Furio Honsell, Mayor of City of Udine, Italy
Session: Local Politics for Health (Thursday Plenary)
AA: Mr. Honsell, we saw the wonderful projects you have developed in Udine during your mandates. Could you tell us more about a project that proved to be more difficult than you expected and how you handled the situation?
FH: All successful projects need to have the full support of the civil society. I also define myself as a social broker. We consult and have open discussions with the citizens of Udine. Nobody will be unreasonable where there is dialogue. Ultimately, you might not convince them, but they will not strongly oppose it.
I am trying to close an important road now to make it fully pedestrian. I have been challenged and brought to court by various instances. It is not the community opposing it, but the small businesses. However, the business would be more prestigious by being in the city centre, in a pedestrian area.
We are still working on this and we hope to reach an agreement soon.
AA: Do you think the trust of the civil society towards the politicians can be built upon with more knowledge and access to information?
FH: No, it is just more participation, people want to be part of the decision-making. Anti-politics is now very strong, you can have the best idea, but unless you discuss it and bring more people on board, you would not be able to implement it. In Italy, there is a resentment against many politicians. Some issues are difficult, like asylum seekers, this is about morals as well. I would never go out, as some politicians do, and say I don’t want them. I accept all the quotas that are sent to my city, these are negotiated at national level.
AA: How about the society’s attitude towards the refugees? Have they become more tolerant?
FH: No, they are more and more intolerant. The main problem is that there is no long-term plan, nobody is following-up what is happening with and to them after they reach Europe. This has to be clarified, what do we have to do with all these people.
AA: Is there a collaboration with the other cities in Italy on this matter? Do you talk and consult with the other mayors?
FH: No, unfortunately there is no consensus on this topic. I am proud of my opinion and vision, and I know it is a very sensitive issue on a political level. I will do my best to win the next elections and continue what I have started.
Interview conducted by the Young Gasteiner Andreea Antonovici, European Multiple Sclerosis Platform, Brussels