mercoledì 24 settembre 2014

Marchionne says he admires Renzi's courage

Fiat-Chrysler CEO praises 'exceptional' Renzi speech to CFR

(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - Fiat Chrysler (FCA) CEO and Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne said Wednesday he admired Premier Matteo Renzi's courage in unveiling a raft of structural reforms. "I like this boy, (his) great courage," Marchionne said of the 39-year-old premier. The FCA boss told ANSA he was looking forward to Renzi's visit to the Chrysler HQ in Detroit Friday.

"Let him do his job in peace," Marchionne said in reference to resistance to Renzi's proposed Jobs Act and other key reforms aimed at freeing Italy of red tape, reforming its labor market, and cutting waste in order to generate funds for stimulus packages. "I see no alternative, and I'm convinced he will make it: we must help him," said the CEO, praising what he said was Renzi's "exceptional" speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). "He is changing the system, he is fresh and he has new ideas". Marchionne went on to say his company is ready for its Wall Street debut, which will probably take place October 13.

Draghi warns of fragility, as Squinzi urges investment

Confindustria says govt must 'create conditions' for growth

(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - There is no risk of recession across the eurozone although it remains "fragile", European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said Wednesday even as an Italian business leader urged governments to do more to encourage investment and growth. Draghi said that he sees no risk of recession or deflation across the eurozone economies, but slow growth means that inflation will remain muted for an extended period. "The eurozone is not in recession but recovery is modest, weak and fragile," he said in an interview with Europe 1 radio.

Italy, the eurozone's third-largest economy, is in recession and in August reported deflation as the consumer price index slipped into negative territory. And he repeated his call for structural reforms by government, saying that monetary policy can help to encourage economic growth by injecting cash - but that alone is not enough. Rigid bureaucracies, high taxes, and red tape that ties up businesses strangle growth and discourage the new investment essential for economic expansion, said Draghi. "We can guarantee all the credit possible, but if in some countries it takes a young entrepreneur months before obtaining permits and authorizations to open a new store, in the end he will not request credit," Draghi added.

Italian companies have shed an average 25% of business volumes since the global crisis began in 2007, and that has left some unable to consider taking on loans to expand, the head of one of Italy's largest employer groups said. "It is difficult to evaluate, but in general terms I think that Italian banks have asked for less (from the ECB) because our economy is depressed and internal consumption is not recovering," said Giorgio Squinzi, head of Confinustria representing Italy's largest industrial employers. Last week, the ECB released its first loans to commercial banks under a new program designed to encourage increased lending to business and consumers in the eurozone. But take-up was less than expected.

Squinzi also urged the government to do more to "create the conditions" that will encourage greater business investment, hiring and thus, economic expansion in Italy. "Firms need to invest in their business", he said on the sidelines of the Marmomacc business fair for the stone industry in Verona. "It is therefore necessary to create the conditions that create confidence for Italian (investors) and for foreign investors to come back, to have confidence in this country and to make investments," he said.

One bright note came earlier on Wednesday, when national statistical agency Istat announced that consumer confidence had edged up slightly this month compared with August. That is essential to economic recovery, said Squinzi. "(It's vital) to restore the confidence of consumers because that is crucial to regaining the confidence of investors, which is the most important thing". 

Pulling back on Jobs Act 'unthinkable' says Renzi

Party must toe line after debate and vote says premier

(ANSA) - New York, September 24 - The government is willing to discuss its proposed Jobs Act, but labor law reform cannot be postponed, Premier Matteo Renzi said in New York, where he is attending a United Nations climate summit. "This reform can't be delayed," Renzi said. "Pulling back is unthinkable". Renzi will present his labor reform ideas to the Democratic Party executive body next Monday. "This will be followed by a debate, a decision, and a vote," Renzi said. "After that everyone will have to toe the line, and we will move forward together". 

Hosts Italy make winning start at volleyball world tourney

Azzurri sweep aside Tunisia 3-0 (25-11, 25-13, 25-8)

(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - Hosts Italy made a winning start at the women's volleyball world championship, thrashing Tunisia 3-0 (25-11, 25-13, 25-8) before a 10,000-strong crowd at Rome's PalaLottomatica arena on Tuesday. The Azzurre, world champions in 2002, are aiming to become the first hosts to win the title since Japan in 1967.

They now face Croatia in their second Pool A match later on Wednesday in Rome. Italy is hosting the women's volleyball world championship for the first time, having staged the men's equivalent twice. The competition will climax with the final in Milan on October 12. 

Grillo's blog calls on Renzi party rebels to sink govt

PD divided over change to regulation on unjust dismissals

(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - A post on the blog of Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), on Wednesday called for rebels within Premier Matteo Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) who are opposed to the government's labour reform to stage a mutiny and help bring down the executive. The PD is split over the government's so-called Jobs Act, which includes changes to Article 18 of the 1970 Workers Statutes guaranteeing people unjustly sacked the right to their job back. The Jobs Act would change this for newly hired workers so that if a court finds they were unjustly sacked, they would get compensation, rather than being rehired. Italy's biggest and most leftwing union, CGIL, is outraged by an attack on what it considers a fundamental right.

Furthermore, a minority within the PD, led by Renzi's predecessor as party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, are planning to file seven amendments to the Jobs Act to stop Article 18 effectively being scrapped for new hires. "Renzi is managing to do what (ex-premiers Mario) Monti and (Silvio) Berlusconi failed to do," read the post on the popular blog, which gave life to the Internet-based M5S in 2009. "He is treating (the country's biggest trade union) CGIL like a doormat: PD comrades, why are you waiting to occupy the (party) offices and make your voices heard," continued the piece, signed by M5S theorist Aldo Giannulli. It added that the battle over Article 18 was an "opportunity to send Renzi packing".

Article 18 is seen by many as discouraging firms from offering workers regular, steady contracts as it makes it very hard from them to get ride rid of a staff member once on the books. This has been blamed for high unemployment levels, especially among young people, and the fact that most new entrants to the job market are hired on freelance or temporary contracts that give few rights and low job security. The Jobs Act, which has been approved at the committee stage, raises safeguards for new hires, slashes temporary contracts, and establishes a minimum wage and universal unemployment benefit. 

