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Italian report
by Euro Reporter
2015-09-23 11:31:06
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Italy hits back at Merkel in migrants row

Italy's Foreign Minister has scathingly dismissed criticism from France and Germany over its handling of the tens of thousands of migrants arriving on its southern shores. "Italy is doing what it has to do ... and even much more by saving thousands of lives and by taking in refugees," Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in an interview published in Wednesday's Corriere della Sera, describing his country as a "a positive model on the international stage."

italy_400_01German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at talks with French President Francois Hollande, on Monday publicly rebuked Italy and Greece over the pace of progress in establishing registration centres for newly-arrived migrants, warning it would be intolerable if the centres, approved at an EU summit in June, were not operational by the end of the year. Merkel and Hollande's remarks have embarrassed a government which has struggled to cope with the arrival of some 280,000 migrants on its territory since the start of last year, most of them rescued from the Mediterranean by Italy's coastguard or navy. "Asking Greece and Italy to do their duty on immigration is like asking a country hit by floods to step up the production of umbrellas," Gentiloni said.

"Europe needs to go in exactly the opposite direction from attacking the countries situated on its external borders." The minister said the crisis could only be resolved by a Europe-wide approach. "That may seem ambitious but ... it is the only way possible. The migrants are coming to Europe, not to Italy, Greece, Germany or Hungary. The way things are going, there is a risk of (open borders accord) Schengen being called into question and having to go back to the old frontiers." At the heart of the row are EU rules that require asylum-seekers to apply for refugee status in the country they first land in. In practice, it is where individuals are first registered that counts and the northern Europeans accuse the Italians and Greeks of being deliberately lax in formally identifying migrants arriving by sea, allowing the bulk of them to quickly pass through their territory to lodge their asylum applications elsewhere. Italy and Greece respond that it is not feasible or reasonable for them to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees who have no desire to remain in their countries.


Italy lawyers want writer jailed in sabotage trial

The 65-year-old had until now risked a possible five-year prison term in a case that has become a cause celebre for the anti-globalisation movement. The verdict is expected on October 19th. De Luca, who insisted from the start that he would not appeal if he was found guilty, said he was "stunned by the difference between the arguments produced (by prosecutors) and this minimum" sentencing request. "I expected the maximum," he said. At the heart of the case are statements made by De Luca in interviews in which he described as legitimate attempts to sabotage a project that has become a focus for anti-globalization protesters. His defence is essentially that sabotage has several possible meanings, not all of them amounting to criminal action, and De Luca had previously told the court that he was only capable of inciting people to read or write.
"Erri de Luca used the word sabotage," Turin prosecutor Antonio Rinaudo insisted, pointing to numerous attacks on the site of the high-speed rail link, particularly after the writer's interviews to Italian media in September 2013. De Luca was prosecuted at the instigation of LTF, the Franco-Italian consortium building the multi-billion-euro link from Lyon in France to Turin in north-western Italy. Italian authorities later joined the prosecution of the writer over the content of two 2013 interviews in which he was quoted as saying the rail link "should be sabotaged" and that he thought "it is just to sabotage it. We cannot invoke freedom of expression in this case," prosecutor Rinaudo said on Monday, arguing that De Luca's statements to the media had been made publicly and in a "precise context" which lead to "concrete and illegal acts".
The writer's "international renown" gave his words extra weight, the prosecutor told the court, with around 30 members of the public present, some wearing T-shirts or badges reading #iostoconerri (I'm with Erri). Opponents of the rail link say it will wreck the pristine Val di Susa on the Italian side of the Alps and potentially release toxic asbestos particles into the environment. Despite the ferocious opposition and criticism from France's public spending watchdog, the two countries' governments are strongly committed to the project, for which drilling work began in 2013. It is expected to be completed in the late 2020s at a cost of at least €26 billion ($29 million), around 40 percent of which will be provided by the European Union under a scheme to promote strategic cross-border links. De Luca is a life-long radical whose literary tales centred on his home city of Naples have been translated into English, French, German, Spanish and a number of other languages.


Matteo Renzi upbeat as Italy upgrades growth forecasts

Italy has upgraded its economic forecasts for 2015 and 2016 in a sign of growing confidence within the government of Matteo Renzi, the reformist prime minister, that a recovery is taking hold after three years of recession and stagnation. Ahead of next month’s budget law, Italy said output would rise by 0.9 per cent this year and 1.6 per cent next year, compared with earlier forecasts of 0.7 per cent growth in 2015 and 1.4 per cent in 2016. “In 2015, we turned the corner, and in 2016 we have to accelerate,” Mr Renzi said at a press conference in Rome on Friday night.  The improved economic outlook — boosted by external factors such as a lower euro and lower oil but also a bump in domestic demand — will also affect Italy’s budgetary picture, which has long been a source of concern because of the country’s high levels of indebtedness.

Pier Carlo Padoan, Italy’s finance minister, said he expected Italy’s debt to gross domestic product ratio, which is forecast at 132.8 per cent in 2015, to begin declining from 2016, for the first time since 2007. However, the drop in the debt will occur at a slower pace than forecast last April, as Italy plans to make use of the improved economic data — and the related increase in tax revenues — to push through new stimulus measures, particularly a round of tax cuts. Italy’s budget deficit this year is forecast at 2.6 per cent, which is well below the European Commission’s threshold of 3 per cent and is due to decline further to 2.2 per cent in 2016. But that is higher than the 1.8 per cent level predicted in April. Meanwhile, Italy has said it expects to reach structural balance, which takes into account changes in the economic cycle, one year later than previously predicted — or in 2018 instead of 2017.

Even though Mr Renzi has frequently skirmished with Brussels on the budget since taking office in February 2014, he has also earned credit for pressing ahead with an aggressive agenda of economic reforms. Italy has argued strenuously that these should allow for greater “flexibility” with regard to EU budget rules.  In an interview with Corriere della Sera, the Italian newspaper, this week, Pierre Moscovici, the EU commissioner for economic affairs, said Italy’s reform drive had been “encouraging”, but added that it was too early to judge the forthcoming budget.


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