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INTERVIEW: EMMA BONINO - October 2, 2007 Italian minister for international trade and head organizer of the Italian Forum for Women Entrepreneurs from south-east Europe, the Balkans, Caspian and the Caucasus Emma Bonino. A woman who fights for her goals till the end, by hunger strike or as the president of the Italian delegation at the UN. She is a very popular politician in Italy. In the present Italian government she is minister for international trade. Normally, at least as far as Croatia is concerned, current ministers are not popular - on the contrary! But Emma Bonino – that’s the impression you get when you’re in Italy – loves everybody! Her party, the radical Italian party, however, has only 1% voter’s support. That’s why she in her speeches often uses to say:”you love me, but you don't vote me!” As I found the whole worship minister Bonino enjoys in her people very intriguing I decided to do my own little poll: before I left for the interview, while I was standing at the reception of my hotel, I asked the receptionist what he thinks about Emma Bonino. “She is a politician who really tries to change things. She always says what she thinks – and she always does everything she said and promised. That is rare in politics. And she is a politician who first of all watches out for the interests of the community, of the people while all the other politicians first look their own interest. That’s what I love about her!” When I told her about the receptionist’s answer – she smiled and said: “Oh, he exaggerated!” Why is it important to put an accent on women entrepreneurship? It seems illogical that the gender question is still an actual one in Europe in 2007. There is no male entrepreneurship, is there? There are many reasons why. But one big reason that is an enclosing one, that is pure common sense. In the sense that you cannot develop a country without, if you spare or if you exclude the energy and the determination of 50% of the population. It's as simple as that. That applies to every community. Now, evidently if you involve women in all the sectors of society, well, evidently the role of men would shrink a little bit, because they have to give space. And basically in our culture they don't like it so much, so it's a question that in fact you have to take your place. Nobody will give it to you, right? Obviously there is also a culture in my country which is a feminist culture, in the sense that the traditional culture says that the main role of a woman is to be a wife and a mother and the person who takes care of the old people, and then if some time remains, she can also be a teacher or a businesswoman. And that is a long standing culture that is difficult to change. In my country there is no legal discrimination for women. In no field. But the culture remains, and therefore the fragmentation are very unequal: we have lots of women journalists, but when you look at the editors in Italian newspapers – there is only one woman running this position. All the rest are men. You go to university, you have a lot of women teachers, but there are two directors of university women. Two, in whole Italy. Sports. Mrs. Christallin, who just spoke, has been the great organizer of the Olympic Games in Turin – now in all the top organization of sports, where the women by the way are winning the major awards, there is not a single woman. Meaning that there is no legal discrimination but there is a sort of a cultural discrimination which is 3000 years old and it takes time to change. But we are moving forward, so I'm not depressed, I'm just determined. I'm 60. If I look back when I was young, so 40 years ago, I cannot even recognize my country. So, we have moved forward quite a lot. But still, there is major room left for improvement. That's why I like very much this picture. It's perfectly common sense. Really, it gives me exactly the sense of determination, the sense of struggle, it's not the easy sport, but it gives also to me the feeling of determination. Yes, it's strong but you go to the top. Is it true, the woman from Bulgaria said that in Italian politics there are less than 15% women? Yes, that is correct. In the parliament, senate, government etc. there are about 15% women. What is the situation like in women entrepreneurship in Italy, and which efforts have you made to improve it? The woman entrepreneur in Italy is a young phenomenon, the post WWII phenomenon. So it's young, it's vibrant, vital but not visible enough. And there we come to my mission: I cannot take their place, I cannot be an entrepreneur – but what I can do is to make it more visible so that they could take more confidence in themselves. It's empowering by doing. Putting them in contact with the other part of the world, and then they take their risk; they decide to do business or not to do business out of competition and out of business criteria. But while men took a lot of advantages from this kind of networking, women, because it's a new phenomenon, it's a young phenomenon, they don't have international connections, not so much, so I thought I could provide this opportunity. Then it's up to them if they want to continue, if they want to do business, if they feel it makes sense, feel that they can take advantage, it's their choice. What I wanted and I think it's the responsibility of the public administration, is to create opportunities. That's the purpose of this kind of meeting. Now in the afternoon there will be more than 1000 b2b. Out of them maybe one hundred will come concrete in the next few months, which is excellent. And then we'll see. And I also hope, as it happened in the Mediterranean