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Europe at Present [Spring 2003]

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The Hungarians are hospitable people, always ready to offer guests delicious food and excellent wines. The country's unique cuisine has influences from the Central Asian Magyar founders of the nation, Turks, Germans, French, Austrians, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbians, and Croatians. The simple agrarian and shepherd lifestyles of the Great Hungarian Plain and mountains have also helped to shape the country's unique dishes. While many popular restaurants in Hungary have adapted their cooking to today's lighter style of eating, traditional Hungarian cuisine is for those with hearty appetites.

The traditional Hungarian dishes abound in piquant flavours and aromas. Dishes are flavourful, spicy and often rather heavy. Flavours of Hungarian dishes are based on centuries old traditions in spicing and preparation methods. Paprika and garlic is to be found everywhere. In the autumn, a fascinating view is the strings of red paprika hung on the white walls of the houses in the neighbourhood of Kalocsa, a town along the Danube.

A Hungarian style of cooking is very particular. Generally, basic dishes consist of fatty meat (pork is generally preferred) or fish. These include: pörkölt (stew, and what everyone calls 'goulash' abroad); gulyás (a thickish beef soup); and halászlé (spicy fish soup cooked with paprika). To the famous Hungarian specialities belong: jokai bableves (bean soup), hideg gyumolcsleves (cold fruit soup made from sour cherry) or palacsinta (stuffed crepes) All these dishes perfectly match various types of Hungarian wines.

Paprica, Salami, Goulash...


Like all capsicums, the paprika varieties are native to South America. Originally a tropical plant, it can now grow in cooler climates. In Europe Hungary and Spain are the two main centres for growing paprika peppers, though these varieties have evolved into much milder forms than their tropical ancestors. Hungarian paprika is known as stronger and richer than Spanish paprika.

In Hungary there as six classes ranging from Kulonleges (exquisite delicate) to Eros (hot and pungent). Commercial food manufacturers use paprika in cheeses, processed meats, tomato sauces, chili powders and soups. Its main purpose is to add colour. If a food item is coloured red, orange or reddish brown and the label lists ‘Natural Colour’, it is likely paprika.

As Paprika is commonly cultivated in Hungary, it is sometimes called “Hungarian Pepper,” or “Pimenta” or “Pimento.” Although it is know to be ‘not’ spicy, there is actually a very spicy one or moderately spicy one in Europe. It is used for tinning, stufood olive, Pimento cheese, pickles, meat source, and dressing. It is also applied to make seasonings for soup, egg dish, vegetable dish, ketchup, and chilly source for fish, beef, and chicken meat.

Hungarian Salami

Like the best European salamis, Hungarian Salami forms a harmless white mold on the casing as it ages. The mold is a sign that the salami is fully developed, at the peak of its flavor. Before serving, simply peel away and discard the casing with the mold.

Made from the cuts of pork, the meat is finely ground, aged naturally, then seasoned to be full-flavored - spicy but not hot.

Unavailable – FDA (US) is currently refusing import of this product due to high Bacteria levels!


The Romans brought the first vine-shoots to this fertile land of the Carpathian Basin, and they established the first vineyards in Szerémség, Baranya, Tolna, the Buda Hills and Lake.

The cities of Sopron, Pozsony, Kőszeg, and of course Buda passed severe regulations in protection of their own wines, banning the import and selling of foreign wines. Before the 150-year occupation of the Turks many varieties of Italian and French grapes were brought in, as well as the custom of producing so-called ürmös csemegebor, or vermouth. The Turks brought the Kadarka grape, later widely grown, to the Szekszárd region by the Serbs persecuted. The Turks also destroyed the famous Szerémség vineyards. In the Turkish era the Eger white grapes were replaced by red types and in time the Hungarians learnt how to make red wines from the Serbs.

Hungarian wines have earned a reputation for high quality, garnering first prizes in a number of international competitions. Wine connoisseurs are familiar with the most famous of Hungary's wines - the sweet white Tokaji Aszú and strong red Bull's Blood (Egri Bikavér). Hungary boasts 20 wine-producing districts which make a wide range of wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay, sparkling, rosé and other unique Hungarian varieties.

Tokaj-What's in a name

A lot of people ask for the correct spelling and pronunciation of Tokaj and some people use a y instead of j. Here is the final word:

Tokaj - Hegyalja - tok-eye hedge-alya is the wine region.

Tokaj - pronounced - tok-eye is the main town of the region

When you say Tokaji (pronounced tok-eye-ee) actually means 'of Tokaj'. So you would not use it alone but with the grape variety or type of wine eg. Tokaji Furmint ,Tokaji Harslevelu or the botyrised wine which is known as Tokaji Aszu.