Italian farmers raise health alarm over 20% drop in fruit, veg spending

'Italians buy less than recommended quantity of produce'

(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - Italian consumers and farmers are at risk as spending on fruits and vegetables has dropped by fully 20% since the start of the global economic crisis, producers' association Coldiretti said on Wednesday.

As a result, Italian families are putting their health at risk by neglecting to eat essential food groups while the fall in demand may drive producers out of business, the group suggested. It tied the fall to the crisis that began in 2007 and has led to Italy suffering three recessions, including the present downturn. "The effects of the downward spiral of deflation and consumption which began in 2007 are putting businesses and consumers' health at risk", Coldiretti said.

Italians are buying approximately 700 pounds of produce annually - significantly less than the World Health Organization's recommended amount of 880 pounds per year, according to the producers group.

Although sales of apples, oranges and bananas have increased, produce purchases fell by 2% in the first half of 2014 compared to 2013, the group said. Italian orchards have reduced acreage by 28%, Coldiretti added. 

Draghi says no risk of deflation, recession in eurozone

ECB head says inflation will remain low in long term

(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said Wednesday that he sees no risk of recession or deflation across the eurozone - but inflation will remain muted for an extended period. "The eurozone is not in recession but recovery is modest, weak and fragile," he said in an interview with Europe 1 radio. Italy, the eurozone's third largest economy, is in recession and in August reported deflation as the consumer price index slipped into negative territory. 

Virzì's Human Capital named as Italy's Oscar candidate

Movie seeking to repeat success of Sorrentino's The Great Beauty

(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - Paolo Virzì's Human Capital (Il Capitale Umano) was named Wednesday as Italy candidate for the best foreign film Oscar at next year's Academy Awards. Virzì will know if his movie has made the Academy's shortlist for the award on January 15. The film is aiming to repeat the success of Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty this year.

Italian consumer edges up in September

Istat index moves from 101.9 points 102

(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - Consumer confidence in recession-hit Italy has edged up slightly this month, national statistics agency Istat said Wednesday. The agency said its consumer-confidence index reached 102 points in September, up from 101.9 in August. In the first half of the year Italy slipped into its third recession since the start of the global economic crisis in 2008.

The crisis has had a big impact on consumer confidence and spending. Domestic demand has been so week that Italy registered price deflation in August, with an annual inflation rate of -0.1%. Consumer confidence is important because people tend to spend less if they are pessimistic about the economic climate, which makes recovery more difficult. 

Lexar Captures All the Action at WRC Italy

Top Billing discovers the secret to perfect pasta in Italy (FULL INSERT)

Italy vs France | 1080p | 2014 World Cup Of Pool 1/16

Italy's cashmere king seeks to maintain 'dignity' in fashion

Franceschini urges Roma Opera to stop 'self-harm'

Calls for modern management to protect unions, end conflict

(ANSA) - Turin, September 23 - Italy's Culture Minister Dario Franceschini on Tuesday urged Rome Opera to "stop its self-harm" and "climate of conflict" that pushed iconic conductor Riccaro Muti to abruptly quit. "You have to manage in a modern way so that protection of the sacrosanct protection of trade union rights does not become a hindrance to modernization," the minister added, speaking outside a summit of European culture ministers in the northern city of Turin. Even in the arts, there is global competition and companies must be well-managed to cope with the challenge, he said.

Rome's opera house was left in disarray after Muti quit at the weekend citing labour strife, mismanagement and cash problems which he said deprived him of the necessary "serenity" to work. Labour unions echoed Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino and Opera General Manager Carlo Fuortes in hoping the flamboyant Naples-born conductor, 73, would change his mind.

In a letter to the director of the fractious opera house, Muti withdrew from planned productions of Verdi's Aida opening in November and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, for spring 2015. "There are no conditions (there) to ensure the serenity necessary to my leading successful productions," Muti wrote to Fuentes. "Unfortunately, despite all my efforts to contribute to your cause," Muti wrote, problems of state and city funding, management authority and labour peace "have emerged (again) in just the last few days". 

New Freccia Rossa high-speed train unveiled at Berlin fair

Will link Milan and Rome in under 2.5 hours

(ANSA) - Berlin, September 23 - The first of a new fleet of high-speed Freccia Rossa (Red Arrow) ETR 1000 trains was unveiled Tuesday at the InnoTrans international transport technology trade fair in the German capital- In Italy, the new Freccia Rossa will make its debut with an inaugural run May 1 to coincide with the opening of Milan Expo 2015. The train will enter into service in mid-June, connecting Rome and Milan in under 2.5 hours.

Made by Bombardier Transportation and AnsaldoBreda under a joint venture, the new ETR 1000 will have a commercial speed of 360 km/h, making it the fastest train in Europe. This compares with the 300 km/h reached by the ERF 500 Freccia Rossa trains currently in service between Salerno in the south and Milan in the north. The new trains will gradually enter into service between 2015 and 2017, to a total of 50 trains acquired by Italy's Trenitalia rail service for 1.5 billion euros. 

Dolce and Gabbana, Pucci kick restraint aside in Milan

Ferragamo celebrates a Rainbow, Marni a blossoming garden

(ANSA) - Milan, September 23 - Restraint may have been the storyline in many women's ready-to-wear collections that debuted at the Milan shows that wrapped up Monday. Yet this softly choreographed dance - often shown to a 1970s beat - left the catwalk when Dolce & Gabbana arrived, with sex and death dominating a Mediterranean-inspired collection for spring-summer 2015.

The duo's beloved Sicily, with its Baroque art and strong religious roots, met Spain's bull fighting and flamenco for a Blood and Sand effect. Spain blended in with Sicily via the black net sheath, the severe yet sexy black skirt suits, and black corsets matched with thigh-high black stockings. The matador's jacket inspired several pieces in a collection also dominated by red, the colour of blood in the bullring. That same red was seen in carnations embroidered everywhere, from dresses with fringed black hems and sleeves, to a partly sheer skirt mixed with a horizontally striped T-shirt.

The show was high on drama though the streamlined silhouettes and romantic patterns and embroideries spoke a straightforward and universal language. And restraint also left the building at Emilio Pucci where Peter Dundas sent down the catwalk his unique, colorful take on the 1970s. Boldly colored tie-dye maxi dresses, bead-encrusted and embroidered mini dresses, fringed crochet ponchos, peasant tops with shorts and suede pants with lightning bolts down the side gave edge and a fresh appeal to a decade which has provided a wealth of inspiration for Dundas well before it became such a hit in Milan.

