Tag Archives: Italy

Le Maire Sees No Room for Renault-Fiat Talks Amid Italy Revival

 Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. need to define a common strategy first before discussing a potential tie-up with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

The coolness toward the possibility of extending the alliance to the Italian-American carmaker comes against the background of a revival of France’s relationship with Italy after the installation of a new government in Rome. The previous populist administration had often clashed with France on everything from migration to the Yellow Jackets movement to Italy’s takeover of a major shipyard.

Speaking at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, Italy, on Saturday, Le Maire said the birth of the new administration led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is a “unique opportunity” to give “new impetus” to Franco-Italian ties. He signaled several themes that the two countries can cooperate on, including the creation of a euro-area budget and the reform of European competition rules.

“There are many projects on the table,” he said. “I think we can give new impetus to industrial and financial projects between France and Italy.”

Still, the goodwill doesn’t extend for now to Fiat’s attempted merger with Renault, which was called off at the last minute in early June.

“The priority for Renault and Nissan now is clearly to define a common strategy for the future of this key industrial group,” Le Maire told reporters. “I want to know what the industrial strategy is.” While they’re defining that, he said, “it’s not time to open other issues.”

France and Japan reaffirmed their support for the alliance between the two automakers this week, the latest sign the two sides are working toward resolving their dispute. Le Maire added Saturday that “it’s better not to do two things at the same time,” referring to talks with Fiat.


Italy police detains 10 for alleged terrorism financing

Italian police have detained 10 people in the central Abruzzo region for alleged tax crimes and money laundering aimed at financing Islamic extremist groups.

Investigators said at a news conference Saturday that the eight Tunisians and two Italians are suspected of financing with “enormous sums of money” activities linked to the radical Islamic organization Al-Nusra.

According to prosecutors, the people detained, including the imam of the Dar Assalam mosque close to the city of Teramo, and an Italian accountant, used the money obtained through tax evasion to finance militant groups in Syria and some radical imams based in Italy.

Authorities say all 10 people detained are under investigation for alleged money laundering with terrorism purposes.


Italy’s new coalition government sworn in

The new slate of ministers for Giuseppe Conte’s second stint as Italy’s prime minister was formally sworn in on Thursday by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, bringing the unlikely coalition between Italian populists and an old-guard center-left party a step away from power.

The 21-minister slate includes 10 members of the populist Five-Star Movement, nine from the center-left Democratic Party, one from the small, liberal Free and Equal party, and one unaligned technocrat. The only holdout from the previous government will be Giuseppe Conte, who will have his second stint as prime minister.

Among the most prominent new ministers: pro-European Union economist Roberto Gualtieri, a member of the Democratic Party, as Minister of Finance; Five-Star Movement head Luigi Di Maio as Minister of Foreign Affairs; and technocrat Luciana Lamorgese as Minister of the Interior.

Thursday’s highly choreographed ceremony leaves only one step before the Conte government officially takes power – a confidence vote in both houses of parliament, which is likely to take place in the next few days. Analysts said major issues with the vote are unlikely.

Based on the selection of ministers, the new government will almost certainly be more supportive of the European Union than the previous Conte government, which was backed by the Five-Star Movement together with the right-wing League. The appointment of Lamorgese is likely an indication the new government will also take a softer stance on immigration issues.


Italian coalition government deal gets go-ahead from 5SM online platform

A coalition government deal between the 5 Star Movement and its long-time rival the Democratic Party was approved by about 80% of the 80,000 5 Star Movement grass roots members who cast their preference on the movement’s online voting platform on Tuesday.

The outcome of the digital vote, which is considered binding by the Movement’s officials, paves the way for a new executive led by Premier-Designate, Giuseppe Conte. Conte’s new government will replace that of the 5 Star Movement and far-right League party on which League’s leader Matteo Salvini pulled the plug on August 8.

Had 5 Star Movement supporters voted against the forming of the coalition government, Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, would have had to call for early elections in the autumn.

Premier-Designate Conte has drafted a government programme that combines the 5 Star Movement’s 20 demands with those of the Democratic Party. Among the new government’s top priorities are blocking a VAT hike, introducing a minimum wage and a law on conflict of interests, more aid to families and the disabled and a reduction in the number of lawmakers.

Giuseppe Conte is expected to return to President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday and drop his reservations on forming a new executive and say he will go ahead on the M5S-Democratic Party government-formation bid.


Italy’s Stromboli volcano erupts

A volcano has erupted on an Italian island, spewing ash into the air and spilling lava into the sea.

Stromboli, which stands at 926m above sea level, erupted just after midday local time. Tourists on the nearby island of Sicily shared striking photos and video of the explosion online, showing huge plumes of smoke.

