Agriculture minister appointment blocked by President Napolitano

In a move viewed by many observers of the Italian wine industry as a game of musical chairs and political spoils, a relatively unknown parliamentarian with no agriculture experience, Saverio Romano (Sicily), was officially tapped last week by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to replace current agricultural minister Giancarlo Galan, now slated to become Italy’s new minister of Cultural Heritage (beni culturali).

According to reports widely circulated by the Italian mainstream news media, the nomination has been blocked by President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano, not because of Romano’s obvious lack of qualifications, but because of his alleged association with organized crime. Some political observers have speculated that the nomination was the result of a political deal that would have allowed Romano to avoid prosecution by virtue of the appointment because government ministers enjoy relative immunity in Italy.

“How can we believe in the future of this beloved/hated country,” asked VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani on his blog Vino al Vino last week, “when a key post like that of the agriculture minister goes to an unknown without any experience in the field like Romano?”

Romano has claimed that the allegations associating him with organized crime are the result of political muckraking but he has not — at least in any current news reports available online — addressed his qualifications (or lack thereof) for the post.

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