Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has a message for the quarrelsome populists who’ve run Italy’s coalition government over the last year: keep quiet, and let me do the talking.
The government will be done if Italy can’t make a budget compromise with the European Union, Conte told Corriere della Sera. Without a deal, “we all risk to go home. For sure I would go,” the premier said. The increasingly assertive premier was the focus of Italian media reports on Monday.
The PM is set to meet with his deputies face to face for the first time since Brussels warned the country on possible disciplinary measures over its debt and the Conte is portraying himself — along with Finance Minister Giovanni Tria — as the reasonable negotiator.
While Italy has begun talking with the European Commission, the position of the two deputy premiers in the coalition — Luigi Di Maio of the
Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini of the League — remains a risk factor.
Costly campaign promises from the coalition partners, combined with pledges to cut taxes, raised red flags with Brussels in the first place,
and neither party has backed down yet.
Conte in the Corriere interview sought to seize the initiative, positioning himself as the grownup in the room who understands what’s at stake in talks with the EU.
“Be careful taking on the European Commission on the infraction procedure,” Conte said in the interview. If a procedure is opened it would “compromise our economic sovereignty,” and the result could “put the savings of Italians at risk,” the prime minister said.
League leader Salvini has continued to strike a defiant pose towars the EU, insisting that his party’s recent gains in European parliament elections give him a mandate to pursue pet projects like pension reforms and a flat tax — policies that have raised concerns in Brussels.
If Salvini wants to “capitalise” on the European vote result, there’s no alternative for him other than seeking new national elections, Conte said in the interview, noting that in the interim, the May 26 election did nothing to change the composition of the current parliament.