Senate Speaker Grasso says no to wiretap limits

Former anti-mafia chief speaks out on civil unions, Europe

(ANSA) - Rome, July 28 - Italian Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso on Tuesday defended wiretapping as an investigative tool that he said should not be limited in any way, as Italy discusses reforms to criminal trial procedures.
    The former chief anti-mafia prosecutor, speaking at a ceremony to mark the closure of parliament ahead of the summer, said wiretaps were an "indispensable investigative tool".
    He said they should not be limited but could be "better regulated via hearings to filter out irrelevant recordings and keep only those useful to the investigation".
    Hardly a week goes by in Italy without the transcripts of new wiretapped conversations appearing in newspapers.
    Politicians who fear embarrassing leaks argue for greater limits on wiretaps, but they have also served as key evidence in several mafia and corruption investigations.
    Grasso also urged parliament on Tuesday to speedily approve a bill on slander that is pending in the Senate.
    "Its gestation has been too long and complicated," Grasso said of the bill that would change the rules for journalists, "30 of whom have been sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison for slander in the past four years" he added.
    Turning to Senate reform, Grasso said Italy needs an Upper House with different functions than the Lower House. "We need a Senate with exclusive and not competitive functions," he said. These could be "oversight, investigation, nominations, and relations with the EU," he said, adding that he hoped for a deal on the composition of the new Senate.
    A reform bill to streamline parliament is due to arrive in the Upper House for another reading after the summer break.
    It aims to overhaul Italy's slow, costly political machinery and features the controversial transformation of the Senate into a leaner assembly of local-government representatives with limited law-making powers to save money and make passing legislation easier.
    Grasso also spoke out on civil rights issues on Tuesday, saying that it was high time Italy approved civil unions for gay people.
    Earlier in July, the European Court of Human Rights criticised Italy for failing to legally recognise same-sex couples, arguing that this violated their rights.
    "I must strongly point to the delay that has been accumulating over the years," he said. "The time has come to grant full citizenship to the rights of gay couples, taking into account and regulating the social reality in our country," he said.
    Grasso touched on the political and economic situation in Europe too, saying that its priorities needed to change if it wants to survive.
    "Europe must change or it will cease to be," he said. "We must pursue growth, investments, competitiveness, employment, actual equality, and the quality of life of our citizens," he said, adding that respect for the rules and stringent budget discipline was not enough.