Sylvia Poggioli

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's international desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia and how immigration has transformed European societies.

Since joining NPR's foreign desk in 1982, Poggioli has traveled extensively for reporting assignments. Most recently, she travelled to Norway to cover the aftermath of the brutal attacks by an ultra-rightwing extremist; to Greece, Spain, and Portugal for the latest on the euro-zone crisis; and the Balkans where the last wanted war criminals have been arrested.

In addition, Poggioli has traveled to France, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and Denmark to produce in-depth reports on immigration, racism, Islam, and the rise of the right in Europe.

Throughout her career Poggioli has been recognized for her work with distinctions including: the WBUR Foreign Correspondent Award, the Welles Hangen Award for Distinguished Journalism, a George Foster Peabody and National Women's Political Caucus/Radcliffe College Exceptional Merit Media Awards, the Edward Weintal Journalism Prize, and the Silver Angel Excellence in the Media Award. Poggioli was part of the NPR team that won the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for coverage of the war in Kosovo. In 2009, she received the Maria Grazia Cutulli Award for foreign reporting.

In 2000, Poggioli received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brandeis University. In 2006, she received an honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts at Boston together with Barack Obama.

Prior to this honor, Poggioli was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences "for her distinctive, cultivated and authoritative reports on 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia." In 1990, Poggioli spent an academic year at Harvard University as a research fellow at Harvard University's Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

From 1971 to 1986, Poggioli served as an editor on the English-language desk for the Ansa News Agency in Italy. She worked at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. She was actively involved with women's film and theater groups.

The daughter of Italian anti-fascists who were forced to flee Italy under Mussolini, Poggioli was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor's degree in Romance languages and literature. She later studied in Italy under a Fulbright Scholarship.

The Italian city of Florence prides itself on welcoming foreign migrants. But the killing of two Africans last month has raised new questions about racism in Italy.

With the economic crisis worsening, there are signs xenophobia could increase as Italians start to compete with immigrants for a slice of the shrinking economic pie.

On Dec. 13, a known right-wing extremist opened fire in two separate marketplaces, leaving two Senegalese dead and seriously injuring three others. The killer then shot himself.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

You may have seen the dramatic images over the weekend: a luxury liner that ran aground off the coast of Italy and then turned on its side. At least six people died. And of the 4,200 people on board, more than a dozen are still unaccounted for. Rough weather today has forced officials to suspend rescue operations, and the focus now is on the captain, who is under arrest. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

Italy's new prime minister, technocrat Mario Monti, wants to stimulate growth by boosting productivity and competitiveness. A new law that went into effect Jan. 1 allows shops, cafes and restaurants to stay open 24/7 all year long, holidays included. This deregulation puts Italy ahead of many European countries, but many Italians are resisting.

Friday — the Day of the Epiphany — was the first holiday of the year. In Rome, however, hardly anyone took advantage of the liberalized shop hours.

A tour of how Christmas shopping is going in Italy starts with Via Condotti — Rome's premier shopping street.

It features high-end stores like Prada, Gucci, Armani, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Ferragamo. But salespeople are standing idly by the door. There's a yawning emptiness in these shops.

Two streets down, the only Christmas sound is a recording of a children's chorus singing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo." But even in a toy store, well-dressed customers leave without buying.

Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright who led a revolution to bring down the country's communist regime, has died. During the communist era, Havel was one of Eastern Europe's foremost dissident writers and champion of human rights.

Havel died Sunday morning at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic, his assistant Sabina Dancecova said. He was 75.

It's Sunday in Volos, a fishing village nestled in a large bay in central Greece, and fishermen display their daily catch, which this day includes codfish, sardines and octopus.

Prices have been slashed, but customers are few.

Fisherman Christos Xegandakis laughs bitterly. He says business is so bad, it's time to start swapping goods.

"Give me two kilos of potatoes, and I give you a kilo of fish," he says. "Why not?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Italy's new prime minister has pledged far-reaching reforms. An economist himself, Mario Monti has managed to win a vote of confidence for his new national unity government by an overwhelming majority in Italy's senate. Still, Europe's debt crisis is gathering more steam and now pushing borrowing costs for Spain and France sharply higher. As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, pressure is mounting on the European Central Bank to act to stem the crisis.

