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Italian report Italian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-06-25 11:37:10
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Florence requests Mona Lisa's return, Paris says no way

Italy has launched a campaign to convince the Louvre Museum in Paris to lend the Mona Lisa painting to Florence's Uffizi Gallery in 2013 to mark the 100th anniversary of its recovery following one of history's most famous art thefts. The Italian Culture Ministry and the Province of Florence have jointly launched an appeal to the French to lend them what may be the world's most famous masterpieces, but the prestigious French museum said the painting is not in the condition to withstand the trip south.

Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa was briefly displayed in the Uffizi in 1913 after being recovered in a Florence hotel two years after its theft from the Louvre. That was the last time it appeared in Italy and only one of three times the work was displayed outside of the Louvre, according to a statement posted on Thursday on the Province of Florence website. Starting with Italian politicians, the initiative aims to collect at least 100,000 signatures to be sent to France in around six months, the statement said. "This is not a declaration of war against France. It's an appeal aimed at collaboration," said Silvano Vinceti, the head of an Italian Culture Ministry historical society jointly organising the petition along with Florence.

"The Gioconda has left the Louvre museum three times. It can do so again," he said, referring to the Italian name for the Mona Lisa. On Friday the Louvre released a statement saying that Mona Lisa is "extremely fragile" making it 1,100-kilometer trip to the Tuscan museum "absolutely unimaginable." On the morning of 21 August, 1911, the 16th century portrait of Lisa Gherardini - the wife of wealthy silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, was stolen from the Louvre by Vincenzo Perugia, an Italian museum employee who hated the French and believed that the work should be returned to Italy. The announcement was made from the site of what once was the convent of Saint Orsola in Florence where archeologists in May say they may have unearthed some of the remains of the woman they believe was Gherardini.

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Italy to approve austerity package next Thursda
y

Italy's cabinet will approve an austerity package next Thursday to eliminate the budget deficit in 2014, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday. The package, which economy ministry sources say will be worth some 43 billion Euros, will be preceded on Tuesday by a meeting of ruling coalition leaders to find political agreement over the measures, Berlusconi told reporters in Brussels. The plan will contain deficit cuts of around 3 billion Euros this year, 5 billion in 2012, 20 billion in 2013 and 15 billion in 2014, said one source working on the measures, which have still not been finalised.

Tensions in Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition are high, with some members pushing for tax cuts even as the government readies the deficit cuts that markets and ratings agencies are watching closely. The package of cuts is likely to be the next major test for Berlusconi, who has suffered stinging defeats in mayoral elections and popular referendums over the last month but won an important confidence vote in parliament on Tuesday. Italy's budget deficit is targeted at 3.9 percent of gross domestic product this year, down from 4.6 percent in 2010.

These levels are lower than in most euro zone countries, but Italy's stock of debt, at around 120 percent of GDP, is second only to Greece's in the 17-nation block. Ratings agency Moody's last week threatened to cut Italy's credit ratings in the next 90 days, citing structural weaknesses and concerns about funding conditions of countries with high debt levels. For the 2013-2014 period, when the bulk of the savings will come, the package will include cuts of 5-6 billion Euros in the budgets of central government ministries, sources said, and will reduce funding of town councils by around 3 billion Euros.

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President piles pressure on Italy govt over Naples trash


Protesters set fire to heaps of garbage in Naples on Friday and blocked main roads with trash after Italian President Giorgio Napolitano stepped into the crisis and said he was alarmed by conditions in the southern city. Fire fighters tackled around 65 garbage fires overnight in and around Italy's third biggest city, where huge piles of waste around two metres high were set alight. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has repeatedly pledged to end a chronic garbage crisis that has dragged on for years but mountains of stinking trash are again festering in hot summer temperatures and waste dumps are overflowing.

Napolitano, who visited the city on June 13, put pressure on Berlusconi's government to take action. "It's absolutely essential and urgent to intervene in the acute and alarming deterioration of the waste crisis in Naples," Napolitano told the local Il Mattino newspaper. He said he had expressed concern to Berlusconi that the cabinet had failed to approve a decree allowing waste to be transported to other regions.

Newly-elected Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris warned of imminent health risks from the burning rubbish and said the national government was avoiding its responsibilities. "Certain interests want Naples to remain under piles of rubbish," said Magistris, who is from the opposition Italy of Values (IDV party), in an interview with La Repubblica. "It's evident looking at what the government hasn't done." The emergency, which contributed to the downfall of Berlusconi's centre-left predecessor, is the result of years of political failures, corruption and the influence of the local mafia which controls garbage-clearing rackets.


         
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