With the accession of Hungary into the EU the Tokaji name will be exclusively the right of Tokaji winemakers as from 2007. But as the Hungarian wine industry is slowly exposed to the demands of a market economy the traditional protection of the Tokaj trading house is being lifted.


History and Regionalism

Italian Republic in its present shape of parliamentary democracy is a very young entity created on the base of the constitution elaborated in 1947 and formally introduced on 1st January 1948. The past of Italy is very complex and as a united nation and country it exists only from 1820. Before, since the fall of Western Roman Empire the Italian peninsula was scattered into small pieces, and was under the huge influence of Church State and very often dominated by French, Austria, Spain and even Arabs.

Beginning from 1200 some of the cities of centre-north lived great economic development and were able to refuse the authority of pope and emperor that then competed on European political scene. From that time a new form of independent local governance has taken its beginning and was named “Comune”. The very first cities that ruled by themselves were Venice, Pisa and Genoa. These cities participated in vivid marine trade with other countries of Mediterranean and of East and because of that they were called marine republics. Also Milan, Florence, Bologna became important centres thanks to trade. Some of those republics stayed independent till the end of XVIII century.

After the Vienna congress Italy was divided into many principalities and Holy See lands213 but already in 1820 the unification move was started to finish finally the dependence of Italy from other powers. The aphevals take place in Turin, Milan, Naples and Palermo against the occupants but being not coordinated and they did not bring expected results until the diplomatic efforts of Camillo Cavour and military actions of Giuseppe Garibaldi that put together brought finally the unification of Italy under the reign of first Italian king Vittorio Emmanuele II di Savoia. The process of unification was completed in 1870 when last but not least, great Italian city, Rome was incorporated into new state. At this time, the Italian Government was faced with the dilemma of administrative centralisation or decentralisation. In those days 'Piedmontisation', i.e., the hurried extension of Piedmont legislation to the newly annexed Italian regions, was resented in the North as well as in the South, although perhaps not to the same degree. The Piedmontese and the Lombards were different peoples with very different political-historical experiences, and so were the Tuscans, Emilians, Sicilians, Neapolitans etc. Only 2.5% of the population knew Italian at the time of Unification, a figure that includes the Tuscans, upon whose dialect (toscano-fiorentino) the national language was based.214 Despite growing resentment in the country against Piedmontisation and Cavour view of the intensive centralisation as illiberal, expensive and inefficient for the Italian ruling class at the time was of great worth to 'harmonise' regional differences to avoid the danger that Italy might fall apart if a uniform administrative system was not quickly imposed on the whole kingdom. Finally the Italian government passed a Law in 1865 (Law N. 2248) which introduced a rigid prefectorial system along Napoleonic lines.

Italy stayed a united kingdom until second world war. In 1943 in the middle of the war south of Italy was administrated by Americans and north of the country became Republic of Salò governed by fascist allies of Germany. Finally on 25th April 1945 Italy was liberated and in 1946 in referendum Italians have chosen republic for the political system (12.700.000 for republic, 10.600.000 for monarchy)215. King Umberto di Savoia was sent to exile to Portugal accused of cooperation with Germans and to the power came the anti-fascists parties which supported the idea of a very democratic administrative decentralisation. However, in need of compromise with The Socialist and Communist Parties which were in particular suspicious of any form of federalism, the mentioned 1947 Constitution established the regions as administrative entities with limited legislative powers. Most of these 20 administrative regions are based on traditional borders of former principalities and independent cities together with the Napoleon division. Some of the regions though have been created due to recognition of their growing importance and also in consideration of their ethnic minorities or separatist tendencies. These are approved in February 1948 4 autonomous, special regions: Valle d’Aosta, Trentino-Alto Adige, Sicily and Sardinia plus established only in 1963 Friuli-Venezia Giulia. They all have their statute agreed by the constitution and this way they are more independent in their decisions from Rome government.216 The regions are divided into 104 provinces and then in 10.122 communities. There are also some historical regions created thru the centuries that are not included in the administrative division but still they have their place in the consciousness of Italians i.e. Brianza in Lombardy, le Langhe and il Monferrato in Piedmont, la Garfagana and la Maremma in Tuscany, la Ciociaria in Lazio and il Cilento in Campania217.

