Italy's new Cabinet reassures Europe: Political crisis is over

(From left) Italian Cabinet Secretary Maria Elena Boschi, Mr Gentiloni, Mr Renzi and Mr De Vincenti at the handover ceremony in Chigi Palace in Rome on Monday. Mr Gentiloni has vowed to pay particular attention to the under-developed south, which vot
(From left) Italian Cabinet Secretary Maria Elena Boschi, Mr Gentiloni, Mr Renzi and Mr De Vincenti at the handover ceremony in Chigi Palace in Rome on Monday. Mr Gentiloni has vowed to pay particular attention to the under-developed south, which voted overwhelmingly against Mr Renzi in a Dec 4 referendum on constitutional reform.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

It pledges continuity of policies ahead of EU summit, where its Budget will be on the agenda

ROME • The Cabinet of Italy's newly appointed Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is racing to reassure Europe that its political crisis is over, with assurances of policies similar to those of his predecessor and urging the European Union (EU) to be more "growth-oriented".

Mr Gentiloni, who was sworn in on Monday, has also pledged to pay particular attention to the under-developed south, which voted overwhelmingly against former prime minister Matteo Renzi in a Dec 4 referendum on constitutional reform. Mr Renzi resigned immediately after the referendum result was known.

Mr Gentiloni is from the same party as Mr Renzi, the centre-left Democratic Party, the largest political force in Parliament.

Other tasks ahead include a new electoral law, steering Italy towards a general election, overseeing massive relief and reconstruction efforts following devastating August and October earthquakes in central Italy, implementing the previous government's 2017 Bud- get, and meeting key dates of international affairs, such as the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in March and a Group of Seven summit in Italy in May next year.

But the most pressing priority is tomorrow's EU summit, where Italy's Budget will be on the agenda.

Mr Gentiloni appointed five new ministers and reconfirmed 12 Renzi government ministers in their portfolios.

 
 

Mr Angelino Alfano - a former protege of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi - will take over Mr Gentiloni's previous role as Foreign Minister.

Mr Pier Carlo Padoan stays on as Finance Minister in a move likely to reassure the markets that Italy can deal with a brewing crisis in the banking sector. Markets were buoyed by relief over news that the Italian government would intervene to recapitalise Italy's Monte dei Paschi di Siena should the bank fail to raise the money from private investors needed to stay afloat.

Former government undersecretary Claudio De Vincenti will head up a new ministry for the south.

Political observers said this appointment represents Mr Gentiloni's attempt to remedy the situation in Italy's chronically impoverished southern regions, where unemployment runs high and many voted against Mr Renzi's constitutional reforms.

"The government will continue carrying out the innovative action undertaken so far by the Renzi government," Mr Gentiloni said, adding that his administration will work with other political forces in Parliament to "identify new rules for an electoral law".

Italy has different electoral laws for its two Chambers, and President Sergio Mattarella has said they need to be harmonised to try to make sure a solid government can emerge from the next ballot.

"Good luck to Paolo Gentiloni and the government with the job. Long live Italy," Mr Renzi said on Twitter yesterday. Opposition parties have slammed the soft-spoken Mr Gentiloni as little more than a Renzi puppet.

The new Cabinet will face confidence votes in both Houses of Parliament this week before Mr Gentiloni can formally take office as head of Italy's 64th government in 70 years.

The vote in the highly fragmented Upper House, the Senate, was thrown into doubt when Mr Denis Verdini, head of the small Liberal-Popular Alliance for Autonomies party, said it would not back Mr Gentiloni if it was not sufficiently represented in the Cabinet.

The opposition Five Star Movement and Northern League have both claimed that the new Cabinet has no legitimacy. Nonetheless, the Cabinet is still expected to receive the confidence vote it needs to begin the difficult tasks ahead.

XINHUA, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Italy's new Cabinet reassures Europe: Political crisis is over'. Print Edition | Subscribe