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Massimo Baldini and Paolo Bosi

The year 2007 was an important test bed for the social policy of the

center-left government, the fundamental nature of which was revealed

in the legislative activity related, either directly or indirectly, to the 2007

and 2008 budgets. In this chapter, we review the principal measures

taken and seek to assess both their significance and the coherence of

the general policy design that they embody. A number of criteria (e.g.,

housing, pensions, measures related to unemployment, the status of

families, health care, and social benefits) can be employed to evaluate

social or welfare policies. The first criterion, however, is whether

the government’s actions are consistent with the objectives that it set

itself at the beginning of its mandate. In this context, it is particularly

important to assess the factors that conditioned welfare reform, among

which the constraint of public finances is generally significant. In this

sense, it is important to try to distinguish the objective factors from

those attributable to contrasting viewpoints that existed within the different

strands of the center-left coalition.

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Transport Policy and the Significance of Time Perspectives

A Comment on the Special Section on Global Cycling

Geoff Dudley

There is frequently a dilemma in the making of transport policy between prioritizing what appear to be the most immediate problems and seeking to find the quickest and most straightforward solutions that will satisfy public demand; or to search for the deep perceptions that shape social and political norms over long periods of time, and which provide the powerful dynamics that drive stability and change. A common factor, therefore, in all four of the insightful case studies in this special section is that they demonstrate how greater understanding of these stability and change dynamics is crucial not only in the framing of more effective policies, but also in gaining knowledge of the interactions (or perhaps lack of them) that construct transport systems over time. Consequently, they reveal that it is this factor of time that is a vital, but often overlooked, element in transport policy-making.

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Harry Oosterhuis

After the Second World War, the bicycle was surpassed by the car as the dominant mode of individual transportation in most Western countries. Since the 1970s, however, bicycle use has again gained some support both from the general public and from governments. In the last two decades national governments and cities throughout the Western world, from Norway to Australia and the United States to Germany, as well as the European Union, have launched policy statements and programs aimed at promoting cycling. Policy documents show much optimism about the possibilities to increase the bike’s modal share in transport by means of infrastructural and social engineering. These policy plans have enhanced social scientific and traffic engineering research into bicycle use and its facilitation.

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Filippo Andreatta and Elisabetta Brighi

Italian foreign policy has always been greatly influenced by the country’s

domestic politics. Certain important historical processes have

made it considerably difficult to separate the country’s external representation

from its domestic political equilibria. This state of affairs

has had a considerable bearing on Italy’s international standing,

which has been inhibited and therefore weakened as a result. The

country’s fragile national tradition, the legacy of a ruinous dictatorship,

and, in particular, the instability of the government, which

underlies the very nature of the proportional electoral system—

together with the existence of the largest communist party outside

the Soviet bloc—have hindered the formation of a bipartisan consensus

and of a foreign policy free from domestic pressures.

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Barbara Schmitter Heisler

The presence of sizable foreign-born populations (which include citizens

and non-citizens) in advanced industrial societies is the result of

national policies on immigration, refugees, and labor migration. The

consequences of these policies, however, are most visible at the local

level, where newcomers work, settle, and raise their families. While

not all immigrants live in cities, they have been particularly concentrated

in urban environments. Thus, it is hardly surprising that many

of the socioeconomic, cultural, and political issues and problems

associated with immigration and the process of immigrant settlement

are played out and magnified in cities.

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Margit Mayer

German nonprofits active in support work for unemployed and marginalized groups have undergone significant transformation in the context of recent social and labor market reforms. Drawing on the findings of a three-year research project on such local work-insertion organizations in Berlin, the article discusses some of the problems and potentials of nonprofits in the reshaping of welfare and employment policies. It shows how the service providers implementing these new policies and delivering the new benefits face a new competition from private, for-profit agencies as well as constraints set by the formal contracts which the new instruments entail. As they now have to deliver enhanced self-activity of their clients, are called upon to nurture and make use of "social capital" in their work fields, and are involved, as civil society "stakeholders," in new local partnerships between the municipality, the employment office and private sector actors, they lead us to question prevailing views in the voluntary sector scholarship.

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Vittorio Emanuele Parsi

In 2015, Italy’s foreign policy was focused on issues that were linked to the attempt to boost Italy’s international reputation: the Libyan question, the migration crisis, and Italy’s role in the European Union. As for the first two issues, the Renzi government has sought to “Europeanize” them, with the aim of not being “left alone” in dealing with their consequences. The third issue concerns Renzi’s effort to gain fiscal flexibility and “change the course” of the European Union. However, in Europe the prime minister has found himself isolated and has struggled to lead coalitions on issues that are very relevant for the national interest. The assessment of the Renzi government’s action in foreign policy in 2015, ultimately, can be read in two ways: if it is evaluated against announcements, expectations, and demands of the prime minister, the result is disappointing; if it is measured in a more realistic fashion, the appraisal can be less harsh.

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Riccardo Bellandi

This chapter examines three important events of 2013: the worsening of the crisis with India concerning the threatened withholding of two Italian marines involved in the deaths of two Indian fishermen, the repatriation of the wife and daughter of Kazakh dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov, and the political struggle over the purchase of F-35 fighter jets. This analysis allows us to take stock of the Italian “national security model,” the decision-making processes governing the relations and powers of Italian institutions in managing international crises, and the adoption of national guidelines for defense and foreign policy.

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Syed Shahbaz Hussain and Pirzada Sami Ullah Sabri

This article analyzes and explores what policies Pakistan adopted to tackle its environmental challenges, effects and outcomes. The research consists of an overview of Pakistan's national environmental policy development and explains the motives and reasons to understand in what context the state formulates these policies. It also makes assessments and evaluations about to what extent policies are successful in achieving their objectives. The study suggests some implications of the Pakistan experience to cope with the global challenges of environmental protection.

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Giancarlo Gasperoni

On 30 October 2008, there was a general strike of school staff in protest

against Law No. 133 (the three-year budgetary law), which was passed

on 6 August 2008, and legislative Decree No. 137 (the so-called Gelmini

decree) of 1 September 2008, which was due to become law on the eve

of the strike. The former measure called for a major reduction in school

personnel, while the latter embodied the education policy of the new

center-right government and the new minister of education, Mariastella

Gelmini. Central elements of the legislation included the introduction

of the so-called single teacher and the restoration of marks awarded for

behavior. The strike was almost unanimous in that it was called by all

the major trade union organizations—a rare occurrence (although the

trade union COBAS had gone on strike alone on 17 October).