Regionalism and Economy Today

Conspicuous and increasing regional differences are possibly the major feature of the Italian economy and of its employment pattern. During the 1980s the unemployment rate in the south climbed from twice to three times that of north-central regions. In 1991 the south accounted for 37 per cent of the country’s population but only for one quarter of its GDP and had an unemployment rate close to 20 per cent as opposed to about 9.6 per cent in the centre and 5.1 per cent in the north.218

At the time of Italian unification in 1861, the north already had already had a fairly developed agriculture, communications infrastructure and network of linkages with western European markets, and a tradition of independent enterprises that enabled it to join the Industrial Revolution. The south was removed from the main commercial axes and had been subjected for centuries to an exploitative foreign occupation that had left it with impoverished land, a patchwork of large estates and tiny plots, a feudal-type social set-up and a population understandably suspicious of change, foreigners and the legal order. Post war reconstruction saw resources channelled disproportionally to the north, although about 5 per cent of its industry had been destroyed, as opposed to one-third in the south) in order to get industrial apparatus back into operation, in the expectation that it could become the engine of growth of the whole country. The results were disappointing though, as the gap between northern and southern regions kept widening in terms of all relevant economic indicators: per capita income, share of employment in industry and services (as opposed to agriculture), productivity and employment opportunities were all markedly lower in the south. Only its population growth was considerably higher. A survey organized in 1951-52 to ascertain the level of poverty in Italy (measured by consumption and hygiene) found that in the south 20 per cent of the people were living in destitution and 20 per cent in hardship, while in the north these percentages were, respectively, 1.5 and 4.3.

Since 1975, even the partial gains of earlier years in terms of reduced disparities between219 north and south have been eroded. At the turn of the 1990s, the productivity gap between northern and southern firms was striking. In industry, the latter needed to invest about 40 per cent more to produce the equivalent output, partly due to a labour productivity 75-80 per cent lower than the north and a mere 5 per cent of the national R&D effort concentrated in the south, partly to less efficient public administration and partly to markedly less developed economic infrastructures. Law productivity expectations in turn discourage local and external investments and entrepreneurship, producing a vicious circle that is hard to break.

Table below shows that the proportion of employment in agriculture has been rapidly declining in the country, but remains considerably higher and is declining less rapidly in the south. However, within the south itself there exist multiple economic and employment gaps. That occurs not only in agriculture, but also in other sectors. The Bari commune, for instance, constitutes a remarkable pole of dynamism and is home, among others, to a cluster of some 20 high-technology enterprises specializing in research and innovation, which some are already calling the Italian “Silicon Valley”; in that same region, however, there are communes in deep recession, such as Brindisi and Taranto , where large steel and chemical plants are concentrated.220

Employment share by sector, north/centre and south Italy, 1951-91 (percentages)

1951 1981 1991

sector north/centre south north/centre south north/centre south

Agriculture 37.6 56.6 9.2 22.5 5.8 14.6

Industry 33.9 20.1 41.6 27.3 35.6 23.5

Services 28.3 23.1 49.2 50.1 58.5 61.9

The first regional distinction concerns demographic trends. A clear population decline emerged in almost all northern regions between 1980 and 1990, while in the centre and south the trend was still upward. Italy has now the lowest fertility rate and one of the longest life expectancies in the world – the number of children under 14 has been declining while that of elderly people (aged 70 and above) has been increasing. Both phenomena are more evident in the centre-north than in the south.

As regards unemployment221, although it increased nationwide until the end of the 1980s, that trend was much more pronounced in southern regions, where between 1980 and 1990 it increased by 94.2 per cent, against 17.5 per cent in the north. Since the late 1980s geography has become the most incisive divide in the segmented Italian labour market, dominating the two other traditional divides of sex and age.222

Italy has made a substantial change in its economic policy in the 1990’s. The previous decade was characterized by the constant privatisation, beginning in 1992, when prime minister G. Amato was forced to suspend Italy’s participation in the European Monetary System (so called currency snake) and devaluate the lire deeply. The crisis of 1992 profoundly undermined the rules of Italian economic policy. It proved that one cannot increase public debt continuously and limitations in public expenditure and privatisation of state owned enterprises are crucial for economic development. The liberalization process was accompanied by the administration reform. Central government authorities began to delegate their powers to local governments. Despite the fact that the whole process was initiated as early as in the 1970s, practical delegation of powers to lower levels of governments began in the middle of the 1990s, partly because of new guidelines of European Union’s regional policy. Nevertheless, in the OECD Trade Committee Report of 2001 Italian bureaucracy is thoroughly criticized. Inefficient institutions and complicated, time-consuming legal procedures were mentioned among the most important disincentives for foreign investors.223

