giovedì 5 giugno 2014

'Friendly' talks held between Italy, India on marines

Mogherini meets new counterpart on range of foreign issues

(ANSA) - Rome, June 4 - Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini has had a "friendly conversation" with her new Indian counterpart on issues including the thorny subject of two marines held in New Delhi for over two years, an Indian foreign ministry official told ANSA Wednesday. Mogherini talked with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday about a range of international issues affecting bilateral relations, said Syed Akbaruddin, a former Indian diplomat who now speaks for the ministry. Still, the fate of the two marines who killed two Indian fishermen in February 2012 was the top subject for the ministers.

The Italian government has said it hopes that India's newly government of Narendra Modi will be open to negotiations on the file, but failing that it will take the case to international arbitration. On Monday marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone sent a Republic Day video message back to Italy from New Delhi.

Latorre said that all they can do is "suffer with dignity" as they wait for a resolution to the case against them involving their actions while on an anti-pirate patrol. Last month, the Italian government announced it was opening a "new phase" in the saga, replacing its special envoy on the case and sending its ambassador back to New Delhi to help steer the case towards arbitration by an international organization such as the UN. Nicola Latorre, who chairs the Senate defence committee, urged further talks with India's new government and new parliament during a radio interview Wednesday. 

Appeals court upholds Saviano conviction for libel

Statements in anti-mafia bestseller Gomorrah deemed 'defamatory'

(ANSA) - Milan, June 4 - A civil appeals court in Milan on Wednesday upheld the libel conviction of famed anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano for defamatory statements in his runaway bestseller Gomorrah, about the Casalesi clan of the Neapolitan Camorra mafia.

The appeals court confirmed the November ruling of a lower court that Saviano must pay 30,000 euros in damages to Enzo Boccolato for insinuating involvement in the La Torre clan. "The statements contained in the book are objectively offensive, and the veracity of the news was not proven, in the evocative way that emerges from the sentences of the published text," the ruling read. The offending text on page 291 of the book flanks statements made by a justice informant with "the author's considerations about Boccolato's involvement in illegal activities of the La Torre clan," the ruling said. The court is also holding the book's publisher, Mondadori, accountable. A petition made by Boccolato's lawyers for one million euros in damages, however, was rejected.

Boccolato's defense lawyers Alessandro Santoro, Sandra Salvigni and Daniela Mirabile claimed Boccolato deserves additional damages in recognition of the fact that "Saviano and Mondadori, heedless of the two sentences that have already occurred, reiterate the defamation of Mr. Vincenzo Boccolato through the continued reprinting of the celebrated book Gomorrah without providing the cancellation of the sentences 'established as defamatory' and without even citing the libel conviction in reprints". The lawyers said their client has lived for years in Venezuela, "has no criminal record and above all is extraneous to any Camorra activity". Roberto Saviano said in February his acclaimed book that lifted the lid on the Neapolitan Camorra mafia had not been worth it because of death threats that have forced him into hiding and led him to fear for his sanity.

Saviano, who has been in round-the-clock police protection since Gomorrah came out in 2006, told Spanish daily El Pais the sensational bestselling expose' that focused on the then little-known and particularly ferocious Casalesi clan "ruined my life" and he regretted the "ambition" that made him write it. The 34-year-old Naples-born writer said he could have revealed the inner workings of the Camorra's empire "with the same commitment and courage but with prudence, without destroying everything". "I was too impetuous, too ambitious," Saviano told El Pais. 

Bocelli to turn on new Ponte Vecchio lights

Gift from Stefano Ricci on 60th anniversary of fashion centre

(ANSA) - Florence, June 4 - Andrea Bocelli will turn on the Ponte Vecchio's new eco-friendly lighting system on the evening of June 16, Mayor Dario Nardella said Wednesday. The new 'green' lighting from 102 LEDs - a gift from the Stefano Ricci fashion house to mark the 60th anniversary of the city's Fashion Centre - will offer savings of almost 80%, he said.

"This is how we want to work with the private sector," said Nardella, elected last month to succeed Italian Premier Matteo Renzi. The Tuscan tenor will flip the switch to the accompaniment of an "acquatic spectacle" on the Arno beneath the iconic bridge, performed by the French art troupe Iliotopie and sponsored by Italian banking giant Unicredit. 

