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Italy PM takes aim at migrants, austerity in maiden speech

Update: June, 06/2018 - 11:00
Italy’s new Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte. — AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

ROME Italy’s incoming prime minister on Tuesday won the first of two parliamentary votes to confirm his populist government, after calling in his maiden policy speech for “obligatory” redistribution of asylum seekers around the EU and a review of sanctions against Russia.

Giuseppe Conte’s government, made up of a coalition of far-right and eurosceptic parties, was sworn in on Friday after almost three months of political turmoil that alarmed EU officials and spooked financial markets.

A lawyer with little political and no government experience, Conte was nominated by far-right League leader Matteo Salvini and the head of the anti-establishment Five Star movement Luigi di Maio -- both of whom are now his deputy prime ministers.

In his first policy speech to lawmakers since being sworn in, Conte reaffirmed several of the coalition’s key manifesto themes, including a tough line on migrants, rejection of economic austerity and conciliatory gestures towards Moscow.

“We want to reduce our public debt, but we want to do so with growth and not with austerity measures,” he told senators.

“We will strongly call for the Dublin Regulation to be overhauled in order to obtain respect for a fair distribution of responsibilities and to achieve an automatic system of compulsory distribution of asylum seekers.”

Under the Dublin Rules, would be asylum seekers must submit their applications in their country of arrival, meaning Italy has huge numbers to deal with.

On Russia, which faces EU sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, Conte said: “We will promote a review of the sanctions system.”

Summits on horizon

The alliance between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League won Tuesday’s vote in the Senate, with 171 votes in favour, 117 against and 25 abstentions.

A second parliamentary vote on Wednesday in the Chamber of Deputies, where the two parties also enjoy a majority, will officially confirm the new cabinet.

The government is set to win despite both former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party -- a campaign ally of the League -- and the outgoing centre-left Democratic Party saying that they will not vote in favour.

On the 53-year-old prime minister’s agenda in his first weeks in office are a Group of Seven summit in Canada this week and a key EU summit at the end of the month.

Conte’s low profile has fuelled speculation that he will take a back seat to his two powerful deputies. Salvini is interior minister and Di Maio holds the economic development portfolio in addition to both being deputy premiers.

Since being sworn in Conte had limited himself to a Facebook post in which he said that he had spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron and would meet the two leaders at the G7 summit. — AFP

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