The Volcano has been consistently active for decades, but large eruptions are rare. The summit was closed to visitors this summer due to smaller explosions, some of which took place last week.

“From webcam images, nothing very unusual could be detected in the minutes before, just a relatively strong (but not unusual) eruption from a vent in the northeastern crater at 11:55 local time,” Volcano reporting website Volcano Discovery wrote after the initial eruption.

The latest eruption comes as residents of the island stuggle to recover from its last eruption in July, which cost an estimated €20m of damage.

The July 3 eruption killed a tourist hiking on the island and forced residents to flee into the sea. Shortly after, Sicilian authorities announced a state of emergency.

So far the eruption has not caused any injuries to people or property, Italian news service ANSA reported.


Italy’s Hopes of New Government Hinges on Candidates for Premier

With just two days left to form a new coalition government, the Democratic Party and the Five Star Movement remain at loggerheads over who should be Italy’s next prime minister.

The Democrats’ leader Nicola Zingaretti will back Roberto Fico, one of Five Star’s earliest members and the head of Parliament’s lower house, according to a Democrat official who asked not to be named. Five Star’s leader Luigi Di Maio wants to stick with Giuseppe Conte who quit a premier last week as the previous coalition fell apart.

“For the Democrats, Fico represents the most progressive area of Five Star, a sort of anti-Di Maio,” said Giovanni Diamanti, a political analyst and founder of Quorum. “And this is also why Di Maio is behind the scenes opposing the name.”

The two main parties on the Italian left are scrambling to bridge years of tribal warfare to avert an election that could open the door to the right wing populist Matteo Salvini, who pulled his party out of the government this month to try to capitalize on his rising popularity and force a new vote. Salvini has signaled he’d launch a renewed assault on the European Union’s budget rules with a promise of a 50 billion-euro ($56 billion) stimulus plan. A League victory would fan concerns about Italy’s mountain of public debt.

Italy’s perpetual political turmoil, the country has had more than 60 governments since World War II, has made it difficult for any sustained effort to right the country’s shaky finances and tame a debt that tops 130% of gross domestic product. Europe’s third-largest economy stagnated in the three months through June. It was the fourth quarter in five that the economy failed to expand.

A new election could jeopardize efforts to get a budget plan passed by the end of the year and President Sergio Mattarella has given the parties until Tuesday to work out a government deal that would spare the country a new vote. During a call Sunday, Di Maio and Zingaretti disagreed again over a new Conte premiership, according to party officials. The leaders are continuing to talk in a bid to find an alternative solution, a Democratic Party official said.

League Awaits

The appointment of Fico as prime minister would be another blow for Di Maio. After 14 months of power-sharing with the League, support for Five Star has dropped from 32% in last year’s general election to less than 17%, according to the latest poll published by Sole 24 Ore Sunday.

A Five Star party official said on Sunday that Fico intends to remain in his role as Lower House head.

Without a deal, Mattarella has made it clear that Italy will be facing new elections, which could bring the anti-immigration League to power. Support for League was near 40% before Salvini pulled the plug on the government. That might be enough for the League to win a working majority in Parliament.


Italy’s 5-Star, PD make early progress in talks on new government

The first day of talks between the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party (PD) to form a new Italian government ended on Friday with both sides reporting progress and 5-Star pushing the agenda.

The opposition PD said it conditionally accepted what 5-Star had presented as its key demand – a reduction in the number of lawmakers in parliament.

The euro zone’s third-largest economy is in political turmoil after its government, riven by months of infighting, imploded this week, forcing prime minister Giuseppe Conte to resign just as he was to begin preparing the 2020 budget.

President Sergio Mattarella on Thursday gave the parties five days to clinch a deal to avoid a snap election that would be likely to reward the hard-right League Party, which pulled the plug on its year-long coalition with 5-Star.

The PD and 5-Star, traditionally bitter foes, are now negotiating to form a new coalition and push the League into opposition. Amid mutual suspicions and gaping policy differences, each is raising the stakes, betting that the other has more to fear from a return to the polls in the autumn.

On Friday, it was 5-Star’s turn to play hardball, with its leader Luigi Di Maio saying the talks would go nowhere unless the PD agreed to cut the number of lawmakers to 600 from 945.

“The cut in the number of parliamentarians must be done, full stop. If we don’t get that first point there won’t be anything else,” he told reporters before negotiations began.

The PD has opposed the reform in parliament and had said it will only consider it as part of a broader institutional reform that would be a long, drawn-out process.

After the first day of talks the party issued a statement which appeared to indicate a change of tack.