Spanish food giant Ebro buys 52% of Garofalo premium pasta

Sparks outcry on foreign encroachment on Italian food brands

(ANSA) - Rome, June 4 - Italian premium pasta maker Pastificio Lucio Garofalo announced Wednesday it signed a preliminary agreement to sell a majority 52% stake to the listed, Spanish multinational Ebro Foods for a total investment of 62 million euros. Ebro Foods is active in the rice, pasta, and condiment sectors, and quoted on the Madrid stock exchange. Garofalo called Ebro Foods an industrial partner with a solid background with which to grow on the basis of a common vision that will "preserve the identity of the company and the product, which owe their distinctive and differentiating traits to the leadership, the workers, as well as the production site".

News of the deal sparked immediate outcry from Italian agrifood association Coldiretti as the latest in a growing tide of encroachment on Italian food producers. "With the sale of Garofalo pasta, the Spanish have exceeded 10 billion euros worth of historic Italian agrifood brands that have passed into foreigners' hands since the beginning of the (financial) crisis," said Coldiretti President Roberto Moncalvo, speaking to roughly 10,000 farmers gathered at a meeting near Florence. "We are facing an escalation of the Spanish presence in Italy with the passage of 25% of Riso Scotti (Italian rice) into the hands of the same Spanish food multinational Ebro Food after Barcellona's Gruppo Agroalimen rose to 75 % of ownership in Star (Italian boullion producer)," Moncalvo continued.

Moncalvi complained that Italy's Fiorucci hams had also been bought by Spanish meats group Campofrio.. Garofalo pasta Chief Executive Massimo Menna countered that the Ebro takeover "represents value for the Italian System and should not be read as a 'piece of Italy that is going away'". "Our company is healthy and strong, and this has put us in an optimal position to seize the best opportunities for growth," Menna said.

"We chose Garofalo for the quality of its product, for the excellent results it has achieved over time and for its people who, in the last 15 years in particular, have enabled to give life to an extraordinary story and with whom we have found a perfect personal and professional understanding," said Ebro Foods Chief Executive Antonio Hernandez Callejas. Pasta Garofalo has over 100 years of history. The Menna family have been shareholders since 1952, and gained control of the company in 1997. Pasta Garofalo has concentrated on the premium segment since 2002, and has risen from a turnover of 30 million euros in 2002 to more than 134 million in 2013. 

Cerveteri's Etruscan city of dead set to wow visitors

Previously closed Tomb of the Painted Lions to open to public

(ANSA) - Rome, June 4 - UNESCO world heritage site the Etruscan Necropolis of Banditaccia at Cerveteri north of Rome is gearing to amaze visitors with a July inauguration showcasing previously closed tombs and a new welcome center, officials told ANSA this week.

Thanks to a 2.3-million-euro collaborative investment of European Union and Italian State funds, the three-millennia-old Banditaccia is getting an upgrade and plans to show off the latest renovations at the July 4 inauguration of its new Visitor Center. One July highlight will be the re-opening of the Tomb of the Painted Lions, a 7th-century BC tomb once frescoed with lions, which have since faded away due to exposure, along with other previously closed tombs. Additionally, Banditaccia's long-neglected pedestrian paths have been cleaned up for the upcoming inauguration, including 'La Passeggiata di Lawrence', a pathway named after writer DH Lawrence whose book Etruscan Places inspired the site's rediscovery.

Lorenzo Croci, Cerveteri's sustainable-development councilor, hopes that the upgrades will double visitors to the heritage site, considered the cradle of Etruscan civilization with its more than 1000 tombs. "Few people know this but this is the largest archaeological site in the world, even bigger than the Valley of the Kings in Egypt", Croci told ANSA, adding "today we have 65,000 annual visitors. "We want double that, and for the site to receive the recognition it deserves," he said.