Another colorful and vintage inspiration, the wedge Rainbow sandal designed by Salvatore Ferragamo for Judy Garland in 1938, was the star of the Ferragamo show - a trip down memory lane fit for joyful clothes. Shoes - the iconic wedge, subtly updated in grey suede, snakeskin mules and classic boots - were the starting point for a collection that tapped into the Florentine house's heritage while striking a chord with the contemporary Ferragamo woman. Creative director Massimiliano Giornetti designed soft below-the-knee skirts, knitwear, capes and thread-fringing on feminine jackets. Superb workmanship was just as interesting a story, with a reported 40 hours of work needed to craft a ribbed knit dress or snakeskin pieces in the shape of a coat dress or as an embellishment on streamlined dresses and cropped jackets.

The collection's neutral palette was interspersed with bright orange, turquoise and green to give light to "the new frontier of luxury" which lies entirely on the "craftsmanship and distinctiveness" of clothes, said Giornetti. A trip down memory lane was also du jour at Marni, which celebrated its 20th anniversary with a flower market at Milan's Rotonda della Besana on the last day of the shows. The brand, controlled over the past two years by Diesel founder Renzo Rosso through his holding company Only the Brave, has turned strong silhouettes, prints, a play on fabrics and bold accessories into a one-of-a-kind style which appeared more fit for an art gallery opening rather than a red carpet.

Founder and creative designer Consuelo Castiglioni's collection for next spring was no exception. Part glamour, part utilitarian, the creative designer took the label a step further with monastic pieces - including a long white linen shift with a black judo belt - while returning to its origins with vintage Marni prints on jacquard silk. Statement coat-dresses, leather jackets bonded with lacquered flowers, and asymmetrical skirts were cut in sculptural silhouettes which quoted Japan as well as Bhutan, where Castiglioni has recently travelled - mixing citations from the past with a very on-brand ability to see into the future.

Marni was one of the first labels to use chunky jewels on daywear - part modern art and part ethnic. Mixed with strappy sandals, retro prints and a play on texture - which produced outfits erupting into a triumph of white cotton ruffles or chiffon-on-canvas ruching to create "summer fur", as described by the designer - the Marni signature look is coming full circle next spring. 

Diocletian's Baths reopen to public after restoration

    Ancient natatio and small charterhouse cloister now on show

    (ANSA) - Rome, September 23 - Part of the ancient Roman Baths of Diocletian reopened to the public Tuesday following a 6.5-million-euro restoration project lasting six years.Visitors can now admire the natatio, or open-air swimming pool, at the heart of the baths and the small cloister of the late 16th-century Carthusian charterhouse of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which was built on its ruins.

    Here in the portico important marble sculptures are on show depicting ancient cults revived by Augustus, Rome's first emperor, as part of his religious policies and to enforce his own authority. In addition, there is a frescoed lunette never seen before.

    Commissioned in honour of the emperor Diocletian in 298 AD, the baths are the most imposing thermal complex ever built in Rome. The natatio and small cloister reopened to the public as part of a programme of events to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the death of Augustus in 14 AD. 

Infrastructure spending needed for growth, says Visco

Monetary policy important but not enough to reverse decline

(ANSA) - Rome, September 23 - Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco said Tuesday that increased public spending on infrastructure is essential to stimulating economic growth and reversing the country's decline. As important as central banks' monetary policy, including interest rates, is to the economy, "it is not enough," Visco told an economic forum.

Italy entered its third recession since 2008 in the first half and with high unemployment and at least one month of deflation, the economic indicators are very negative. "In many respects, we are traveling in uncharted territory," said Visco. His comments came one day after European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi said that growth in the eurozone was stalling, and repeated his call for strategic public investments in infrastructure to kick-start the economy.

Draghi also urged government reforms to increase flexibility in domestic economies. Visco added that the "most urgent" government measures needed are those aimed at protecting the legality and efficiency of Italy's civil service. The government of Premier Matteo Renzi has proposed public-service reforms, including measures to boost efficiency and save money, which could then be used for higher priorities including labour-related tax cuts. 

Severe weather pelts Venice with hail, heavy rains

Ship tossed by storm batters smaller boats in Ancona harbor

(ANSA) - Venice, September 23 - Blankets of hailstones covered Venice in white and heavy rainfall flooded basements and streets in the historic floating city, one of several Italian centres hit hard by severe autumn weather. Tides in the Adriatic raised the water levels in Venice by as much as one meter late Monday night with rain continuing Tuesday, triggering hundreds of calls for help from fire brigades and city officials. As much as 80 cm of rain was expected Tuesday.

In nearby Trevignano, police divers searched for a woman who a passerby said had fallen into high water as the harsh weather was reported throughout the Veneto region. Further south in Ancona, winds gusting over 50 knots caused a ship to snap its moorings and batter at least six smaller fishing vessels tied nearby. The fishing boats all sank and no injuries were reported. Further down the Adriatic coast, Bari's Coast Guard issued a gale-force wind warning late Monday and several fishing boats reportedly returned to safety in port. According to weather watchers at website, Monday night also brought strong winds to the Romagna area, reaching as high as 95 kilometers per hour (km-hr) in Bellaria on the coast and averaging about 40 km-hr in Bologna.

Violent storms were reported closer to the coast including Cesenatico, about 30 kilometers south of Ravenna, where winds reached as high as 69 km-hr. Italian weather has recently been violent. A wave of tornado-force winds and heavy rains pelted parts of Tuscany Friday, leaving a trail of injuries, uprooted trees, and damaged buildings in its wake.

Florence's Uffizi Gallery was briefly shut down for damage checks Friday after sudden heavy rains and hail caused flash floods in the Tuscan city and surrounding areas. The city's other museums including those of Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Davanzati, and San Marco were also temporarily closed for damage checks, officials said. 

