Italy PM says government won’t fall on EU funding vote

Rome: Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has said he was confident of winning a key parliamentary vote on a European Union financial assistance program next week in the face of opposition from part of his governing coalition.

Several members of the Five Star Movement have suggested Italy is conceding too much to Brussels and should not approve the European Stability Mechanism under which the money would be disbursed. The government has said it’s not accepting any credit lines for now, and the Dec. 9 vote is about reform of the ESM framework. Conte holds a razor-thin majority in the Senate.

“I’m not concerned because the vote will not be about the activation of ESM lines but on some reforms which, thanks to Italy’s contribution, helped to improve it,” Conte said in an interview with newspaper La Repubblica.

Vetoing the reform of ESM is “incomprehensible,” Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri told SkyTg24 television on Saturday. “I am absolutely confident there will be a favorable vote.”

Italy also stands to receive as much as 209 billion euros ($253 billion) in separate grants and loans from the EU’s Recovery Fund next year. Conte said the government has identified 60 projects it can submit to the EU to receive the money. The projects will be subdivided into 17 clusters, he said.

The projects will aim to reduce gender and regional inequalities, boost green initiatives and improve the country’s digital technology, and make small and medium-sized business more competitive and innovative, Conte said.

Specific projects would cover energy efficiency and safety for schools and hospitals, extra childcare for pre-school children, improvements to logistics and transportation at locations including the ports of Genoa and Trieste, and the creation of scientific research clusters, in addition to projects in farm technology, artificial intelligence, fintech and biomedicine, he said.

Italy holds the presidency of the G20 group of wealthy countries from Dec. 1. Conte confirmed an internet tax and fair taxation of global companies will be high on the agenda.