The Etruscans lived mainly between the rivers Tiber and Arno in modern-day Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany, in the first millennium BC. By the sixth century BC they had become the dominant force in central Italy, but repeated attacks from Gauls and Syracusans later forced them into an alliance with the embryonic Roman state, which gradually absorbed Etruscan civilization. 

mercoledì 4 giugno 2014

100 people take refuge in popular Rome basilica

Group asks pope's help in finding affordable housing

(ANSA) - Rome, June 4 - About 100 people who have been evicted from their homes have taken refuge in Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and on Wednesday begged for help from Pope Francis.

The men, women and children camping out in one of Rome's popular tourist destinations say they will not leave the basilica, located near the city's main Termini train station, until a housing solution is found. "We are marginalized, poor and outcasts but we know the sacredness of our lives," says the letter to the pope, who often speaks out about the need to care for the less fortunate in the world. "We are here in the house of God to ask for help," says the letter, adding that the Italian government has "declared war" on the homeless.

Loud and large demonstrations in Italy's capital have highlighted concerns about the lack of affordable housing in Rome. Some became violent, vandalizing government offices as they pressed for social housing and fewer austerity measures. "We are afraid for ourselves, and especially for our children," says the letter. 

Tourist arrested for stealing Pompeii mosaic pieces

Georgian, 34, caught removing tesserae at restored domus

(ANSA) - Naples, June 4 - A Georgian tourist was arrested Wednesday for trying to steal pieces of a mosaic at Pompeii. Manuchar Cublashvili, 34, was caught trying to remove three small tesserae from the domus of Triptolemus, reopened April 17 after a long restoration. Cublashvili tried to escape when Carabinieri spotted him, dropping two of the pieces and hiding the other in his pocket, but was stopped. The three pieces were recovered.

Informant says Berlusconi ex-undersecretary 'cosa nostra'

Cosentino 'repeatedly met with Camorra bosses, arranged bribes'

(ANSA) - Caserta, June 4 - The allegedly Camorra mafia-linked politician Nicola Cosentino, a former undersecretary to three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, was "our thing" said a Camorra informant in a Caserta courtroom on Wednesday.

In a judicial meeting, Camorra clan member and informant Roberto Vargas described Cosentino as "cosa nostra" (our thing), a reference to Mafia membership and said that the politician had met with Casalesi head Francesco "Sandokan" Schiavone to talk about contracts and politics. "Cosentino met with Sandokan after his release in 1993 and before the Spartacus raid (1995). The two met in the warehouse annex of Vicenzo Cantiello's shoe shop. (Cantiello is a relative of boss Salvatore Cantiello). Cantiello told this in 2003 after he left his cell. Then in the course of the years, Nicola Schiavone (son of Sandokan) told me many times that Cosentino was 'cosa nostra'", said Vargas.

Vargas also said that Cosentino took care of the bribes to companies building the Sparanise power station near Caserta. "Nicola Schiavone told me that we should not do anything because Cosentino had closed the deal with a bribe of 20 thousand euro each month, delivered into the hands of the cashier of the Nicolino Panaro clan".

Cosentino was arrested in April along with 12 others for alleged extortion and unfair competition in favor of his family petrol-pump business in the southern Campania region Also on his rap sheet is a March 2013 arrest on suspicion of collusion with the Neapolitan mafia for alleged links with the powerful Casalesi clan whose death threats have forced anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano into 24-hour police protection.

Renzi debuts at G7

Aims to reassure EU allies on reform programme

(ANSA) - Rome, June 4 - Italian Premier Matteo Renzi on Wednesday took his place among global leaders for his first-ever Group of Seven (G7) summit - the first in 16 years where Russia, amid the Ukraine crisis, has not been invited to make it a G8. Renzi arrived for the dinner of heads of State and government kicking off the summit, which ends Thursday. Renzi, 39, became Italy's youngest premier in February after ousting party colleague Enrico Letta, capturing the imagination of international media with his boyish dash and bold vision for change.

He has since launched a programme of reforms as ambitious as it is daring, aiming to rejuvenate Italy's sclerotic, bloated and slow-moving political body and overhaul its long-stagnant economic machine. In his highest-profile appearance yet, one of Renzi's main tasks, aside from cementing Italy's good ties with America in talks with President Barack Obama, is to reassure EU leaders that his reform programme can lift Italy out of recession while sticking to Brussels-mandated fiscal rigour.

