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Estonia may lead the way in terms of letting its citizens vote online, but Italy is still firmly entrenched in the 20th century and uses postal services to mail ballots to expatriates ahead of Sunday’s elections. We’ll explore some issues and how important they are.
Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Commission is set to begin its first round of what are today called denominations, consulting with EU ambassadors on the next round of Russia sanctions before putting up the latest draft legal text. But don’t expect a Catholic-style series of one-on-one meetings, these meetings will be held in groups of 4-5 ambassadors and commission officials, throughout the weekend.
The EU-Canada Trade Agreement is now five years old (although not all member states have ratified it) and we’ll speed you up on the effects of the agreement.
And a bit of housekeeping: Tony Barber stopped by this week, leaving the weekend of Europe Express tomorrow in the hands of FT Brussels Head of Office, Sam Fleming.
Postal voting irregularities
Many of Italy’s 5 million residents abroad wrote about serious problems with the mail-in voting system ahead of Sunday’s elections Mariana Giusti in London.
Missing mail ballots, attempted voter fraud, consulates not responding, and even postal votes received with wrong instructions are among the most common complaints about the system, which was introduced in 2001 and is available in 200 countries across five continents but never . Upgrade it to the digital age.
The UK alone is home to over 400,000 Italian residents. Jamil de Domeniques, 32, from Trieste, never received his voice in the position, and had to queue for an hour and a half at the Italian Consulate in London on Wednesday in order to have his repeat voice cast. “There should be at least 50 people on the waiting list who have the same problem as me,” he told Europe Express.
Adding to the difficulties was the schedule for picking up duplicates at the consulate, with appointments only available when entrants were at work. “Voting is a democratic process that should be made easy, and it shouldn’t be that difficult,” de Domeniques says of his experience.
In Spain, postal ballot papers were handed out with wrong instructions, in reference to the June referendum, and the correct instructions never arrived. Votes with wrong instructions were also reported in Washington, where the Italian Consulate issued an official apology in a letter, calling on voters to follow the online instructions instead.
If some found it difficult to cast their votes abroad, others were given opportunities to post with more than one vote. In Brazil, home to more than half a million Italians, a teacher in Belo Horizonte was given eight votes by mail by fellow Brazilian-Italians who had obtained their citizenship through their ancestors and were not interested in participating in the elections. “If I wanted, I could get a dozen postal votes,” the teacher told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper. “All I have to do is ask.”
Ying Zhang, 28, of Veneto, says she received two papers at her London home that were addressed to previous tenants. “No one called us to claim it, anyone can throw it,” she says.
In the 2018 election, postal votes from South America for center-left Democratic Party candidate Adriano Carrillo reportedly held the same line. In December 2021, Carrillo lost his Senate seat after handwriting analysis revealed that the votes had been cast by the same person.
While candidates from across the political spectrum raised concerns about the integrity of postal votes abroad, which they considered unconstitutional, major players such as Giorgia Meloni, Enrico Letta and Silvio Berlusconi remained focused on their election campaigns.
But the so-called Off-site The votes, a category that includes residents abroad and Italian citizens who voted in a jurisdiction different from their home, make up nearly 10 percent of the total electorate — a significant proportion that could undermine the validity of Sunday’s result.
Chart of the day: irrational banking
The Turkish lira fell yesterday after the country’s central bank cut interest rates for the second month in a row despite rampant inflation that topped 80 percent in August, writes Laura Beetle in Ankara.
Canadian Love Festival
The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) – one of the few deals the EU has been able to implement recently – entered into force provisionally five years ago this week, he writes Andy Pounds in Brussels.
Most of its commercial elements apply even though 11 of the 27 countries have yet to ratify it due to food safety and environmental concerns. Belgium’s Walloon Regional Parliament suspended Seta’s signature for several months and the country has yet to ratify it.
So the European Commission was so eager to publicize its benefits, that it even organized an impressive anniversary event at a hotel in central Brussels on Wednesday with Canada’s ambassador to the European Union, Elish Campbell.
Meanwhile, Commission Chairperson Ursula von der Leyen and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have found time to celebrate Together on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Commission officials said the companies have collectively saved 890 million euros in tariffs since SETA came into force and bilateral trade volumes have reached 60 billion euros.
Comparing the four years before Ceta with the first four years after that, EU exports to Canada grew 22 percent, twice the rate with the rest of the world. They have 700,000 jobs – an increase of 75,000.
Given the agriculture sector’s concerns about the deal, Commission officials have been eager to talk about its successes: the European Union exports more beef to Canada than its vast prairies sends to the European Union. Brussels has banned meat from hormone-fed animals in Canada, and cheese producers, particularly in Italy and France, have done well, too. (Neither Rome nor Paris ratified the deal.)
Sabine Weyand, director general of the Directorate General of Trade, told the event that NGOs and others attacking the deal had not read the safeguards it contained. “If you criticize something, criticize what is there.”
She said the geopolitical situation is somewhat controversial. The Netherlands recently ratified Ceta after lawmakers there said the EU needed allies and resilient supply chains in the wake of the war in Ukraine. We are witnessing a new dynamic [in ratifying]She said.
Michael Scannell, deputy director-general of the commission’s agriculture division, said the Canadian wheat crop will make up for Ukraine’s deficit this year. Canada has sold European fertilizer components such as potash to make up for lost supplies from Belarus and Russia.
Agreeing with high-income Democratic Canada is one thing. The next deals the EU wants to submit for ratification, with the exception of New Zealand, are with Mexico and Chile – and they have already been put on hold due to concerns about cheap agricultural imports.
They are frustrated with us. “They will be the real test of whether we are serious about global trade,” said an EU diplomat.
What are you watching today
The so-called referendums begin in the Ukrainian regions occupied by Russia
Commission meets with EU ambassadors to consult on Russia sanctions
German Chancellor Olaf Schulz receives Moldovan President Maya Sandu in Berlin
EPC, what? With invitations sent yesterday to 17 non-EU countries to come to Prague for the inaugural European Political Community Summit, the Bruegel Research Center is looking at what could give substance to this new format, if it aspires to be more than a one-off gathering.
Caucasian tensions: Marie Dumoulin of the European Council on Foreign Relations looks at the renewed hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the shortcomings of the European Union in brokering a peace agreement that both sides will abide by.
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