Italy prospects to be more EU open

Conte 2 cabinet was born, first challenge is 2020 budget

Photo: EPA Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio (L) stands in front of PM Giuseppe Conte (R) and President Sergio Mattarella (C) during the new government's swearing-in, Rome, 5 September.

The surprised coalition deal between the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), two bitter rivals in the past on the Italian political scene, gave last week a birth of a government, headed by the outgoing PM Giuseppe Conte. On Wednesday he handed President Sergio Mattarella the list of his 21 ministers, who were sworn in a day later.

Earlier Conte also headed the M5S-League government on which anti-migrant Euroskeptic League leader Matteo Salvini pulled the plug on 8 August. "We stopped Salvini, and just announcing this new phase is making Italy a protagonist again in Europe," PD leader Nicola Zingaretti, who refused cabinet jobs, said. Luciana Lamorgese, a high-ranking civil servant, was named interior minister in Salvini's place. The key post of economy minister will go to the PD’s Roberto Gualtieri, now head of the European Parliament’s economic affairs commission. 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio, who served as deputy prime minister, industry minister and labour minister in the previous administration, becomes foreign minister in the new government.

The M5S-PD alliance led by Conte was approved on Tuesday by almost 80% of M5S members on their online voting platform Rousseau. M5S leader Luigi Di Maio called the vote a "plebiscite" for change based on the 20 points the M5S has managed to insert into Conte's 26-point programme.

The M5S and PD have an ambitious policy agenda, including scrapping recession-inducing hikes in value-added tax in the 2020 budget, introducing a minimum wage and developing the green economy. A draft of the programme on the M5S blog also said that "the security laws will have to be updated according to the recent observations of President Mattarella". During the last cabinet Mattarella has warned that some norms were against international treaties on saving lives at sea.

According to Rosa Balfour, a senior fellow at the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund, the new government is well-positioned to play a more positive role in Europe. "This is a great opportunity for Italy to occupy a more central role in Europe, and for Europe to have a far more trustworthy and constructive partner," she told dpa. Italy is the Eurozone's third-largest economy.

The prime minister has to win confidence votes in both houses of parliament in coming days before the government can officially start work. Its first challenge will be submitting the 2020 budget to parliament by the end of September, and then to Brussels by 15 October 15. It will need to find more than €20bn in savings to comply with EU rules.


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