Bonino, Emma

(1948– )
   An internationally respected activist for human rights and a successful politician, Emma Bonino was born in Bra (Piedmont) and educated at Milan’s Bocconi University. Her political career began in the abortion rights movement in the 1970s. Bonino was first elected to Parliament for the Partito Radicale/ Radical Party (PR) in 1976 and to the European Parliament in 1979. Bonino has campaigned for many causes during her career, including the rights of individuals oppressed by communist states such as China, the abolition of the death penalty, women’s rights in third world countries such as Afghanistan (where she was arrested by the Taliban in 1997), and highly controversial causes such as the liberalization of drugs. She was a strong supporter, on humans rights grounds, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) intervention in Kosovo in 1998; a position that was controversial with the strong pacifist component of the human rights movement in Italy. Bonino, in fact, is no bleeding-heart liberal. Her economic ideas are definitely conservative. She is an advocate of liberalization, deregulation, tax cuts and other measures to increase competitiveness in the more cosseted parts of Italy’s economy. Politically, Bonino has emerged from the huge shadow thrown by Marco Pannella. She was nominated by the first government of Silvio Berlusconi to be member of the European Commission. Bonino was given authority over a mixed bag of responsibilities, including fishing policy and consumer protection, as well as human rights, but was widely regarded as an outstanding success in the job. In June 1999, the “Bonino list” obtained 8.5 percent of the votes in the European elections, the highest vote ever obtained by the PR and testimony to Bonino’s personal popularity.
   In recent years, Bonino has been a prominent international campaigner against female genital mutilation and an active participant in Italian political life. In 2006, she led the PR into an alliance with the Democratic Socialists called the “Rose in the Fist.” The alliance was unsuccessful (obtaining less than 3 percent of the vote), and this failure at the polls may have prevented her from becoming foreign minister. Bonino was nevertheless appointed to the government by Romano Prodiand currently serves as minister for European affairs and foreign trade.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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