Rosario Crocetta has lived under close police protection in Italy ever since 2003, when the mafia tried to murder him. He was mayor of the southern Sicilian city of Gela, population 100,000. He is now a member of the European Parliament (an MEP).
He had set up an association against racketeering, winning the confidence of ordinary people and small businesses. Since the murder attempt, he has had four officers guarding him round the clock. He travels by armoured car.
He won his European Parliament seat in last June’s elections. But it could cost him his life, because Belgium and France, host countries of the institution’s main work bases, have denied him an escort. He is still trying to pursuade them, and he plans to carry out what he told voters he would do.
Cecilia Cacciotto, euronews: Rosario Crocetta, in Italy you’re protected. As an MEP
in Europe, you’re not. Is your impression that Europe just doesn’t care or does your case represent some strange things in Europe?”
Rosario Crocetta: I don’t think Europe just doesn’t care about me. I’m sincere about that. And I don’t feel like arguing with the Belgian authorities either. I’m loyal to the institutions and would never allow myself to. I can understand their point of view is different from mine. But my problem is: I’m under a Cosa Nostra death sentence — the criminal organisation that dates from 1860 and which has not been dismantled. I’m not the target of a little local crime ring, but of an organisation with a pyramid-like structure, and which is still very powerful in Sicily, and which has links with the other mafias of Italy and abroad. It has an international network and therefore can strike in Belgium or France, as it can in Colombia, or anywhere.
euronews: Why does Cosa Nostra want you dead?
Crocetta: Why was I condemned to death by the Mafia? For several reasons. I started to oppose their interests, which were to carry out illegal business within a legal system, but also to do legal business in an illegal framework.
euronews: How did you do that?
Crocetta: It was hard. In Gela, in 1993, a businessman, Gaetano Giordano, who is the namesake of the city’s anti-racketeering association, was killed. He was singled out to teach a lesson to a group of entrepreneurs who had spoken out against the mafia. So, he had been killed, and it was then difficult to get these business people to collaborate, after a shock like that. I started out with five people. For months we met at the police station. After a year, we were 15, making a formal complaint. That’s how the revolt began. But all that was possible because the citizens saw I was credible, that I wasn’t just a politician who just talks.
euronews: Mr. Crocetta, you sacked a town employee who was married to a mafia boss. Did you think of the consequences of that, at the time?
Crocetta: He wasn’t only a mafia boss, it was one of the most important Cosa Nostra chiefs in Sicily, the third-most-wanted and the most dangerous man in Italy. Of course I was scared, and I thought about it a lot. I knew that decision would get me condemned to death, but I had to do it because it was the right decision.
euronews: The mafia isn’t only an Italian phenomenon. Is Europe aware of the mafia’s international role?
Crocetta: Europe underestimates the mafia problem. I’ll give you an example. In December 2003, a phone call was intercepted and we found out they were planning a hit on me. It was a converstation between a businessman close to the Gela mafia and one in Lithuania. They discussed a meeting that was going to take place in December 2003, at the European summit — I believe it was the European Council — which would permit them to do important business. I went there to verify, and, effectively, during the European summit the European leaders endorsed Lithuania’s joining of the bloc.
euronews: As a europarliamentarian, what do you propose?
Crocetta: From day one, I proposed, at the European Parliament, that an antimafia committee be created. I also think an investigation should be started up on money laundering, and support for all the associations that are fighting in each country for civil rights and freedoms, against all the different mafias.
euronews: We know today that the Italian state negotiated with the mafia (in the 1990s). What do you think of that? Is it legitimate to enter negotiations with Cosa Nostra?
Crocetta: Absolutely not. That was a dramatic period in the history of our country, during which the state, a part of the state negotiated. There were also phases no less serious, in which the state coexisted with Cosa Nostra. Why has Cosa Nostra not been eliminated by now? The answer is simple: it’s because the institutions in part have recognised its existence and even defended it. I think Europe is having the same attitude towards Cosa Nostra; I don’t say it is negotiating but it’s ignoring it and therefore it’s in cohabiation with it. That is a very grave mistake, the same error that Italy committed. For example, Europe has not instroduced specific laws against mafia phenomena.
euronews: In 2003, when the police told you they had just prevented an attack against you, your first thought was to go to your mother.
Crocetta: My mother always told me: it’s better to be poor but honest. My mother shares my choice. She is elderly but does not live with me, otherwise I would be putting her life in danger.
euronews: Who’s going to win in the end? You, honest Sicily or… the mafia?
Crocetta: I hope Honest Sicily will win. But it’s not just a Sicilian fight any more, because the mafia’s money is found in Luxembourg, it’s in Belgium, and if we don’t manage to get at that capital we will not win.