Italian PM Nominee Begins Work on Forming Cabinet

   •    24 Mei 2018 15:55 WIB
europe (en)
Italian PM Nominee Begins Work on Forming Cabinet
Giuseppe Conte's appointment could herald an end to more than two months of political uncertainty. (Photo:AFP/Vincenzo Pinto)

Rome: Italy's prime ministerial nominee Giuseppe Conte was to begin work Thursday on lining up a cabinet after being endorsed to lead a coalition government formed by anti-establishment and far-right parties.

Conte's appointment could herald an end to more than two months of political uncertainty in the eurozone's third-biggest economy -- but the coalition's eurosceptic and anti-immigrant stance has alarmed senior European officials.

President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday approved Conte's nomination to be prime minister of a government formed by the Five Star Movement and the anti-immigrant League, to end more than two months of political deadlock.

Five Star member Conte said he would present his cabinet line-up within "the next few days".

The list of ministerial candidates must be endorsed by Mattarella before it can seek parliamentary approval.

Italian media reported that League chief Matteo Salvini would become interior minister while Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio would be in charge of the economic development ministry.

"The President of the Republic has tasked me with the role of forming a government," Conte told reporters on Wednesday evening after a nearly two-hour meeting with President Mattarella.

The 53-year-old sought a conciliatory tone towards Europe when speaking to journalists at the presidential Quirinal palace.

"I'm aware of the necessity to confirm Italy's place, both in Europe and internationally," said Conte, who cast himself as the "people's lawyer".

"My intent is to give life to a government of the people that looks after their interests. I'm ready to defend the interests of Italians in Europe and internationally, maintaining dialogue with European institutions and representatives of other countries."

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Wednesday it was a "good sign" that Conte had called for dialogue.

EU concerns 

Mattarella had reportedly been concerned about plans by the two parties in negotiation to name staunch eurosceptic Paolo Savona as economy minister.

A joint government programme unveiled by the parties on Friday pledges anti-austerity measures such as drastic tax cuts, a monthly basic income and pension reform rollbacks.

Di Maio and Salvini claim the measures will boost growth.

EU officials have voiced concern that Italy could trigger a new eurozone crisis by refusing to stick to public spending and debt targets set by Brussels.

Moscovici had said on Wednesday that Italy must deliver a "credible" response on how it will reduce its debt, the eurozone's second largest in proportion to GDP.

The government programme also plans to speed up expulsions of illegal immigrants and crack down on trafficking.

Nearly 700,000 people have landed in Italy since the migrant crisis exploded in 2013.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters in Brussels: "We judge governments as governments not on what they announce but on what they will do. But we remain attentive to safeguard the rights of the Africans who are in Italy."

CV scandal 

Almost immediately after being named as candidate for PM by the parties on Monday, Conte was plunged into scandal over doubts about his claims to have studied at some of the world's top universities.

In a CV posted on the website of a lawyers' association Conte said that he "furthered his juridical studies" at Yale, New York University (NYU), Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, the Sorbonne in Paris, and Cambridge.

NYU told AFP that their records did not "reflect Giuseppe Conte having been at the university as a student or having an appointment as a faculty member".

It said he was granted permission to conduct research in the institution's law library between 2008 and 2014.

Duquesne University told AFP he attended as part of an affiliation with Villa Nazareth, an exchange programme, and did legal research but "was not enrolled as a student".

Conte has not spoken publicly about the affair, but was staunchly defended by Salvini and in particular Di Maio.

"Good luck to Giuseppe Conte, the lawyer-defender of the Italian people," Di Maio said. "Change has never been so close!" (AFP)



(WAH)