“We are in favor of reducing the number of members of parliament as long there are constitutional guarantees,” it said, without elaborating on the guarantees it sought.

Emissaries from both parties said there was reason for optimism that a coalition could eventually be formed, but final decisions would depend on their leaders.

“No insurmountable obstacles were presented,” said the PD’s deputy chief Andrea Orlando.

Financial markets have rallied on hopes of a deal, with the spread between Italian 10-year government bonds and German Bunds narrowing on Friday to its tightest in a month.


Five-Star may feel its hand is strengthened by growing signs that the League regrets its move to scupper the government two weeks ago and is angling to resurrect the coalition which has governed for the last 14 months.

“I think there is still the possibility to mend our relations with 5-Star,” the League’s Agriculture Minister Gian Marco Centinaio said on Friday.

“It’s a narrow path but if there is the time and the will to sit around a table there will be no problems,” he said.

Orlando, the PD’s deputy leader, said his party would only continue talks with 5-Star if it ruled out a return to the arms of the League.

5-Star’s lower house leader Francesco D’Uva answered that his party had no parallel talks planned with the League, an assurance which may have fallen short of what Orlando hoped for.

The parties’ positions may be influenced by an opinion poll published on Thursday by the Tecne agency which showed the League remained the most popular party, on 31.3%, but had lost seven points since it triggered the government crisis.

On Friday Alessandro Di Battista, one of 5-Star’s most popular and influential figures, said it had “immense bargaining power” thanks to divisions in the PD and the signs of backtracking by the League.

In a post on Facebook, he said 5-Star should “enormously raise the stakes” by insisting its key demands are met, adding that the League’s overtures were “a good thing” and might mean the next prime minister could be from 5-Star.

It remains to be seen whether Di Battista’s hard line will be welcomed by Di Maio or will bear fruit in the negotiations.

President Mattarella told the parties to report back on Tuesday and the three main options of a 5-Star/PD tie-up, snap elections, and a return of the 5-Star/League coalition, all remain on the table.

Migrants in limbo again after landing in Italy

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: Eighty-three migrants who disembarked on Italy’s Lampedusa island were again in limbo on Wednesday as a European deal to redistribute them failed to materialize and Madrid said it could hit the Spanish charity with a hefty fine for rescuing them.
The prospect of a fine comes after a protracted standoff between the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms and Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini finally came to an end.
The boat had spent six days anchored off Lampedusa before a local prosecutor ordered the migrants be allowed to land amid a probe of Salvini for forbidding their entry to port.
Many of them had spent 19 days on board the ship after being picked up while in difficulty trying to make the perilous journey from Libya to Europe in small boats.
As they walked down the gang plank one by one to the island’s shore overnight, some could be seen limping or in bandages.
Salvini, whose Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned in protest at the League leader’s bid to bring the government down, had forbidden all NGO rescue boats from entering Italian ports.
The last remaining charity vessel operating in the Mediterranean, the Ocean Viking, was on Wednesday still seeking a safe port for its 356 rescued migrants.
The ship operated by French charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been holding its position for 10 days between Malta and Lampedusa, asking for a safe port.
“As maritime law stipulates, we’ve been asking Italian and Maltese search and rescue coordination centers for a safe port since we made our first rescue on August 9,” said Frederic Penard, head of operations for SOS Mediterranee.
“For the time being we’ve had no reply from Italy and a rather negative one from Malta,” he told AFP by phone.
The Open Arms on Wednesday sailed to Porto Empedocle on Sicily where the prosecutor ordered it temporarily seized as part of his investigation.

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told Spanish radio, “the Open Arms doesn’t have a permit to rescue.”
The vessel had in April been authorized to leave Barcelona, where it was immobilized for three months, to transport humanitarian aid to Greece.
It was banned from heading to the seas off Libya, often the launchpad for migrants attempting to reach Europe, but went anyway.
A document from the directorate-general for Spain’s merchant navy sent to AFP by the Proactiva Open Arms charity said it risks a fine of up to 901,000 euros ($1 million) for violating this ban.
There were initially 147 mainly African migrants on the ship but as the days passed, some were evacuated for medical care and all minors were allowed to disembark.
Six European Union countries — France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg — have offered to take them all in.
Calvo said the military ship sent to Lampedusa could take charge of those migrants allocated to Spain if this agreement is implemented.
Sicily prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio intervened as part of a probe into alleged kidnapping and refusing to obey orders targeting Salvini.
Salvini hit back on Facebook about the decision to let the migrants off the boat, saying: “If anybody thinks they can scare me with the umpteenth complaint and wants a trial, they’re mistaken.”
A Spanish naval patrol boat, the Audaz, set off from Rota in southwestern Spain on Tuesday on a three-day trip to Lampedusa to fetch the Open Arms migrants.
Spain had tried to break the standoff over the migrants at the weekend by offering up its southern port of Algeciras, which the NGO said could “not be achieved” due to the distance and tensions on board.
Madrid then suggested Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, nearer but still around 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Lampedusa.
The charity described the offer as “totally incomprehensible” and continued to demand the ship be allowed to dock in Lampedusa.


