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by Euro Reporter
2012-09-19 09:55:44
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CEO to meet PM Monti about Fiat plans on Sept. 22

Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne said he will not close car factories in Italy despite a plunging domestic market, responding to calls from unions and politicians to clarify a multi-billion euro investment plan. The chief executive has come under pressure to provide details of Fiat's Italian strategy as the economic recession heightens concerns over job losses at the country's biggest private employer. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and his key economic ministers will meet Fiat's executives on Sept. 22 to discuss the carmaker's plans for Italy, the government said in a statement. The company has only earmarked a fraction of the 16 billion Euros for Italian investment outlined in a five-year plan in 2010. Fiat said last week it was unrealistic to expect that a project announced two and a half years ago could remain unchanged.

"We're in a dramatic situation here, and I've never talked about plant closures, I've never said I wanted to leave," Marchionne told Rome daily La Repubblica. "I can assure you that it's a huge responsibility to make these choices today." The Agnelli family stands united behind Marchionne, Chairman John Elkann said on Tuesday. "We have reiterated today that the investment plan must take into account a very difficult situation. We are studying the situation to go ahead in a responsible way," Elkann told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Turin. Europe's car sales fell 8.5 percent in August, as demand in southern Europe slumped. Ford and General Motors are considering factory cuts in the region.

The executive, who shuttles back and forth between Detroit, where he manages Chrysler, and Fiat's headquarters in Turin, said the company spent 800 million Euros developing a new version of its Panda compact car "but it isn't selling, because there is no market". The company will release new information about its investments on October 30. So far it has only announced a 2.5 billion euro investment in three plants, two in Turin and one near Naples. One billion Euros of that is for new small SUV models and is now on hold pending an upturn in the car market. Nearly 200,000 people work in the auto industry in Italy, according to figures from the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, compared to about 300,000 in France and in Spain and about 773,000 in Germany.

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Italy’s justice system raises rights concerns

Italy’s slow-moving judicial system and tough immigration policies raise “serious concerns” and affect the country’s economic growth, according to a report by Europe’s top human rights official. Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, urged national authorities to rethink legislation that is not in line with European standards. He praised the technocrat government for “some positive good steps forwards”, although in some cases policies are contradictory, creating pejorative effects, particularly with migrants.  “I would like to see these things change, making Italy a better country,” he told the Financial Times, noting that taking decisions before the elections, due by April, would be “very challenging”. Paola Severino, minister for justice, is pushing measures to reform the unproductive courts, estimated by Mr Muiznieks’ report to crimp Italy’s annual economic growth 1 percentage point.

Between 2007 and 2011 Italy has been ordered to pay some €30m by the European Court of Human Rights for its violations. This year the amount is due to be at least €10m. “The country can ill-afford such an inefficient judiciary,” Mr Muiznieks said, adding that while he was not singling out Italy for its weaknesses in the sector, Rome was the single highest source of repetitive cases lodged before the European court. With almost 9m criminal and civil cases pending at all levels of jurisdiction, and an average length of more than eight years for criminal trials, the judicial system is considered to be one of Italy’s obstacles to growth. “The report encourages the government to pursue its path of reforms,” Ms Severino said, stressing that some of the commissioner’s suggestions had already been implemented. “The negative considerations are the consequence of years of inefficiency and they cannot be solved with the touch of a wand. Time is needed to see the results of the reforms,” she added.

The commissioner welcomed Italy’s national strategy for integration of the Roma communities as well as the country’s commitment to no longer push back migrants from Libya. Despite drawing up the strategy the government has continued to build segregated camps to house Roma families “creating further marginalisation of the communities and feeding racism. Legacy of the past still weighs heavily and I call on the current government to make a clear break,” Mr Muiznieks said, referring to the anti-immigration practices supported by the Northern League, the xenophobic coalition ally of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. “These [negative] policies unfortunately are maintained while positive ones are being implemented, leading to a mixed approach,” he adds.

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Berlusconi returns to politics, attacks Monti government

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has returned to the political frontline after months in the shadows, vowing to abolish a key tax on homes in remarks likely to stoke investors' jitters about Italy's future after an election next spring. But the 75-year-old media magnate is keeping Italy guessing about whether he will stand for prime minister at the head of his centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party in the election. Berlusconi, one of the country's richest men, attacked the policies of his successor, unelected technocrat Mario Monti, in his first interview to Italian media since being forced from power last November, when Italy tottered on the edge of a Greek-style debt crisis.

Berlusconi said in the interview with his family's IL Giornale daily that the PDL would abolish a deeply unpopular tax on homes worth 20 billion Euros a year, which is a major plank in Monti's tough austerity programme to cut Italy's huge debt. The former European Commissioner has restored Italy's credentials since he took over from the scandal-plagued Berlusconi at a time when a loss of confidence had pushed the country's borrowing costs to untenable levels. Berlusconi, who has remained out of the limelight for months, said the tax on the owner of every house in Italy must be repealed in the same way his government abolished a previous levy in 2008. Avoiding property taxes has been a constant theme for Berlusconi who dominated Italian politics for 17 years until his fall last November.

"The home is a pillar on which every family has the right to base its security for the future," he said in the interview conducted on a cruise down the Adriatic coast over the weekend for Giornale readers, and published on Monday. Berlusconi, whose party has slumped in popularity since he left power, said he wanted to see which electoral law would be used before deciding whether to stand in a poll which must be held by next April. He failed to turn up on Friday for a Rome rally at which many supporters hoped he would throw his hat in the ring. Senior party officials have repeatedly predicted he will be their candidate.



        
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Emanuel Paparella2012-09-19 14:04:56
Berlusconi is back! But of course. After all, as Kissinger well expressed it, political power is the ultimate culminating aphrodisiac of old men after wealth and sex. The man must be having withdrawal symptoms by now and needs another fix. How pathetic! Socrates was right. One dies the way one lives.


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