Amid a global pandemic that has made Italy one of the worst COVID-hit nations in Europe and plunged the country into the worst recession since World War II, its shaky coalition ruling government is on the verge of collapse after former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his support . His small party, Italia Viva, had supported the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party, two pro-EU parties that have been in power since 2019, with the resignation of two Italia Viva ministers.
Renzi rejects a plan by the country’s centrist prime minister Giuseppe Conte to have a council of technocrats to run the funds. Renzi wants Conte to apply for a loan from the Eurozone rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, to bolster Italy’s ailing health service.
The unwieldy tripartite alliance, always on shaky ground, played a key role in deterring eurosceptic politicians from forming a government during an earlier political crisis in the summer of 2019.
In addition, public support for Lega, the anti-establishment party led by former Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, remains strong due to its anti-Brussels and anti-illegal immigration policies. This could lead to the possibility of a Salvini-led government.
New Europe spoke in an exclusive interview with Senator Laura Garavini from the Italia Viva parliamentary group about the reasons for Renzi’s reasons to withdraw his support for the Conte government.
NEW EUROPE (NE): Based on the main topic, what are the main reasons for you to withdraw from government?
LAURA GARAVINI (LG): We raised important political questions for several months without receiving an answer. One of the most important points is the possibility of using the EU’s stability mechanism, which provides financial resources to support our health system. On this key issue, the Italian government has so far only given a negative opinion on the application of these financial measures. The other key issue is the Recovery Fund Resource Use Program. We believe that it should be important to shift the EUR 18 billion earmarked in the recovery fund for health to other projects, while at the same time activating the resources of the stability mechanism for health projects, which are specifically earmarked for this purpose. The reasons why we withdrew our support are only due to the program issues and not some selfish games by Matteo Renzi. At this moment we want all political decisions for the future of our country to be taken into account. First, we need to invest and stop giving subsidies and bonuses. If we want to help our country, we have to stop following ideological positions like that of Five Star when it comes to using the stability mechanism. I think if we could get specific answers to certain questions, there might be a way to move on with this coalition. Unfortunately, we see that the response from the other parties in the coalition is to try to replace us with senators from other groups. The result will be a weak government that will approve of all the mistakes made so far and the poor management of future EU funding. This negative scenario is also very far from what President (Sergio) Mattarella proposed. In fact, he said he shouldn’t form a new coalition with individual isolated MPs. He proposed a more structured political project. We are very concerned about the future of our country and not about what our party could get out of this situation.
NE: Are there any other problems?
LG: As part of the recovery plan, we asked for more money to be made available to the younger generations. At our request, the government only added 2 billion euros, which is not enough. What is missing is a decision on how the spending program will be implemented. We do not know how the spending on these recovery fund projects is being managed and we are very concerned. Another problem is that the plan has no vision for the future, nor should it be, as the next generation of the EU is supposed to support the younger generations. During these months we have tried to responsibly raise our concerns and criticisms in government circles and without the press.
NE: I think you didn’t like that either, we could call it “dictatorial methods” carried out by Conte?
LG: Right, we can no longer tolerate the lack of democratic methods and rules. We have seen meetings organized on very short notice and in some cases in the middle of the night. The documents were made available just five minutes before the meetings. Then we have regular use of the Prime Minister’s Decree. I understand the emergency situation, but this crisis cannot justify a complete standstill in democratic rules. Even the recovery fund’s plan wasn’t even shared with ministers, and Economy Minister (Roberto) Gualtieri didn’t even read it. Last but not least, there was a complete lack of respect for parliament regarding the budget law. In the Senate, we didn’t even have time to focus on the amendments.
NE: The method is also wrong?
LG: I think there is a misuse of the term “emergency” along with the misuse of “welfare” when it comes to financial aid, which is not enough to support our entrepreneurs. Five-Star and the other members of the coalition take a centralized approach based on welfare. OK, now we have the financial resources from Europe, but in the future the high levels of debt we already have will not go on forever. The wrong strategy is to use psychological terrorism to shut everything down. This cannot be the only way to tackle this pandemic. We are killing all of our tourism and hospitality SMEs. How can we start again? We are completely unhappy with the plan for closings and closings and the implementation of the division of the country into red, orange and yellow zones.
NE: Some opinion-makers and journalists said you didn’t fight enough to support these ideas?
LG: Trust me we defied them and I was able to show you all of the internal chat messages we sent to each other in the group. Our ministers fought very hard for it, even if we didn’t want to show it to the media. The small results we have achieved have enabled some businesses to open during the lockdowns, but our ministers have fought hard for schools and subsidies.
NE: Do you think that there could be some “traitors” in your group who will support Conte again?
LG: Our group is very compact and I can rule out the possibility that some of our senators could support Conte, I don’t know about other political parties and I don’t know whether Conte will have enough senators next week, but in any case this is clearly one political gambling.