Forza Italia to cast blank ballots on judicial posts

Chaos over Constitutional Court vacancies set to continue

(ANSA) - Rome, September 23 - The chaos over parliament's inability to select new members of the Constitutional Court looks set to continue, as Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) party has instructed its lawmakers to cast blank ballots in a vote on Tuesday, ANSA sources said. Tuesday's vote is set to be the 14th to elect new members of the Constitutional Court and there is a similar stalemate on the appointment of new members of the Italian judiciary's self-governing body, the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM). The difficult situation has been complicated by reports that FI's candidate to be a new Constitutional Court member, Donato Bruno, is under investigation over alleged fraud in the bankruptcy of clothing giant Ittierre.

Bruno, a lawyer, said he has not received any notice he is being probed after reports that prosecutors are looked into how he was appointed as a consultant for Ittierre by his office colleague Stanislao Chimenti, one of Ittierre's liquidators, and pocketed a fee of 2.5 million euros. President Giorgio Napolitano and the speakers of both houses of parliament have made repeated appeals for Italy's political parties to put aside their differences and end the impasse. 

Premier and president call for change to beat crisis

'Not the time to moan' Renzi and Napolitano echo one another

(ANSA) - Rome, September 22 - Premier Matteo Renzi on Monday called on Italian-American entrepreneurs to give the home country a hand as it struggles shed its old, entrenched ways in order to reform. "I'm changing Italy, you're changing the world," Renzi told researchers and founders of 150 start-ups at the San Francisco Yacht Club. "Change is impossible with a narrow, backward-looking mindset," said the premier, who was in San Francisco before attending a United Nations climate change conference on Tuesday. "I'm not asking you to come back...I'm asking you to help us," Renzi said. "We need reform but we also need ideas. I'm here to listen," the premier added. "We are doing everything possible to change Italy into a simpler country, with a different labor market and a streamlined political class - one we no longer need be ashamed of," Renzi said.

Italy's premier has no masters, and this means Italy is changing, he added. "If the premier is free of godfathers and masters it's a sign that Italy has grown tired of certain rituals and a certain way of doing politics," Renzi said. "We might fail, but as Silicon Valley teaches us, failure is how we learn to do better," the premier said. "This an extraordinary chance to stop crying over spilled milk," Renzi went on. "Italy is a great country with some incredible weak spots," he added. "At some point, you come to a place where you have to make some people angry" in order to push vital reforms through.

He was echoed on the home front Monday by President Giorgio Napolitano, who told 3,000 students that now is not the time to moan, but to be bold. "New, courageous policies for growth and employment" are needed if Italy and Europe are to emerge from a deep economic and social crisis, the president said in a ceremony marking the beginning of the new school year. "Today not only Italy, but the whole of Europe, is grappling with a profound crisis," he said. "Clearly, this is not the time to huddle within our old national enclosures and moan about the EU, but to come together in a common effort," he said. While the two leaders argued the worth of looking forward instead of back, internal dissenters from the premier's Democratic Party (PD) rattled their sabers as they gathered Monday to write amendments to an enabling law to the premier's signature Jobs Act, a provision of which looks to be generating a split within the ranks. The battle is to be played out on the Senate floor, where the bill lands on Tuesday. 

Rome opera house in disarray after Muti quits

Iconic director cites labour strife, underfunding, mismanagement

(ANSA) - Rome, September 22 - Rome opera house was in disarray Monday after iconic conductor Riccaro Muti abruptly quit at the weekend citing labour strife, mismanagement and cash problems which he said deprived him of the necessary "serenity" to work.

Labour unions echoed Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino and Opera General Manager Carlo Fuortes in hoping the flamboyant Naples-born conductor, 73, would change his mind. A representative of Italy's biggest union, CGIL, said it "very much hopes" Muti will reconsider his decision. Entertainment workers' union Fistel Cisl also said it was "really hopeful" Muti will rethink. Muti withdrew as the primary conductor of the Rome Opera after six years, citing ongoing funding, management and labour strife at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, at which he holds the title honorary director for life.

In a letter to the director of the fractious opera house, Muti withdrew from planned productions of Verdi's Aida opening in November and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, for spring 2015. "There are no conditions (there) to ensure the serenity necessary to my leading successful productions," Muti wrote to Fuentes. "Unfortunately, despite all my efforts to contribute to your cause," Muti wrote, problems of state and city funding, management authority and labour peace "have emerged (again) in just the last few days." Muti said that he would dedicate his time in Italy instead to the Luigi Cherubini Orchestra that he founded for young professional musicians.

The world-famous conductor, who will now have more time to devote to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), said he decided to quit the Rome Opera "with the greatest regret, after long and troubled reflection." Fuortes joined Marino in expressing the hope that Muti would return "once we can overcome the problems that still plague us, and the music system in Italy more generally." Earlier this year Muti extended his tenure as music director of the CSO for five years, through 2020. "In 2020 I won't be 80 yet," Muti said at Monday's announcement, quipping that his family was known for youthful vitality continuing into old age. "My great-grandfather remarried at 76," said the great conductor, who was music director of La Scala in Milan for 19 years.

Muti's quitting Rome is the second recent departure of an Italian conductor from a major Italian opera company. Several months ago Gianandrea Noseda withdrew as music director of the Turin Opera because of artistic differences with that company's general manager. Noseda is still scheduled to lead the company's winter North American tour of Rossini's William Tell, which is scheduled to begin December 3 at Chicago's Harris Theater. 

Bernini's restored Barcaccia fountain unveiled

Mayor presides at Baroque masterpiece beloved by Keats

(ANSA) Rome, September 22 - Bernini's famed Barcaccia (Sunken Boat) fountain nestling at the foot of the Spanish Steps was unveiled Monday after a one-year restoration costing 200,000 euros. Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino, a known art lover who has been raising billions to fund restorations in and around Rome, presided as the fountain - whose gentle splashing famously soothed Romantic poet John Keats as he lay in his deathbed in his home at the foot of the Spanish Steps - was returned to Romans and tourists alike.

Marino and the city's culture pointwoman, Giovanna Marinelli, took the first sips of water to celebrate the event. "It's a thrill to see the Barcaccia restored," said Marino. The Baroque fresh-water fountain in the Piazza di Spagna in the shape of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing its bows was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and was completed in 1627 by Pietro Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 

Renzi calls on Italian-American entrepreneurs to help Italy

'I'm changing Italy, you're changing the world' Renzi says in US

(ANSA) - San Francisco, September 22 - Premier Matteo Renzi on Monday called on Italian-American entrepreneurs to give the home country a hand as it struggles to reform.

