Virginio Merola
Mayor, Bologna (Italy)
Virginio Merola, 57, was born in the province of Caserta (Campania region), but has been living in Bologna since the age of five. He graduated in Philosophy at the University of Bologna and after his first job and subsequent commitment as a unionist in the CGIL Trade Union, in 1989 he accepted the proposal by Walter Vitali, at the time Bologna’s Deputy Mayor for Finance, to be the regional secretary of the Local Governments’ League, the Italian association of Municipalities, Provinces and Regions.
His true political commitment in the city government started in 1995, when he was elected President of the Savena District of Bologna for two subsequent terms.
Savena District of Bologna for two subsequent terms. In June 2004 he was elected in Bologna’s City Council and soon after was appointed Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning and Housing. From July 2009 until February 2011 he was President of the Provincial Council and on May 16th 2011, Virginio Merola was elected Mayor of Bologna, as the candidate for the Democratic Party, with more than 50% of votes at the first ballot.
“Sustainability in Social Economy: Bologna and Emilia Romagna Case Studies”
The Seoul Global Forum on Social Economy gives cities and local communities the opportunity to put forward their own priorities in the global political agenda. Innovative cities is where the future is built, where the line of the horizon is marked for a smart, sustainable and supportive growth. Only starting from the communities can we effectively come to tackle poverty and ensure that the Millennium Development goals are achieved. The financial crisis has spread across the continents, upsetting the real life of people. For these reasons, the Seoul Declaration will propose a new covenant of Mayors and social economy leaders, in order to reduce the enormous income gap that divides our societies.
Social economy, or what in Italy is defined “civic economy”, aims at reaching equality and sustainability, by spreading a sense of trust and responsibility. We need to start from here, and create a different idea of economy and society. On this very point we need to found a new platform of connections and external relations between our countries, to a have a strong influence on international institutions, as well as on national parliaments.
What we need, indeed, are laws and policies in favour of social economy, as a cornerstones of our democracies.
Italy and Bologna will support this process. Bologna will bring its contribution, i.e. our long-time local experience, which has progressively built up a culture considered for many years as different from the single-minded thought. A culture that has granted us progress and social cohesion, and that today the crisis is reintroducing as innovative and necessary.
According to a regretfully mainstream thought, ethics and economy are something to be held separate and economy is said to be driven exclusively by egoistic and self-interested reasons. Actually, instead, the search for profit and for one’s own benefit isn’t but one (certainly the most important) of the components of economic processes; there’s also a different one – anyway remarkable – on the opposite side, i.e. the social action (addressed to others, to the community). It’s essential to teach the new generations how to understand this dualism, for which businesses are organisations aiming not only at making profit, but also at improving the quality of life of their employees, at preserving the territory, at holding a social responsibility.
Intergenerationality is a second crucial point. We are not a whole lot of selfish people because we have children and we care about their future. A business does not start and end with its founder, but keeps on living under the guide of the new generations. In this sense, the cooperative enterprise is a step forward, as it’s not made by company shares to be bought and sold, but by people who increase with patience a property which remains available for future generations and for the local area. Profit is not made private, but mostly re-invested; therefore, this kind of company is what represents an intergenerational spirit at its best.
What is to be underlined in the Emilia-Romagna and Bolognese model is that the economic development has generated resources that have been then invested into the welfare state (now in a more up-to-date model that we call “welfare society”), that had in turn favoured this development. In many non-European countries welfare is considered as an expenditure. Actually, it’s rather an investment. The National Government and the local administrations invest on the quality of life of their citizens - education, health, social care, culture, and so on - not only to follow an ethical or political trend, but also because civil progress brings about further economic growth: the new generations are more educated, social gaps are reduced, etc.