Italy opposition open to coalition talks with rival Five Star

Italy‘s main opposition party says it is ready to hold talks with its long-time rival, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, over forming a government following the collapse of the previous populist coalition.

The centre-left Democratic Party’s (PD) proposal on Wednesday is part of a bid to avoid an early election that could bring League, led by far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, to power.

Salvini, whose popularity is surging in the polls, plunged Italy into crisis earlier this month when he pulled the plug on the fractious 14-month coalition between the League and Five Star and called for a snap vote. The move triggered Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s resignation on Tuesday.

Nicola Zingaretti, leader of the PD, told reporters that members of his party were “united” in making a deal with Five Star. But a possible new government must last the final three years of the legislature, or it is “better to go to the polls”, he said. 

Zingaretti laid down five conditions that he said should make up the backbone of any accord, including a radical shift in Italy’s zero-tolerance policy on refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea, pro-European policies and a focus on improving living standards.

The leader of Five Star, Luigi Di Maio, has not commented on whether the party is in favour of an alliance with the PD.

In a statement quoted by ANSA news agency, the party said it will make its evaluation known at the end of consultations with President Sergio Mattarella, who kicked off two days of talks with political leaders on Wednesday afternoon to see whether there is sufficient support for an alliance to replace the collapsed coalition. 

If not, Mattarella will consider a short-term technocratic government or a snap election. 

After Italy’s March 2018 election, the PD and Five Star failed to reach a deal to govern together. The two parties traditionally had tense relations. 

But last week, legislators from PD and Five Star teamed up in parliament to thwart Salvini’s hopes for a quick no-confidence vote against Conte.

The prime minister’s resignation precluded holding any no-confidence measure aimed at toppling the government. Conte is now leading a caretaker government as Mattarella ponders Italy’s political future.

The cooperation between the PD and Five Star has apparently taken the League by surprise.

“We hadn’t expected there’d be such a quick agreement between the Democratic Party and the Five Star,” said Gian Marco Centinaio, who is close to Salvini and is the League’s agriculture minister in Conte’s government. 

Salvini depicted any move to form an alternative coalition as ganging up on him. He insisted that voters should have their say on who governs them next.

“Any government that is born is a government against the League,” Salvini told reporters who asked about a possible PD-Five Star coalition.


Open Arms rescue ship faces $1m fine from Spain

The humanitarian charity operating the Open Arms ship saving the lives of refugees and migrants at risk in the Mediterranean Sea may face a $1m fine from Spanish authorities.

The prospect of a possible penalty comes after a protracted standoff between the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms and Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini finally came to an end.

The Open Arms ship had for days been stuck off the Italian island of Lampedusa as Salvini refused to let it dock.

But as tensions on board soared and Spain dispatched a military ship to assist in the arrival of the stranded people to a Spanish port, an Italian prosecutor eventually ordered they be brought ashore.

“The Open Arms doesn’t have a permit to rescue,” Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told Spanish radio.

“This is a state ruled by law, everyone knows what they can do, what they can’t.”

The Open Arms had in April been authorised to leave Barcelona, where it was immobilised for three months, to transport humanitarian aid to Greece.

It was reportedly banned from heading to the seas off Libya, where people attempt the perilous journey to Europe on rickety boats, but went anyway.

A document by the directorate-general for Spain’s merchant navy sent to AFP news agency by the Proactiva Open Arms charity said it risks a fine of up to 901,000 euros ($1m) for violating this ban.

Returning with more than 140 migrants on board, the ship wanted to dock in Lampedusa, the nearest safe port. Malta is a similar distance to the area in which the refugees and migrants were rescued.

But Salvini, who has banned all NGO rescue boats from entering Italian ports, prevented the ship from landing on Italian land.

As the days went by, tensions rose on the ship with some people on board for 19 days after being picked up at sea, many thought to be suffering from post-traumatic stress.

That prompted the prosecutor’s eventual order on Tuesday to bring the 83 who remained ashore.

There were initially 147 people, mainly from African countries, on the ship but as the days passed, some were evacuated for medical care and all children were allowed to disembark.

Six European Union countries – France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg – have offered to take them in.