"I'm changing Italy, you're changing the world," Renzi told Italian-American researchers and founders of 150 start-ups at the San Francisco Yacht Club. "Change is impossible with a narrow, backward-looking mindset," the premier continued. "I'm not asking you to come back...I'm asking you to help us," Renzi said. "We need reform but we also need ideas. I'm here to listen," the premier added. "We are doing everything possible to change Italy into a simpler country, with a different labor market and a streamlined political class, one we no longer need be ashamed of," Renzi said. 

Trial requested for S&P staff over Italy reports

Rating agency staff accused of market manipulation in crisis

(ANSA) - Trani, September 22 - Prosecutors in the southern Italian city of Trani on Monday asked a judge to send five managers and analysts from rating agency Standard & Poor's and the company itself to trial on allegations of deliberately misleading financial markets with reports on Italy.

The reports in question were issued by the ratings agency between May 2011 and January 2012, at the height of the eurozone debt crisis when Italy looked to be in danger of a Greek-style financial meltdown. They included a report issued on January 13, 2012, in which the United States-based S&P downgraded Italy's sovereign debt rating by two notches from A to BBB+. That same day, S&P also lowered its rating on several Italian banks in findings that another employee at the ratings agency disagreed with in an email, seized by authorities and given to Trani prosecutor Michele Ruggiero.

Standard and Poor's denied the allegations in a statement Monday. "As we have said on many occasions, we believe that the allegations reported have no foundation and are not supported by any evidence. We will continue to vigorously defend our actions and the reputation of the company and our people," the agency said. Two other international ratings agencies, Moody's and Fitch, were also being investigated by prosecutors in Trani, a seaport city on Italy's Adriatic coast.

Complaints against S&P were initially raised by a group of 10 consumers and the Italian consumer association Adusbef. Ratings by the influential international agencies have a significant effect on the cost of borrowing for businesses and government, and also have an impact on the size of government deficit and debt. A judicial decision on whether to send the case to trial is expected on October 28. A similar investigation involving some of the same S&P staff was launched in June 2012 by prosecutors.

At that time, Ruggiero also put S&P under investigation for alleged market tampering but closed an investigation into the ratings agency's Italian offices and the possibility that "false, unfounded or imprudent judgments" unduly affected markets. That investigation gathered steam in January 2012 when investigators searched S&P's Milan offices. Five days later, Ruggiero ordered a search of the Milan offices of Fitch, which had downgraded Italy three days later. A number of plaintiffs, including the United States government, have gone after ratings agencies following the worldwide financial crisis struck in 2007 and was followed by Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

In early 2013, Washington filed for $5 billion in damages from S&P for allegedly understating risks and giving too high ratings to mortgage-related products that contributed to the sub-prime crisis in the US, according to the civil suit. And earlier this year, Italy's State auditor, the Audit Court, was considering a lawsuit against the same three ratings agencies for damages over downgrades of the country's credit rating in 2011, the Financial Times reported. The Audit Court was reportedly considering asking for 234 billion euros in damages over the downgrades, which increased concern about Italy's financial position and contributed to a rise in borrowing costs at the height of the eurozone debt crisis.

The FT said the Audit Court complained that the agencies failed to take account of the important value of Italy's cultural heritage before it downgraded the country's rating. "S&P never in its ratings pointed out Italy's history, art or landscape which, as universally recognised, are the basis of its economic strength," the FT reported, quoting from court documents. S&P dismissed that claim as "frivolous and without merit", the FT said. 

Florence museums chief Acidini quits

Claims decision taken earlier this month unrelated to probes

(ANSA) - Florence, September 22 - The head of Florence's museums, Cristina Acidini, said Monday her decision to quit after a 38-year-long career as a culture ministry official was taken earlier this month because of planned reforms reorganizing the management of Italy's museums.

She insisted the resignation had "nothing to do" with two investigations against her, rejecting the charges. Acidini, 63, released a statement on Monday saying she had resigned on September 5 from her position after eight years on the job just as news emerged that the art historian is suspected of abuse of office in choosing an insurance company for art works on loan abroad in an ongoing criminal investigation in Florence.

The decision, she said in the statement, was taken because the planned reform does not provide "for a position that can be compared to my current post, which the ministry gave me in October 2006". She also confirmed the two probes against her while her attorney Nino D'Avirro rejected the charges in a separate statement Wednesday. Finance police last week reportedly searched Acidini's office over allegations she did not publish a tender request to select an insurance firm despite the fact that the value of the artwork travelling abroad exceeded a European threshold making it mandatory.

Acidini is reportedly under investigation with three other officials. She is also suspected of irregularities in setting rates for musical concerts in the Boboli Gardens in an administrative case before the Audit Court. The Florence-born art historian and writer previously served, among other posts, as superintendent of the city's Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Italy's premier restoration institute. 

Armani envisions lightness,Versace quiet sophistication

Roberto Cavalli goes back to origins

(ANSA) - Rome, September 22 - A sandy beach and the sea were the backdrop for Giorgio Armani's spring-summer 2015 women's collection showcased in Milan over the weekend.ì 'Sand', a short film by Paolo Sorrentino, known for his award-winning 'The Great Beauty', opened the show with two naked bodies entwined in naval ropes on a beach landscape of the Aeolian islands off Sicily, an area which Armani loves. And the area explored by Armani to craft his collection was indeed one he has visited before, made of superbly elegant tailored jackets, tunics over sheer trousers and long skirts - yet with a light-as-air touch.

Indeed, the erotic scenario set by Sorrentino gave way to layers of fabrics of such lightness they were just a little more than a shimmer. Nude shades including sandy beige and pink, as well as animal prints, starred in the show with crystals and paillettes on key pieces for a touch of exoticism. The draped chiffon dress evoking an Indian sari and accessories like gilded metal necklaces, however, gave an antique rather than an ethnic feel to the light breeziness of Armani's take on elegance for next spring. And if a fresh sea breeze swept through the Armani collection, Versace also took an unexpected turn as sex took a step backwards to send a more sophisticated brand of audacity down the catwalk.