Recognizing the persistant differentiation effects of neglecting and destructive influence of Arabs and Spaniards rules in the South contrasting with entrepreneurship and state of law spirit left by French and Austrians in the North the first serious governmental attempt to promote economic and social development in the region occurred already in the first decade of the twentieth century. The plan failed and the next attempt was made in the 50’s by establishing Cassa per Opere Straordinarie di Pubblico Interesse nell'Italia Meridionale , better known as the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno. This meant not only the land reform but then also a shift in regional policy from promoting agriculture to promoting industrial development. Unfortunately the State has decided to rely on public sector, capital intensive and heavy industrial, which together with the energy crisis in 1970’s and steel over production throughout Europe resulted in a failure which only underlined the gap between two parts of the country. In 1984 the Cassa was abolished after being widely criticized and the new law left to the regions to formulate and implement their own development plans as the intervention was to be this way more effective as the regions were more familiar with local conditions, needs and resources.

At the same time the policy of EU was slowly implemented. In fact Italians are quite keen on UE and integration. Some of them feel more European than Italian (but always and first of all they are attached to their region). For example Umberto Bossi stated in his autobiography: 'What is the meaning of having frontiers between Piedmont and Savoie, or South Tyrol and Austria? Their ethnicity is substantially identical, from a naturalistic point of view. From a socio-cultural point of view [...] nothing unites Trentino or Lombardy with Calabria or Campania. Therefore I say: why not replace the fixed frontiers and the centralism typical of unitary States with a more articulated system, characterised by a plurality of institutional centres each with specific and limited responsibilities? Why not eliminate, in other words, the rigid frontiers between very similar realities, as for example Lombardy and Baviera, while introducing separate decision-making centres, each with real autonomy, in different realities which were arbitrarily unified, such as the North and South of Italy?'224 However, this still seems to be an utopia, as European Union’s regional policy that aimes not only at interregional but also at traditional cooperation which may be perceived as a step backward.

Italy does benefit form EU structural funds (as a relatively rich country it is excluded from the Cohesion Fund) but the streams of EU assistance do not flow equally in all the regions.225 Despite all the efforts, the south, being the biggest beneficent of EU funds, remains underdeveloped when comparing to EU averages. One of the possible reasons of this situation may be a fact that mafia structures attract substantial amount of EU money (about 20% of the whole amount sent to Italy)226.

La Mafia

In fact it said that you cannot understand Italy if you do not understand mafia.227 Mafia, N’dranghetta and Camorra – whatever we name organized crime in Sicily, Calabria and Naples – is one of very few phenomena so often misunderstood and misinterpreted. The atmosphere of secret around mafia results partly from the promise of silence, omerta, obligatory to all, who had any, even incidental, contact with mafia.

Mafia as an object, as a noun does not exist. According to mafia expert, Pino Artacchi, to behave in a ‘mafia way’ means to be respected, to be a man of honour. There are two basic cultural features explaining why mafia was born in the south of Italy. Firstly, this culture pays great attention to respect, aggression and domination.228 Silent, calm, naive people may become saint after death, but in the present life they are regarded as fools. The second important feature is attitude towards the state – people do not trust the government and find it limitates their independence and the autonomy of the family, which may result from frequent invasions in the past. Etymology of the word mafia itself leaves many uncertainities, but it is believed from Arabic mu’afah – security. It can be found first in the documents dating from the reunification period, which plays important role in the analysis of Italian state.

Initially, mafia acted as a mediator in social conflicts. By the end of the ninetieth century it has already developed ethic code and a semi-formal organizational structure, which are still valid. Each mafia family owes the name of the village where originates from, or the name of the city which rules. Above all the families stands the so called commission, grouping representatives of all major mafia groups.

According to Francis Fukuyama229 Italian mafia is the example of an “amoral familiaralism” characteristic for the societies with very law social capital that means with very law level of trust. He believes that Italy as the country that is characterised by highly developed family bounds that take place of the medium level administration and reduce the tendency to creating the local organizations and social movements. He recognizes though regional differences and so he promotes the idea of Terza Italia i.e. Emilia Romagna together with Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Venetto, Friuli and Trentino as opposed to rich triangle Milan, Turin, Genua and mafia’s Mezzogiorno. And so he claims that South of Italy is dominated by mentioned pathological familiarism where an individual is worth as much as his or hers family and the good of the family is the most important value. There are little local organizations, clubs, associations etc. and people has very low belief in law obedience of their neighbours. The society is bond by religion and competition among families not by solidarity between entities, families and local governments.230 Fukuyama believes this is due to three historical reasons. First is supposed to be the influence of quite long lasting Kingdom of Sicily and Naples ruled by Normans in autocratic and feudalistic way, especially in times of Frederic II. Then it was the role of Church that profound these feudalistic tendencies and finally is the way region was unified i.e by forced centralization as opposed to slow unification of decentralized republics and principalities of North. Fukuyama even says that South Italy and Sicily are the examples of delinquent economy as isolated and criminal in its kind as for example Russia or big cities’ ghettos in USA.


