Sat, Jun 02, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Euroskeptics cheer as Italian populists take power

AP, ROME

Italian prime minister-designate Giuseppe Conte, center, walks in Rome after accepting the appointment on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

Euroskeptic politicians cheered and Milan’s stock index rose yesterday, after Italy’s populists staved off another election and formed western Europe’s first populist government with a last-minute compromise.

The Five Star Movement and the right-wing League party were to swear in their Cabinet later yesterday, capping a roller-coaster week of political and financial turmoil by agreeing to drop a proposed economy minister who had concerned Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Italian prime minister-designate Giuseppe Conte got a taste of the expectations many Italians have for his revived team as he reported for work, when he was confronted by a group of laid-off workers protesting outside parliament.

“You have to trust all of us,” Conte told them.

Milan’s stock index was trading up 2.6 percent and Italy’s borrowing rates eased further after having soared earlier in the week when it appeared that Italy was heading into a new election that could have turned into a referendum on Europe’s shared euro currency.

However, by Thursday night, Five Star leader Luigi di Maio and League leader Matteo Salvini found the compromise that earned them Mattarella’s blessing to form a government: They shifted their euroskeptic candidate for minister of economic development to another ministry and installed a more mainstream economist in his place.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday told a conference that he loved Italy, but refused to accept the frequent blame by Italian politicians that Italy’s ills are the EU’s fault.

“Italians have to take care of the poor regions of Italy. That means more work, less corruption,” he said. “We will help them, as we always did, but don’t play this game.”

His comments sparked outrage in Italy, with Salvini blasting them as “racist” in his victory speech.

Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Juncker “deeply regrets” the comments, loves Italy and is committed to working with its new government.

Italy’s inconclusive parliamentary election in March produced months of political stalemate before Mattarella asked Conte to try to form a government.

The bid failed after Mattarella on Sunday last week vetoed the proposed economy minister, Paolo Savona.

However, investors revolted, sending Italian stocks plummeting and increasing the cost of borrowing to cover Italy’s stubbornly high sovereign debt.

In the new Cabinet, Savona heads the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, while the economy ministry goes to Giovanni Tria, a mainstream economist at the University of Rome.

Conte has as deputy premiers his two political masters: Di Maio and Salvini.

Di Maio is taking over as economic minister, while Salvini heads the Ministry of the Interior, the key position to enforce his pledge to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants.

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