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25 February 2014

Guardian: Matteo Renzi wins Italian senate backing for his coalition government

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Italy's new prime minister has gained the backing of the upper house of parliament for his fresh-faced government, after he insisted the chance for change in the economically struggling country was "real, concrete and immediate". (Includes statements from Presidents Schulz and Van Rompuy.)

In a speech before the vote, Renzi outlined an ambitious programme of reform which he said was "bold and, I hope, innovative" but which his opponents said lacked detail. Appearing before a chamber whose minimum age for elected members is 40, the 39-year-old prime minister said political leaders needed to take "radical, decisive choices" in a bid to turn Italy into a "place of opportunities". "We only have one chance. This is it", he told the senate. "I am looking you in the eyes and saying: if we lose, we will not seek excuses. If we lost this challenge, the fault will be mine alone."

In his speech, the centre-left leader pledged to implement a double-digit cut in the so-called tax wedge – the difference between what it costs a company to employ a worker and what the worker takes home – in order to relieve pressure on businesses and encourage them to hire. He promised sweeping reforms to the country's slow-moving justice system, vowed to boost foreign investment in Italy and clear the debts of the public administration to private sector suppliers. He said Italy needed to put its public debt of more than €2 trillion in order because it was "the respect we owe to our children", not because Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, or Mario Draghi of the European Central Bank desired it.

Strikingly, Renzi said his government would push through a package of constitutional and electoral reform that, among other things, would dramatically overhaul the senate. Advocates of the reform say ending Italy's perfect bicameralism in which the senate and chamber of deputies have equal legislative clout will help streamline the country.

Full article

Following the vote of confidence of the Italian Parliament to the new Renzi executive, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz stated: "I congratulate Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on the formation of the new government and on obtaining the confidence vote of the Italian Parliament.

Italy needs stability but also courage and dynamism to promote structural reforms in the country, give new impetus to growth and reduce unemployment, especially for the young. The formation of a government with many female ministers and young ministers is a promising sign.

Italy will soon be at the helm of the Council of Ministers of the European Union in a phase of political and institutional renewal. Its contribution will be key to further the process of political and economic integration of the European Union. In this respect, I particularly appreciated the words of Prime Minister Renzi on the role that Italy intends to play in shaping the future of Europe, which means shaping the future of our children.

I wish the new government every success with its newly assumed responsibility.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank former Prime Minister Enrico Letta for his leadership in a complex political and economic phase for Italy and Europe. He has kept public finances under control and pulled Italy out of its longest post-war recession.”

Press release

President Van Rompuy said: "On behalf of the European Union, I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on the formation of the new Italian government. I am confident that under his leadership Italy will carry out further reforms necessary to create jobs, sustainable growth and maintain confidence and hope in the future.

The Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of this year will be an opportunity for Italy as a founding father to continue its long-standing tradition of driving Europe forward.

I would also like to express my full appreciation to former Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who led the country during a difficult phase and with whom I had good cooperation."

Press release

A recent publication by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation analyses the political conditions and framework that Renzi is facing, highlighting his popularity and talent at using the media's interest in him. The authors write: "Matteo Renzi is very authentic in his strong desire for political reform. And that is why he is perceived by many Italians as a symbol of hope. However, his brute assertiveness - as demonstrated in the ousting of Enrico Letta - also makes some Italians worry that he could turn out to be a second Berlusconi."

Press release and full report (in German)  © KAS, 21.2.2014

© The Guardian

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