Italy PM ‘not satisfied’ over EU summit

Italy is not ready to pretend everything is alright when Europe is not functioning properly, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Saturday, the day after a key EU gathering.

Italy PM 'not satisfied' over EU summit
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi at an earlier meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Lintai Zhang/AFP
“I don't think it would be right for Italy to pretend not to notice when things are not getting any better,” he told a conference in Florence several hours after expressing his dissatisfaction that so little had been achieved at
this week's summit in Bratislava.
EU leaders had gathered in the Slovak capital on Friday to discuss the EU's future in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the bloc, wrapping up the summit by issuing a roadmap for tackling problems such as migration, security and the faltering economy.
But Renzi said little had been achieved.
“We said more or less the same things” as in previous summits, complained the Italian leader who had been hoping for concrete action on both immigration and economic growth.
As a mark of protest, he had refused to participate in a closing press conference with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying he did not agree with them on key issues such as migration and the economy.
“I am not satisfied” with the conclusions of the summit, he later said, explaining his absence. “I cannot take part in a press conference with the German chancellor or the French president when I don't share their conclusions.”
And on Saturday, he insisted that Italy would not “serve as a fig leaf” for others, in an apparent allusion to France and Germany.
 For Renzi, Italy — which has been on the frontline of the migrant crisis — has been largely left to its own devices in coping with the influx, and the solutions it has proposed have not been taken into account.
Italy has been pushing for international agreements with African states to help close migrant routes to Europe and take back some of those arriving via Libya, in exchange for increased aid and investment.
But Renzi said the issue was not even raised at the Bratislava summit where the documents presented “didn't even mention Africa,” he complained. On economic growth, Renzi reiterated his critique of Europe's adoption of austerity policies over Washington's choice of investment.
Although Italy is respecting the EU's budgetary discipline rules, it retains the right to say that such rules are “not working”, Renzi said, stressing that Italy is not prepared “to pretend not to notice”.
Speculation in the Italian press suggested that the reason for Renzi's bad mood was Italy's upcoming constitutional reform referendum which is scheduled for November.
Renzi has staked his political future on the outcome of the referendum on his proposed reforms of parliament and the electoral system. The vote is shaping up as a referendum on Renzi's two-and-a-half years in office and polls suggest it will be a close-run thing.


Salvini to hold Rome rally to boost Italian right

Italy's strongman Matteo Salvini is to hold a key rally in Rome Saturday aimed at re-launching the Italian right and making a power-grab for the capital.

Salvini to hold Rome rally to boost Italian right
League leader Matteo Salvini at the party's annual rally in Pontida in September 15. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
Some eight special trains and 400 coaches are ferrying in supporters from across the country for the “Italian Pride” demonstration, with the crowds also set for a speech from former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Salvini, head of the far-right League party, pulled support from the previous populist government over the summer in a bid to spark elections he was convinced he could win to govern the eurozone's third-largest economy alone.
That plan failed when his former coalition partner, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, sealed a deal with the centre-left Democratic Party to form a new government. But after suffering a blip, the League's popularity has risen again in opposition.
Recent polls put the anti-immigration party at between 30 to 33 percent of voter intentions, well ahead of the Five Star (M5S) and Democratic Party (PD), which have dropped slightly to between 18 and 20 percent each.
With the current left-leaning government seeking to change the electoral law to prevent Salvini triumphing alone at the next elections, the 46-year old hopes to unite parties on the right and centre-right under his leadership.
Forza Italia head Berlusconi, 83, whose party has been in a lengthy slump, appears open to just such an alliance, along with the smaller, far-right Brothers of Italy.
Salvini in August had refuted the idea of a tie-up with Forza Italia, saying the League “needs nothing and no-one”. Nevertheless, Salvini has a reputation for changing his mind so often on so many issues that he should come with a warning that his statements were “irreversibly reversible”, editorialist Mattia Feltri wrote this week in the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Neo-fascist party CasaPound is also expected at Saturday's rally, while a small counter-protest will be held in a nearby square.
City needs love
Political analysts say Salvini has set his sights on taking Rome and hope the right-wing alliance could carry him to victory in key upcoming regional elections, potentially setting him up for a win on a national level.
He “is doing what he fundamentally does best: opposition on the ground. Among the people,” said the Open news website.
The next general election is not due until 2023, but the current governing coalition of former foes is shaky and may not last.
Salvini has waged war on Rome's mayor, M5S member Virginia Raggi, calling for her resignation, and will circulate a popular petition Saturday demanding she step down now, two years before her term is due to end.
The League head took part in a sit-in against Raggi earlier this month. He then did Facebook live videos from places he says symbolise the city's decline, from an abandoned stadium to a residential area besieged by illegal dump sites.
“We need a mayor capable of loving this city and cleaning it up,” he said to Raggi, telling her to go back to being a mum.
'Hands off Rome'
Raggi, 41, has come under intense fire for the city's ongoing garbage crisis and beleaguered transport services, which have existed for decades. She has blamed the problems on organised crime and corruption in previous administrations.
“Hands off Rome,” she tersely replied to Salvini on Twitter.
The League leader has found an unlikely ally in his battle against Raggi in former prime minister Matteo Renzi.
Beyond that, the two Matteos profess to have little in common. As Salvini rallies Saturday, Renzi will be drumming up support for his new centrist Italia Viva party at a Florence convention.