Italy is a country which located in Southern Europe. Italy comprises the long, boot-shaped Italian Peninsula, the land between the peninsula and the Alps, and also a number of islands including Sicily and Sardinia. Its total area is 301,230 km², consist of 294,020 km² land area and 7,210 km² water area.
Italy is a homogeneous country, not only linguistically and religiously but also culturally, economically, and politically. It has the fifth-highest population density in Europe, which is about 200 persons per square kilometer. Minority groups are small. There are some German-speaking people of Bolzano Province and the Slovenes around Trieste. There are also small communities of Albanian, Greek, Ladino, and French origin. Immigration has increased in recent years while the Italian population is declining overall due to low birth rates.
About 85% of the native-born citizens are Roman Catholicism. As a result of immigration from other parts of the world, there are 825,000 Muslims live in Italy. 50,000 of them are Italian citizens. There are also 50,000 Buddhists 70,000 Sikh and 70,000 Hindus in Italy. Basically, all religious faiths are provided equal freedom before the law by the constitution.
In economy, Italy was the seventh-largest economy in the world and the fourth-largest in Europe. The country itself is divided into a developed industrial north dominated by large private companies and a less-developed, welfare-dependent, agricultural south, with 20% unemployment.
Italy only has few natural resources and much land unsuited for farming. Because of this condition, since the end of World War II Italy made a change from an agriculturally based economy to an industrial state. For now, Italy's economic strength is in the processing and the manufacturing of goods, primarily in small and medium-sized family-owned firms. Its major industries are precision machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electric goods, and fashion and clothing.
Actually, in this past decade, the average annual growth of Italy was 1.23% in comparison to an average EU annual growth rate of 2.28%. Italia GDP in 2007 reached $1.8 trillion with GDP growth 1.5%. But global financial crisis of 2008 made the GDP growh decreased up to -1.0% for the next year. By the autumn, the economy was declared to have fallen into its fourth recession in less than a decade.
In cultural area, Italy famous for its literature especially from 14th and 15th centuries. There are some famous poet such as Petrarch, Tasso, and Ariosto. There are also the prose of Boccaccio, Machiavelli, and Castiglione. Those inheritance literature is a lasting influence on the subsequent development of Western civilization. The Italian painting, sculpture, and architecture contributed by Da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, and Michelangelo or musical influence by Italian composers such as Monteverdi, Palestrina, and Vivaldi also had a big influence. In the 19th century, Italian romantic opera flourished under composers Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini. Contemporary Italian artists, writers, filmmakers, architects, composers, and designers also contributed Western culture.
Italy has been a democratic republic since June 2, 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. The 1948 constitution established a bicameral parliament (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers (cabinet), headed by the president of the council (prime minister). The president of the republic is elected for seven years by the parliament. The president nominates the prime minister, who chooses the other ministers. The Council of Ministers composed mostly of members of parliament and must retain the confidence of both houses.
The houses of parliament are popularly and directly elected by a proportional representation system. Under 2005 legislation, the Chamber of Deputies has 630 members. The Senate comprising 315 elected members includes former presidents and several other persons appointed for life according to special constitutional provisions. Both houses are elected for a maximum of five years, but either may be dissolved before the expiration of its normal term. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be passed by a majority in both.
Italy's political landscape transformed between 1992 and 1997. The Christian Democratic Party dissolved while the Italian People's Party and the Christian Democratic Center emerged. Forza Italia, a new populist and free-market oriented movement, gained wide support among moderate voters. The National Alliance broke from the neofascist Italian Social Movement. A trend toward two large coalitions, the center-left and the center-right, emerged from the April 1995 regional elections. For the 1996 national elections, the center-left parties created the Olive Tree coalition while the center right united again under the Freedom Pole. May 2001, the elections result made a change to center-right coalition dominated by Berlusconi from Forza Italia. In April 2006, the election returned center-left to power under the eight-party Union coalition.
In October 2007, the Democrats of the Left and the Daisy parties officially merged to form the Democratic Party. Veltroni was chosen as party leader. Silvio Berlusconi launched an alliance between his Forza Italia party and Gianfranco Fini's National Alliance. The parties ran together under the People of Liberty symbol in April 2008. People of Liberty (37.4%) won the largest share of the vote and took power in coalition with a strengthened Northern League (8.3%) and the tiny Movement for Autonomy (1.1%).
In March 2009, Forza Italia and National Alliance changed the People of Liberty identification from an alliance to a party. The new mass center-right party is Italy's largest party and one of the largest in Europe. Party leaders define the party as post-ideological, charismatic, and pragmatic. The party is led by Berlusconi.
Italy’s foreign relations can be seen from European Union membership. Italy itself was a founding member of the European Economic Community. Italy itself is a big supporter for Euro-pean integration. Italy was admitted to the United Nations in 1955 and is a member and strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe.
Italy has a very friendly relationship with United States. Italy is a leading partner in the war against terrorism. The two are NATO allies and cooperate in the United Nations, in various regional organizations, and bilaterally for peace, prosperity, and security. Italy has worked closely with the United States in NATO and UN operations.
Italian Government has cooperated with the United States in the formulation of defense, security, and peacekeeping policies. Under longstanding bilateral agreements flowing from NATO membership, Italy hosts important U.S. military forces at Vicenza and Livorno (army), Aviano (air force), Sigonella, Gaeta, and Naples as home port for the U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet. The United States has about 13,000 military personnel stationed in Italy. Italy hosts the NATO Defense College in Rome.
Hine, David. Italy.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1065345.stm diakses pada tanggal 4 Oktober 2009.
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/4033.htm diakses pada tanggal 4 Oktober 2009.
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