be further examined by Brussels and cautioned Rome against singling out Romanians specifically.
BLAMING CRIME ON ROMANIANS AND ROMA
6.(SBU) The perceived responsibility of Romanian immigrants for increased crime has contributed to widespread public support for the expulsion decree and in some cases, a backlash against immigrants. Although many Italian political leaders including Prime Minister Prodi have been quick to warn against xenophobia and discrimination, Reggiani's death appears to have sparked retaliatory attacks against Romanians. A group of four Romanian men were attacked by assailants wielding clubs and knives in a supermarket parking lot outside Rome on November 2, and a rudimentary bomb exploded outside a Romanian-owned grocery store in Rome on November 5.
7. (SBU) The conflation of Romanians and Roma people in the Italian media and by political figures is a further complication. Because many Roma who live in Italy emigrated from Romania, some Italians assume that all Roma are Romanians or vice versa. In Italy, there is longstanding public prejudice against Roma and some of the criticism of Romanian immigrants in Italy appears to originate from an assumption that they are Roma.
SPOTLIGHT ON VELTRONI
8. (C//NF) Rome Mayor and Democratic Party (PD) leader Walter Veltroni placed himself at the center of the debate on Romanian immigration when he held a press conference on October 31 stating that Rome had become more dangerous since Romania entered the EU and that repatriation of Romanians might be necessary. Earlier this year, Veltroni traveled to Romania to urge authorities there to stem the flow of migrants, particularly Roma. Veltroni is facing criticism from the center right for not having dealt with immigration and crime issues as mayor, and barely a week into his tenure as PD leader appears to have seized on the Romanian expulsion issue to prove his security bona fides as a national figure.
GOVERNMENT REACHING OUT TO ROMANIA
9. (SBU) Prime Minister Prodi spoke to his Romanian counterpart, PM Tariceanu, over the weekend and with Romanian President Basescu the morning of November 5. Tariceanu cautioned against xenophobia and denounced the attacks against Romanians in Rome. Prodi told the press that there was no diplomatic friction between the two countries; Tariceanu will travel to Rome on November 7 to discuss immigration and security issues with Prodi.
10. (C/NF) After generations of being a country of emigration, Italy is now struggling to integrate approximately 3.7 million immigrants - a population that has increased by as much as 20 percent since 2006, according to Caritas. Italy is only beginning to develop a national immigration policy, despite increasing immigrant flows and widespread acknowledgment that demographic trends necessitate low-cost immigrant labor. The Romanian case highlights widespread fear among Italian citizens that poverty and crime among immigrant communities are a threat to Italian society. END COMMENT. SPOGLI