Although very critical about Mezzogiorno, Fukuyama praises Terza Italia as a region of close familiar cooperation but not connected with criminal practices, rather creating small elastic enterprises (that gather themselves in extremely effective networks and clusters!)231, export oriented, and eager to use new technologies.232 Terza Italia and North familiarism is based on healthy society values and traditions developed during times of republics but make Italians unable to create spontaneously really big companies. (Familarism also determiantes some of business behaviours like dinning and wining with clients, need of good and warm relation with partners based very much on trust, and hierarchy and title satutus meaning through society). These are usually based in North and almost always are state owned, controlled or at least influenced (FIAT, Enel, Banca di Lavoro, Emichem, Banca Commerciale Italiana, Olivetti). It is amazing that Italy having GDP 4 times greater than for example Switzerland, Sweden or Netherlands has the same number of big companies!

As we can see the socio-economic development remains uneven. The North/South divide is, as we can see, highly relevant, but there are also differences between the other regions. Back in the 1970 'three Italies' were identified in terms of social and economic structures: the industrial, urban-centred and large-firms-dominated North-West; the newly developed, still semi-rural, small-firms-dominated North-Eastern and Central regions; and the under-developed South233. Only to give some more data we can quote a study promoted by the Regional Council of the Veneto Region shows that between 1985 and 1990 four Northern regions, Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna paid 45% of national taxes, 62% of VAT, and 63.5% of local taxes. They were given by the State 33.9% of the funds redistributed to local and regional governments.234

From these, indeed huge, differences, highly unfair, especially in the eyes of the inhabitants and tax payers of rich North, came the federalism of the Italian Northern League Party (Lega Nord). The League's secessionist aspirations and its openly-held conviction that Northern and Southern Italy represent two distinct and non-converging societies which ought to be free to go it alone. The League's position presupposes the total rejection of the Italian Fathers' aspirations to achieve complete unity through the creation of a common people. What League wants is the Federal State that would be responsible only for foreign affairs, defence, justice, general finance and higher education. The emphasis was on the creation of a Northern Republic made up of Lombardy, Piedmont, Venetia, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, represented in the party literature as the most socially advanced part of Italy, governed and 'oppressed' by the Southern-dominated State bureaucracy and party system.

Paradoxically, the revival of federalist/ethnic sentiments has taken place at a time when Italy has reached a high degree of cultural homogeneity, not least from a linguistic point of view. Apart from minority ethnic groups, linguistic unification is now an accomplished reality. Census results indicate that Italian is now prevailing, although the dialects have not disappeared at all. Most people can speak both Italian and a dialect, and the percentage of people who speak only or mainly Italian is constantly growing (some may say that it is thanks mainly to Italian TV). But only in the 1950’s in most of the regions only dialects were spoken. There are more dialects than regions, in fact sometimes in every city different dialect is spoken. And this way for example in Tuscany different is language spoken in Pisa, Florence, Massa, Livorno, Viareggio, Lucca, Siena235 as slightly different sauces are made in different regions to be eaten with famous pasta.

Regional Cuisine

Italian cuisine belongs to most popular ones in the world. Although regional differences have become less visible, they have not disappeared completely. French influence is particularly strong in Piedmont, the Austrian in Alto-Adige and the Greek in Calabria. Nevertheless, Italians managed to defend from cuisine globalisation and they find exotic in the differences between the regions. Every Italian believes Italian cuisine is the best in the world and his ‘mamma’ is the best chef (‘mamma’ is the most important person in the world for many men in Italy and thus she is always right), many restaurants are small family enterprises. The most distinctive pattern of Italian cuisine is its celebration. Dinner, for instance, begins with antipasto, which is followed by risotto or pasta, than fish or meat, cheese and finally fruits or coffee. Even food shopping is treated seriously and little shops or street markets are preferred to big department stores. Therefore bread, cold cuts and cheese are still produced mostly by small manufacturers. The rule is that the more south you go the heavier, crispier and more salty the bread is although in all regions it ‘pane senza sale’ (no salt bread) is often served with salty salami, cold cuts and cheese.236

Regional Italian cuisines237:

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