The Versace woman for next spring "is new," Donatella Versace said backstage - bold yet fresh, sensual yet cutting-edge. This new concept, styled to dress the brand's aficionados - 40-something clients "who are younger than ten years ago" - translated into colour-blocked streamlined silhouettes in a strong collection of quiet sophistication. Jackets played a leading role for the first time on a Versace catwalk, starring alongside surprisingly bon ton A-line dresses in new circle motifs, a pattern also worked into a star piece, a kinky white leather jacket. Sharp black paired-down pieces - like a suit with a long jacket over a side-slit elongated skirt - had oversized white stitching, balancing sense and sex into this new aesthetic. Jersey sweatshirts and knit dresses matched with a jacket gave sportswear a new edgy makeover.

Another master of sensuality, Roberto Cavalli, debuted his "light of summer" collection for spring, as described by the show notes, which shimmered in bright shades of yellow, orange, red, green and blue over patterned short dresses and full-length gowns. White lace and black dresses subtly played with shadow and light.

The show-stopping psychedelic dresses that opened his event had a taste of the 1970s though fashioned through a fresh new take on the house's craftsmanship. So did the cotton lace dresses or the perfect jacket and short skirt in croc or the sequined jeans and gowns - plain sexy while shimmering with life beneath the surface. Denim on jackets and slit jeans, the slashes filled with sequins, contributed to create the feeling that the Florentine label was returning to its heyday while infusing new life into its original vocation just as the its sale is still very much on the cards.

Cavalli is allegedly negotiating with Russia's VTB Capital, the investment arm of the country's second-largest lender VTB Bank, the sale of a majority stake in his company. The label has previously proved too expensive for would-be investors with a potential sale reportedly abandoned in 2009.

Schettino does not attend Costa Concordia trial hearing

Prosecutor demands DNA tests on human remains to identify victim

(ANSA) - Grosseto, September 22 - For the first time in over 40 hearings, Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino on Monday did not go to court while standing trial for wrecking the cruise liner he was commanding, killing 32 people. His legal team told the court, in the first hearing after the summer recess, that their client was sick. Schettino, 52, is on trial in the Tuscan city of Grosseto on charges of abandoning ship, causing a disaster and multiple manslaughter. Prosecutors claim his poor handling of the incident added to the tragedy.

On Monday, State attorney Alessandro Leopizzi sought a court order for DNA testing on human remains found on the Costa Concordia after the wreck of the luxury liner was raised from the under-sea platform where it had been resting following a delicate 'refloating operation' which lasted two and a half years and was completed last July. The Concordia struck a reef off the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012 and capsized. The prosecutors in the trial, which started in July last year, said the human remains could belong to the last two missing victims, Maria Grazia Trecarichi and Russell Rebello.

A medical team representing civil plaintiffs also testified about alleged post-traumatic stress disorders among passengers who were stranded on the ship before they finally made it out, citing among them Parkinson's disease, dementia, and chronic bronchitis. Running in tandem with the criminal prosecution are numerous civil suits against Schettino, which can be heard at the same time.

giovedì 18 settembre 2014

Divisions open in Renzi's party over Jobs Act

Article 18 change 'from Mars' says Bersani

(ANSA) - Rome, September 18 - Premier Matteo Renzi's signature Jobs Act caused cracks in his Democratic Party (PD) Thursday because of a proposed change to a key element of job protection that has long been seen as a sacrosanct right by leftists and unions but a sacred cow by employers who say it stops firms growing and scares foreign investors.

The Jobs Act approved at committee stage progressively raises safeguards for new hires, slashes the plethora of temp contracts currently plaguing entry workers, establishes a minimum wage and universal unemployment benefit, and aims to make Italy's largely unused job centres effective tools for first-time job seekers and those who have lost their jobs. But it is the prospect of easier firings for new hires, because of a scaling back of Article 18 of the 1970 Workers' Statute, that poses the risk of a damaging split in the PD. Article 18, which critics have long depicted as a drag on employment, states that companies with over 15 employees that fire someone without just cause must give them their job back.

But an enabling law being presented to the Jobs Act seeks to change the regulations so that newly hired workers will not have the right to their jobs back, but will get compensation, if a court rules that they have been unjustly fired by their companies. Many past Italian governments have tried to amend Article 18 on the grounds that it makes companies reluctant to offer regular steady contracts, as it is so hard to get rid of a staff member once on the books. This has been blamed for high unemployment levels, especially among young people, and the fact that most new entrants to the job market are hired on freelance or temporary contracts that give few rights and low job security. Proponents of the change often claim that the clause has virtually become a dead letter, with only some 3,000 petitions filed each year. But that figure would be much bigger, experts say, if companies were not afraid of losing disputes. Liberal judges mostly find in favour of workers in most Italian regions, according to statistics.

Critics of the change argue that putting more workers out of a job is the last thing the economy needs with steepling jobless rates and flatlining consumption that had led to deflation. Unemployment in Italy has climbed to over 12% and more than four in 10 under-25s are out of work. In the past Italy's trade unions, backed by the PD and its Communist and Christian Socialist predecessors, have always managed to fend off attempts to change a regulation that they say guarantees a basic right. In 2012, then premier Mario Monti's plans to overhaul Article 18 were stymied in the first outright mutiny by the PD against his technocratic national unity government.

The revolt was led by Renzi's predecessor as PD chief, Pier Luigi Bersani, who backed a union alarm raised most loudly by the biggest and most leftwing federation, CGIL. On Thursday, amid union sabre-rattling about a general strike, Bersani again spearheaded the internal dissent against the reform. "It's absolutely indispensable that the government tells parliament what it intends to do in its enabling decree on the labour market because it's a serious issue," Bersani said. "I read intentions attributed to the government in the newspapers that look surreal to me. In some cases they describe Italy as it if were seen from Mars". PD Senator Francesco Scalia hit back on behalf of the government. "I don't find anything surreal about the intentions of the government in the enabling law," Scalia said. "What is very real are the unemployment figures".

