Italian govt split over whether to take interest-free loans for health

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said the government should forget about applying for funding from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) because the issue is generating friction and focus on the resources set to be made available by the EU Recovery Fund.

The parties supporting Premier Giuseppe Conte's government are split over whether to take up the option to obtain around €36 billion in interest-free grants from the EU bailout fund to invest in the health system. The centre-left PD is in favour but Di Maio's 5-Star Movement (M5S) is against due to fears the money could come with strings attached further down the line.

"We have obtained 209 billion euros (from the Recovery Fund), part of which is in grants," Di Maio said. "Let's work on spending that money well. "We won that negotiation battle and now we are supposed to tell the EU that the money is not enough and go and get more. But the ESM money is not a gift, it is still a debt you have to repay. "If we feed the debate about the ESM, we do nothing but create tension within the ruling majority".

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