forum, some countries, some delegations will think it over to replicate the same scheme in Moldova or Bucharest or Zagreb or whatsoever, so that it can become sort of a prominent tanking stop once a year, we'll see what can we improve etc. So I hope it can become a sort of a flexible permanent forum. What is the situation like in other European countries? Are there differences in women entrepreneurship? Well the Nordic countries have a different tradition, there are much more social services, a woman is not requested to be a full time mother, there are kindergartens, a lot more services, and so there is a long standing tradition in most of the northern Europe of women in the working market. So it's totally different. And they have also instruments and tools of support which are totally lacking my country. Spain is moving very forward, quickly, with this new Zapatero administration, Portugal is dragging feet exactly like us, Greece also. The rest are doing better. That's why I thought it was important to do it, to mobilize energy. It's not that woman can do everything, that is nonsense, but yes, what we can do is to let energy free. Are you an entrepreneur? No, at least not in the sense that I have a business of my own. I belong to a party in which we are trying to manage a party, and it's very difficult, exactly like business entrepreneurs. That's not a traditional party; we are publicly funded, and so on. I'm not myself an entrepreneur, but what I do think is that I would like to have the mentality of entrepreneurship in also the public administration. So you have to deliver, right? Sometimes it is a sort of an intangible delivery, it's a question of giving messages and the mentality, and sometimes it's tangible, you have to deliver a reform, you have to deliver open markets, you have to deliver social services etc. Sometimes the intangible delivery is the way you put yourself, the message you send. I hate paternalism. “Oh poor lady, oh it's difficult” --- look, stop. Yes, it's not easy, but it's not enough to put ourselves in a corner and cry on our own. And I also think it's so boring, after half an hour one cannot continue crying. I did some research, I also read your CV, it's very impressive, and your career is very, very impressive. What is it that you are most proud of in your life? I would say the legalizing abortion in my country in 1978, and I would say in the international arena to help establish the International Criminal Court. Not the ad hoc criminal courts, that was just a step, but the permanent criminal court, so that the rule of law and legality should not only apply internally, but let’s say internationally. At the time war in Croatia started I was in Zagreb, we had our congress there. I and our congress really stood very firmly on moving Europe to take care of the issue. So it's also an emotion for me to receive now people coming from the same country who just ten years ago were enduring one of the worst periods in European history. So it's also an emotion, it's not only business. And in fact, I got an award from Croatia, the traditional award that the president of the republic gives, because I think at that time I was second in general at the party. Is there something you regret? If you could turn back time, is there something you would do in a different way or wouldn't do at all? Many things. Because when you grow, you grow also in experience. So I was 30 when I started with no political background. I was moving like a bulldozer. Out of experience – yes, if I made the same campaign legalizing abortion now after 30 years of experience, I think there might be something I would've done differently. For instance, I would look much more for international support, which we did, but at that time I didn't have connections. Again, the same story. Now, if I would have to run such a campaign, there is an international women network that we could use much better. So you know, with age comes experience, it's not only that you grow old, but luckily enough, even growing old has some positive attributes which is experience for instance. But what remain in me are still the same impatience and same determination and the same passion. And I want to share this experience. I want to tell them, listen; I didn't have the international network in politics. We achieved quite a lot, but if we had then the international network, we could have achieved more. So it's important. If you were not a politician... I cannot imagine. Really, I cannot imagine and I don't want to imagine. I like what I'm doing. In fact, you could have a lot of hobbies and interest. But you can have only one passion. Passion is overeating you, so it can be just one. Passion is something that takes all of you and makes you live well. And even when you lose – I have a lot of defeats in my life of course, and some achievements, but I cannot even imagine I'm doing any other thing. On the contrary, I think I am such a privileged person who can make a living out of a job that I love, which is not everybody can afford. Most people are obliged to make a living, to waste or to do something on the job that they don't like, or is not totally fulfilling. I belong to that privileged group of people who can make a living out of the job that is totally passionate. What is it that you hate the most about politics? The most? Hypocrisy. Sometimes you feel it. You meet people that don't tell you the truth, and you decide that it's not the moment to fight back. You accept this because you decide it's not the moment to react, it can come later or on another occasion. But that is what makes me really...ugh.

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