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In a country where politicians shield themselves behind dark-tinted windows in sleek limousines, Roman paparazzi are having a field day with Italy's new premier-designate, Mario Monti, who actually walks down the street, without bodyguards.

But the longest sound bite reporters are likely to get from him is: "Isn't it a splendid day?"

Monti was chosen to replace the flamboyant Silvio Berlusconi, who was forced to step down over the country's worsening eurozone crisis.

With a party anthem called "Thank God for Silvio," humility is not a Silvio Berlusconi virtue. "I am by far the best prime minister Italy ever had," he said in 2009.

Berlusconi's resignation Saturday marks the end of a political career that tainted Italy's international image and helped bring Europe's third-largest economy to the brink of bankruptcy.

He survived tales of "bunga-bunga" orgies and more than 30 prosecutions for corruption, tax fraud and paying for sex with a minor.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made a number of promises to fellow leaders of the eurozone countries at a summit meeting in October. Now Italy's economy is starting to become a growing concern for European Union leaders and financial markets.

World markets rallied Thursday after European leaders agreed on a plan to deal with the eurozone debt crisis. But in Greece, the most imperiled country, there was skepticism that the deal will do much to help the country out of recession.

In addition, many Greeks also fear that they are losing their sovereignty, and are uncomfortable about the role Germany will be playing in the country's financial future.

The Nuntius stock brokerage firm is, unlike similar offices in New York or London, deathly quiet. So many people have been laid off that the offices are nearly empty.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: And I'm Robert Siegel. Hundreds of thousands of Greeks marched in Athens today and there were some clashes between police and protesters wearing masks. It was the first day of a 48 hour general strike and it brought the entire country to a standstill. Protesters objected to yet more austerity measures demanded by Greece's international creditors.

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has the story from Athens.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is in Athens and she joins us on the line for a look at what the strike is looking like there. Good morning, Sylvia.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: What's the scene there? Pretty quiet, I imagine.

The financial crisis gripping Greece is having a major impact on the country's young people. A two-tier labor market that favors the older generation and draconian austerity measures have triggered a record high jobless rate among those under 35.

And now, the economic upheaval is undermining the traditional family structure and pushing the young to leave their homeland for better prospects.

Greek leaders yesterday held a second telephone conference with the IMF, the European Union and the European Central bank. Greece is hoping for approval of the next scheduled payment of bailout money. There is growing speculation that Greece will default on its debts. The only questions are how and when, and if Greece can still stay within the eurozone.

It's a critical period for Greece: It has to convince international lenders that it can slash its budget deficit before getting a vital $11 billion installment of last year's $150 billion bailout deal.

Prime Minister George Papandreou canceled a trip to the U.S. to hold an emergency Cabinet meeting Sunday on finding more cuts to plug this year's budget shortfall. Greece has blamed the shortfall on a deeper-than-expected recession — the unintended effect of a year and a half of draconian austerity measures.

The international tribunals at The Hague have dealt with horrific war crimes and brought Balkan war criminals and African warlords to trial.

Now, the tribunal is being asked to investigate top Vatican officials over the global clerical sex abuse scandal, and victims say these offenses meet the legal definition of crimes against humanity.

Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly apologized for crimes committed by priests.

With Italy in the crosshairs of the eurozone debt crisis, the European Central Bank is dictating to Rome the measures it should take to reduce its massive debt mountain.

But the government is divided over draconian measures that go against the grain of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's populist policies.

MP's of the Budget and Constitutional Affairs Committees were summoned back to Rome from their vacations for an emergency session — many of them tanned and fitter than usual.

This week, Italy became the front-line in the battle to save the euro.

But it isn't the Italians taking the lead. With indecision in Rome, the European Central Bank took the unprecedented move of dictating budget-cutting policies to the third largest economy in the euro-zone.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will now have to accelerate tough austerity measures in exchange for help to solve the country's debt crisis.

Alarm is spreading through international markets as Italy, the eurozone's third largest economy, risks being sucked into the debt crisis. After a long silence, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi addressed Parliament — and insisted that the country's economy is strong, while rebuffing opposition calls for his resignation.

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