Italian News Agency reported yesterday that, for currently unknown reasons, a former employee of the Italian Senate, although 76 years old, is openly challenging the mandatory retirement. After being notified by his HR office that, despite two decades of brilliant career, he was no longer fit to serve the country, S.B. decided to challenge the decision and to show up regularly the next morning.
The man, who is not unknown for his extravagant behavior, was spotted in front of the Senate of the Italian Republic, waving his badge and yelling at younger employees things like “you are all a bunch of communists!” and “Inter Milan sucks! While police have been alerted they have decided not to intervene because, if arrested, the number of trials which the man will be simultaneously subjected to will be constitutionally illegal and mathematically challenging to calculate.
The presence of this peculiar character right in the heart of the Italian political headquarter is generating curiosity: “I am a bit puzzled here” – a lard-arse German tourist commented – “we make jokes about Italians being lazy and stuff. This one is making a fuss because he wants to work more.” “Today, on his first day of retirement, he got here in the early morning” - a janitor said - “he spent almost two hours trying to unlock the Senate building main door with a strange key-shaped electric toy he found at home”. It was also reported that when Senators began to show up late in the morning, he approached them, one by one, with a bunch of flyers and invited them to what appeared to be a big-ass party at his place in the evening.
With his tireless shouting, running around and yelling, the man's behavior attracted attention from important political personalities as well. Russian Prime Minister Medvedev, who happened to be in town to discuss the future of gas supplies with Italian PM Letta, called the meeting off after being informed by his delegation of what was going on right outside the door.
“Gas supply is not a priority when tragedies like this one happen every day” he answered to a journalist. “I wonder whether there is anything I can do for him” he said. “I talked to him already. He confessed he is afraid no one will show up to his parties anymore. I think I’ll go, just to cheer him up. Plus, Vladimir said it is worth it.”
There are a few countries where the history books might be written with a more positive spin; one is, you might have guessed it, Albania. Blair remains a very popular figure amongst Albanians for his role in protecting ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by orchestrating the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. There are apparently numerous children in Albania’s capital, Tirana, called Toniblir.
It would seem appropriate then that Blair has been hired (free of charge) by the Albanian government to help advise it on EU accession strategy and lobby European officials and politicians on its behalf. EU accession is a policy priority of the recently elected, modernising, centre-left government of former basketball player Edi Rama. This month, the European Commission recommended that Albania be given the green light to open EU membership talks.
|Blair explains how large his fee would normally be.|
In the words of Rama himself: “Our party is very much inspired by and connected to the vision and way of thinking about things of New Labour and Tony Blair”. This, I would suggest, is more of a reference to Blair’s brand of third-way politics than an underlying hunger to affect regime change in faraway lands.
EU enlargement policy is not what it was however. The conditionality dial has been turned up to max and a pervasive skepticism pervades the subject that is in sharp contrast to the feel good ‘return to Europe’ riff of 10 years ago. Albania is going to need all the help they can get.
Blair is nevertheless a busy man with, at last count, 467 other clients’ needs to attend to. Not to mention his role as UN Middle East peace envoy. He does however have an excellent track record on promoting EU enlargement. As UK Prime Minister he exerted maximum British influence to drive enlargement through amid the skepticism and caution of other member states, such as France. Other times it was semi-accidental. One anecdote goes like this: on a visit to the Romanian Parliament in 1999, Blair was advised by his diplomatic advisors to offer Romania something in return for their strong support in the Kosovo intervention; Blair stands up at the podium and, off the cuff, announces Britain’s support for Romanian accession to the EU – turning British policy on its head in a sentence. This speech is credited as being a crucial moment in Romania’s road to accession in 2007.
|Blair shares wisdom.|
Like a hitman brought back from retirement to do one last job, Mr. Rama might be hoping that Mr. Blair can pull off a coup and land Albania a seat at the table in Brussels. Unfortunately for Edi, Tony’s stock in Brussels isn’t what it used to be. A large part of Europe’s political establishment consider Blair a war criminal for his role in the invasion of Iraq 2003, a key reason for his failed attempt to land the job of EU Council President.
Good luck Toni!