But Bersani was not the only senior PD member worried about the reform plan. "Renzi's idea seems to be to cancel Article 18 and I don't agree with that," PD MP Cesare Damiano, the chair of the Lower House's labour committee, told financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore. "The party's position will have to be clarified at the meeting due to be held at the end of the month. I don't think it's right to give firms freedom to fire at this time of maximum unemployment". PD Chairman Matteo Orfini also expressed reservations. "The headlines of the Jobs Act can be agreed with, the details less so," said Orfini. "Mayor corrections are needed to the text". Despite the opposition - augmented by the leftist SEL and anti-establishment M5S parties storming off the committee - Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti said the government did not intend to amend its text, adding that now it was up to parliament to start examining it. The Senate labour committee OK'd the bill and Poletti said he was hopeful the reform could reach the floor of the Upper House next week. 

Genoa gears to host 54th Salone Nautico

More sailboats, Eataly among boat-show draws

(ANSA) - Genoa, September 18 - Boat lovers rejoice! Genoa is getting ready to host the 54th edition of the annual boat show, running this year October 1-6, a full day longer than previous editions. As always the fair - something of a hybrid business-to-business and consumer event - has something for everyone and for all budgets. Presenting the upcoming Salone Nautico in Milan on Thursday, organizers said some 750 exhibitors will display up to 1,000 sailboats, powerboats and mega-yachts. In particular, this year's show will be a real treat for sailboat lovers, with a record number of exhibitors and products, said Anton Francesco Albertoni, the president of the new company set up to organize the annual fair, one of the world's leading sector trade shows.

Exhibitors have up to 180,000 square meters of space to show off their wares, of which 100,000 square meters are in the water. Following the success of on-the-water "test drives" in previous editions, many more exhibitors will be offering prospective customers the possibility to try out boats and "experience the sense of freedom that being on the sea offers," said Alessandro Campagna, boat show organizer. A new layout has been created for the fair grounds this year allowing for 25% more sailboats and 50% more powerboats to be exhibited, Campagna said. The expansion of the "test drive" program, the show's extended schedule and the increased space dedicated to sailboats are some of the main changes organizers made to meet exhibitors' requests.

While fancy yachts and pretty models are certainly among the main draws for show visitors, its aim is to promote the industry and, especially, showcase the best of "made in Italy." In particular, said Massimo Perotti, the new head of boat industry trade group UCINA and chief executive of mega-yacht maker Sanlorenzo, the Salone aims to create export opportunities for the myriad small- and medium-sized enterprises which make up the backbone of the industry and which have suffered heavily since the global financial meltdown of 2008. In that year, the Italian nautical industry was worth some 6.4 billion euros, Perotti said, while today it is worth around 2.4 billion euros. The industry is again on a positive growth footing, Perotti said, but much depends on the economic outlook in Europe and on firms' success in internationalizing. Exporting for Italy's boat industry is - as for so many of the country's highly focused, small and often family-owned companies - a necessity. And the boat show is a key driver for companies looking to break out of Italy. Exports are important to firms of all sizes, including Sanlorenzo, with annual turnover of some 200 million euros. Perotti said that his company is looking to increase sales annually by 10 percent per year over the next three years and that all of the growth is expected to come form export markets, in particular the US, Latina America and Russia.

Attendees and exhibitors will certainly be pleased with another key change at this year's Salone: the selection of Eataly as the official caterer. All the eateries - from a formal restaurant, to a more relaxed one and "street food" stands - will be managed by the chain, which has become one of the most well-known purveyors of quality Italian food and wines. Salone organizers and Eataly see the partnership as another way to promote the best of the "made in Italy" lifestyle to consumers, both Italian and - especially - foreign. "People don't ask themselves what they are going to eat at a trade show, nor do they recall what they ate when they leave," said Eataly chief executive Piero Bagnasco. "We want to change this." 

Italy has 17,000 practitioners of ancient crafts, study

Carpenters, cobblers, picture framers 'most common' trades

(ANSA) - Milan, September 18 - Basket weavers, blacksmiths, knife grinders and practitioners of other traditional trades are holding out in Italy, the Milan chamber of commerce said Thursday. There are some 17,000 artisanal businesses across the country, including almost 7,000 carpenters, 5,000 cobblers and 3,000 picture framers, a survey said.

Some 1,725 small businesses specialise in embroidery, lacework and crochet. Traditional trades are most common in Rome (6.4%), Bolzano (5%) and Milan (4%). Rome is the city with the highest number of shoemakers, while Bolzano is in the lead for chimney sweeps and Milan for blacksmiths. 

Abruzzo griffon vulture population on the rise

180 Old World vultures now live in mountains

(ANSA) - L'Aquila, September 18 - Four adult griffon vultures have been released into the wild in the central Abruzzo region as part of a project to reintroduce the Old World vulture into the mountainous area, the state forest corps (CFS) said Thursday.

The release takes to over 180 the number of specimens that now populate the region as a result of the CFS's Griffon in Abruzzo Project, which this year marks 20 years. The expanding griffon vulture population is centred on the region's national and regional parks, but specimens can also be spotted in neighbouring Marche, Lazio and Molise. The first griffon vultures were imported to Abruzzo from Spain in 1994 when Sardinia was the only Italian region that could still boast a population. The news of the repopulation comes after three beached sperm whales died on the Abruzzo coast and a rare Marsican bear was shot dead in the Abruzzo countryside last week. 

Armani denies contact with Ferrari over luxury hub

Designer sides with 'yes' camp in Scottish independence vote

(ANSA) - Milan, September 18 - Fashion designer Giorgio Armani on Thursday denied having been approached by sports car manufacturer Ferrari and its parent company Fiat over plans to create a hub for luxury Italian goods, athough he said he was not opposed to the idea per se. "It is clear that my situation generates a great deal of curiosity, it is fairly unique," said 80-year-old Armani, whose brand turns 40 next year. "I have been the object of much flirting, but not from Ferrari," he continued, speaking after the presentation of his Emporio spring-summer 2015 collection at Women's Fashion Week underway in Milan. "Not that I am against them getting in touch with me," concluded Armani.

Separately, the designer told journalists that if he were Scottish he would vote for independence in today's referendum. "I cannot not make a clear stand," Armani said. "A Scotsman is a Scotsman," he added. 