While the premier has always insisted he will cleave to financial orthodoxy, he has also been openly advocating wiggle room for growth-stoking investments - and he is expected to try to lobby for this again in Brussels. Among other things, his reforms seek to boost business by slashing red tape, simplifying political and tax systems and investing in the construction sector - starting with a major school refurbishment programme. He is expected to get support for his pump-priming strategies from several countries that have been on the wrong end of austerity policies.

The summit, which will discuss the Ukrainian crisis and relations with Russia among global policy topics, will have a rather awkward uninvited guest for the first time since 1998 - no representative from the Kremlin. "It could seem like a normal summit, but it won't be in any way," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Bundestag. Merkel said Russia's "violations of international laws" and Ukrainian "sovereignty" had led to the exclusion of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Turmoil in the Ukraine saw Russia claim sovereignty over the Crimea after a March referendum in the majority Russian language region, which resulted in overwhelming official support for joining Russia. Ukrainian officials decried the move as violating Ukraine's constitution and international law. Violent clashes between Ukrainian government and pro-Russian secessionists continue in eastern Ukraine. A draft statement, leaked Wednesday night, called Russia's action in Ukraine "unacceptable". It urged Moscow to "hasten its withdrawal from Ukraine and start up dialogue". It also said there was "no future" for President Bashas al-Assad in Syria.

Venice mayor arrested in flood-system graft scandal

'Scheme like Bribesville, only more sophisticated'

(ANSA) - Venice, June 4 - The mayor of Venice was among 35 people arrested Wednesday in an unfolding multi-million-euro corruption scandal, one that includes a Berlusconi-era minister in an alleged scheme that funneled bribes to political campaigns through the lagoon city's flood-protection system over the course of a decade.
Lawyers representing Giorgio Orsoni were quick to deny charges against him, a member of Premier Matteo Renzi's center-left Democratic Party (PD), who as a sitting mayor was among the most startling names to appear in case files that spanned 700 pages, outlining crimes ranging from bribery and extortion to money laundering by a panoply of public officials. Prosecutors also requested the arrest of former Veneto governor and ex-minister Giancarlo Galan, currently a Senator for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) party, meaning the Upper House will have to vote on whether to authorise the arrest.
At the center of the alleged bribery web is Consorzio Venezia Nuova, a consortium of private and government entities responsible for safeguarding the Venetian lagoon, which includes MOSE, a 5.5-billion-euro system of retractable flood barriers set for completion in 2016 after years of delays. According to investigators, the consortium gave Galan a lump-sum bribe of 800,000 euros on top of one million euros in annual salary via Giancarlo Mazzacurati, the former head of the consortium, and Veneto Infrastructure Councillor Renato Chisso, between 2005 and 2011.
The case files call Mazzacurati, arrested last summer, the "grand puppeteer" of the alleged campaign-bribery scheme. Chisso was among those arrested Wednesday. Even a top tax cop, now-retired Finance Guard General Emilio Spaziante, was promised 2.5 million euros to influence inspections and criminal probes on the MOSE flood barriers, according to his arrest warrant. Spaziante eventually received half a million euros which he allegedly split with two of the other people arrested, the warrant said.
The MOSE investigation comes as investigators probe other graft allegations in northern Italy. Last month police uncovered a suspected criminal network that organised bribes in exchange for contracts to work for Milan Expo 2015, or the World's Fair. Both cases have put pressure on Premier Renzi, who appointed an anti-corruption czar in response to the Expo scandal and growing popular disenchantment with the ruling class. One Venice prosecutor said the case there involved some of the same politicians involved in the Bribesville probes of two decades ago, which brought down the old party system. "We've found the same suspects from the 1990s," said Carlo Nordio, who played a role in those investigations as well. This time, the web of bribery in Venice is much more sophisticated, he said.
Police said the Venice probe has been in the works for several years, sparked by another investigation into alleged bribery linked to road work along the A4 highway. The head of the company involved, Lino Brentan, made a plea bargain in that case. On Wednesday he was among those arrested in the MOSE case. In the highway probe, police said they uncovered at least 20 million euros in slush funds in San Marino and Switzerland, allegedly at the hands of Piergiorgio Baita, a former manager of Mantovani, the principal construction firm involved in MOSE. Also linked to the current probe, but not under investigation, is Altero Matteoli, a former Berlusconi transport minister.
The MOSE project, which in Italian is a play on the name for Moses, has been contested since its inception in 1984. Environmentalists say the series of retractable dykes will interrupt the natural ecosystem, and some experts believe it will fall short of protecting the city from disastrous floods despite the billions poured into it.

