New Italian PM Giuseppe Conte vows radical change in inaugural speech | News | DW | 05.06.2018
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New Italian PM Giuseppe Conte vows radical change in inaugural speech

Italy's new populist government has won a confidence vote in the Senate. The incoming prime minister has promised to bring more welfare and harsher immigration policies.

In his first speech to parliament, Italy's new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, outlined his government's plans for economic growth, opposing "golden pensions" and opening up to Russia. On Tuesday, he told Italy's Senate that if "populism" means the ruling class listens to the needs of the people and "anti-system" removes old privileges and encrusted power, then his Cabinet deserves to be called both. 

After Conte's speech, the Senate approved his government 171-117, with 25 abstentions. 

Highlights of Giuseppe Conte's speech:

Migration:

  • Conte called for the Dublin Regulation — which requires people seeking asylum to register in the first EU state they enter — to be overhauled.
  • "We will seek ... to set up an automatic, obligatory system to redistribute asylum-seekers."
  • "We are not and will never be racists. We want procedures that determine refugee status to be certain and speedy, to effectively guarantee their (refugee) rights."

Foreign policy:

  • "We intend to reaffirm our membership of NATO, with the United States of America as a privileged ally."
  • "We will support opening up to Russia. ... We will push for a review of the sanctions system, starting with those that risk humiliating Russian civil society."

Read more: Italy's populist coalition names Giuseppe Conte as pick to be prime minister

Eurozone:

  • Conte responded to speculation that Italy may consider pulling out of the eurozone. "Leaving the euro was never up for discussion," he said. "It is not up for discussion. The issue is another: Is it legitimate or not for a government of a country to renegotiate economic policy?"

Public finances:

  • "We want to reduce the public debt, but we want to do it by increasing our wealth, not with austerity that, in recent years, has helped to make it (public debt) grow."
  • "Italian public debt is fully sustainable today. However, its reduction must be pursued, but with a view to economic growth."
Italian President Sergio Mattarella shakes hands with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during the swearing-in ceremony for Italy's new government (picture-alliance/AP Photo/G. Borgia)

Italian President Sergio Mattarella shakes hands with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during the swearing-in ceremony for Italy's new government

Pensions and wages:

  • "The government's goal is to provide income support for families most affected by socio-economic hardship. The support ... will be conditional on vocational training and job reintegration. We propose, in a first phase, to strengthen the employment centers."
  • "We will also take action to help pensioners who do not have enough income to live in a dignified manner."
  • "We need to cut the pensions and annuities of parliamentarians, regional councilors and employees of constitutional bodies. ... The so-called golden pensions are another example of unjustified privilege that must be opposed. We will intervene on pensions that exceed €5,000 per month when the sum has not been covered by the contributions paid."

Read more: Political novice Giuseppe Conte sworn in as Italy's new PM

Who is Giuseppe Conte? Conte was a little-known 53-year-old political novice who was picked by the right-wing League and 5-Star Movement (M5S) as a compromise figure for prime minister. He now leads Western Europe's first populist government after three months of political and financial turmoil in Italy.

Why are critics skeptical of Italy's new government? The unlikely coalition of right-wing and anti-establishment parties is on a possible collision course with other EU member states after announcing spending plans likely to increase the country's already towering public debt. Analysts say a government of two euroskeptic parties — bitter rivals during the election campaign — creates uncertainty.

What happens next? Conte will deliver a similar address before Italy's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, on Wednesday, which will be followed by a second confidence vote. Meanwhile EU interior ministers were meeting on Tuesday to discuss possible changes to the Dublin Regulation.

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kw/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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