The 1970s are in the air at Gucci and Alberta Ferretti

Spring-summer 2015 women's collections showcased in Milan

(ANSA) - Milan, September 18 - Gucci's Frida Giannini tapped into the 1970s to showcase what she described as a "very contemporary and cosmopolitan woman" on the first day of the spring-summer 2015 women's wear shows in Milan. The era showcased Wednesday was a Gucci heyday and, after last season's swing through the 1960s, Giannini turned for inspiration to the glamour of two icons - Ali MacGraw and Jimi Hendrix, who were at the center of the 'mood board' shaping the collection. This time, however, she gave her vintage inspiration a contemporary spin by emphasizing the quality of handiwork and the edge of clean lines and patterns that have made the brand's take on everyday luxury desirable for decades.

Patchwork patterns were a trademark of Gucci's prints, which the designer used for crepe de chine dresses. The vintage feel of boho print dresses was highlighted by gilets in deluxe patchworks crafted from a mixture of furs including fox, goat and Mongolian lamb. Oriental-style dresses with precious embroideries and Mandarin collars oozed understated elegance. Dazzling gold marine buttons made a statement on slim-fitting, button-through A-line dresses and skirt suits.

The quality of the glove-leather and suede or the broderie anglaise inserts used for the collection's dresses brought sass to the 1970s silhouettes. Giannini's beloved blue denim shaped cropped culottes - a must over the next couple of seasons - and dresses with statement shoelaces plunging down a neckline. Laces also crisscrossed up the sleeve and over the shoulder on white and bottle-green dresses. Marching band jackets in blue and green with gold braid trims worn over a shirt and jeans successfully reworked the uniform details with boho vibes. Hemlines were short, taking floor-skimming evening gowns off the agenda for now.

Accessories, notably stacked heel suede boots and leather saddle bags in antique tan, gave the couture workmanship of the collection a relaxed quality. And the spirit of the 1970s was also in the air at Alberta Ferretti, whose spring-summer collection was rich in craftsmanship yet sublimely ethereal. Nymphs in sheer blush colored gowns with petal appliqué had a bohemian feel as did suede fringed gilets and shifts. Accessories included hippy sandals and crocheted moccasins. Ferretti worked her trademark romantic take on femininity in nude-tone chiffons and mousselines shaping slip dresses, jumpsuits and floor-length gowns.

The workmanship in a number of the collection's pieces was intricate yet never weighed down the lightness of clothes, like a strapless dress with flowered vines made from paillettes. Pocahontas made an appearance on the catwalk with tan, ankle-grazing waistcoats with whip-stitching as well as in tan-colored fringed dresses with floral appliquè - showcasing that all-Italian craftsmanship that always gets a share of the limelight at Ferretti. Edgier looks included a fringed shift in lilac suede and a denim skirt and pants with laser-cut flowers. Overall, it was the bohemian side of the 1970s that oozed through part of the collection - a vintage tune for a new take on Ferretti's masterful interpretation of femininity, tailored to suit any occasion on a woman's agenda. 

UniCredit among Italian banks borrowing billions from ECB

Eurozone banks take up 82.6bn euros in ECB TLTRO loans

(ANSA) - Rome, September 18 - UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo were among the Italian banks to take advantage Thursday of a new targeted lending program, borrowing billions of euros in inexpensive loans from the European Central Bank (ECB) on condition they pass the cash on via loans to business and consumers. A spokesman for UniCredit said the bank, which borrowed 7.75 billion euros, will likely participate again in December when the ECB is next scheduled to offer loans under its new targeted lending program called the TLTRO.

Intesa Sanpaolo borrowed four billion euros and the ECB has said banks will receive the money September 24. Overall, 255 commercial banks in the eurozone took up 82.6 billion euros from the ECB as part of the TLTRO program that aims to push cash into European economies through increased loans.

Thursday's four-year loans were offered at rates of just 0.15%, but analysts said that the number of banks participating was lower than expected and these took up less cash than anticipated. Some may be waiting until the December offer and also may want to see what other measures the ECB has in mind to kick-start the sluggish eurozone economy, analysts said. The eurozone's third-largest economy, Italy, has fallen into its third recession in six years with reports of deflation last month.

ECB President Mario Draghi announced the TLTRO plan in June, with the central bank planning to conduct eight such loan operations by June 2016. The TLTRO builds on an earlier long-term loan program offered by the ECB, which is also planning to purchase asset-backed securities and covered bonds to try to inject more liquidity into the eurozone economy to stimulate growth. 

Stolen Etruscan sphinx recovered north of Rome

Artifact stolen from Cerveteri museum in May

(ANSA) - Rome, September 18 - Finance police on Thursday recovered an Etruscan sphinx stolen from a museum at a UNESCO world heritage site in May. The winged marble sculpture was found hidden among vegetation on a rural property north of Rome. It had been stolen from the museum at Cerveteri, a major Etruscan site in northern Lazio, on the night of May 14 by three masked thieves captured on surveillance camera. The artifact was considered one of the most important Italian missing works of art. The Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004. 

Italy's president concerned over justice stalemate

MPs in 12th vote to fill Constitutional Court vacancies

(ANSA) - Rome, September 17 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said Wednesday that "serious issues" have been raised by the impasse in parliament over the election of new members for the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM), the judiciary's self-governing body. His statement came shortly after Justice Minister Andrea Orlando said that he was "concerned" about the stalemate as 856 MPs voted for the 12th time on who is to fill two Constitutional Court vacancies.

They must also elect the two remaining of a total of eight justices to the 24-member CSM. Six CSM candidates have been approved despite the logjam. The quorum to elect Constitutional Court judges is of 570 votes, or three-fifths of parliament, while the quorum to elect members of the CSM is of 514 votes. The impasse in filling the vacancies means a delay in implementing crucial reforms proposed by center-left Premier Matteo Renzi, including justice reforms that could result in an increased workload for the CSM, said Orlando.

Italy's political parties have failed to find agreement on the appointments despite repeated pleas from institutional leaders including Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini and Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso for them to put aside their differences and break the stalemate. The Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) announced earlier in the day they would submit blank ballots. "We will continue to do so until we are presented with credible, independent names that come from outside the political realm," Senate M5S whip Vito Petrocelli said.

Hopes of a solution that would break the stalemate were pinned briefly on a meeting between the premier and the head of the centre-right opposition Forza Italia (FI) party, Silvio Berlusconi, to discuss the government's reform moves and the parliamentary logjam. However, no new candidates emerged from the meeting, said the deputy chief of Renzi's Democratic Party (PD).