lunedì 2 giugno 2014

Italy's Matteo Renzi joins stand against Jean-Claude Juncker for European post

Debate likely to continue until autumn, with David Cameron seen as having blundered by moving so quickly against frontrunner

The European Union is facing one of its roughest power struggles over the most influential job in Brussels, as Europe's leaders seek to reassert control after an election that saw big gains for the far right and the hard left, and amounted to a vote of no confidence in many of the national governments.
David Cameron has been pushed on to the defensive after revelations of deep disagreement last week over the candidacy of the Luxembourg federalist Jean-Claude Juncker for the post of European commission president. But he is not the only one taking a stand against the leading candidate. On Sunday, the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, signalled that Juncker may not be acceptable to him. And after losing the elections in France to the far-right Front National, François Hollande is also said to oppose Juncker, allegedly telling the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, that the job should go to the French, preferably his former finance minister Pierre Moscovici.

Merkel, Europe's most powerful leader, is seen as the pivotal figure in seeking a compromise over the commission post. She has remained equivocal over Juncker's prospects, although formally, as Germany's Christian Democratic leader, she supports him. Cameron told Merkel at a summit last week that Europe could not be run for the next five years by "a man of the 1980s", according to Der Spiegel.
This is a battle that has been in the offing for months. Before the election, the Guardian reported that Cameron would have a problem with Juncker because he was the head of a parliamentary bloc to which no British party belonged. Juncker told the Guardian then: "Cameron has to stick to the clear treaty rules … Whoever wins, wins … The question is not whether we are supported in Great Britain. The question is rather why does Great Britain not stick to the vote of the continental Europeans?" Juncker reiterated his frustrations in an interview published in Bild Zeitung on Sunday. "We cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed," he said. The arguments over who should get the commission job, as well as a clutch of other top jobs in Brussels, are likely to continue until the autumn. The view in Brussels is that Cameron blundered by moving so quickly to oppose Juncker. He is also seen as weak on Europe because of his pledge of a referendum on Britain's membership in 2017, and because he is perceived as a hostage of his backbenches and of Nigel Farage's Ukip, which trounced the Conservatives in the election, driving the Tories into third place.

Cameron is supported most vocally by Hungary and also by the Swedish and Dutch prime ministers, but he cannot veto Juncker's appointment and so far has not enough support to erect a blocking minority in the European council. Although national leaders are at odds over who should get the commission post, the real fight is between the governments of the EU and the European parliament over who should have the defining say in making the appointment. At the insistence of the main parties in the parliament, last week's election was the first to include nominees for the commission post, meaning that the candidate of the winning party should automatically get the job.
But it is up to national leaders, not the parliament, to propose a commission president. The nominee then has to be endorsed by an absolute parliamentary majority of 376. Parliament leaders are threatening to block anyone who is not their choice. "I am now conducting all of my talks in the spirit that Jean-Claude Juncker should become president of the European commission," Merkel said on Friday, in her strongest declaration of support for the Luxembourger.
She left herself wiggle room, however. Her top EU advisers in Berlin are known to oppose Juncker on the basis that the parliament has to be shown who takes the decisions. The president of the council chairing EU summits, Herman Van Rompuy, is also a vocal opponent of having directly elected candidates for the post. He is in charge of negotiations with parliament leaders aimed at crafting a compromise and striking a deal.

Tennis: Errani beats Jankovic in straight sets

Heads to French Open quarter-finals

(ANSA) - Rome, June 2 - Sara Errani beat Jelena Jankovic in straight sets on Monday to reach the French Open quarter-finals. The sixth seed completed a 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory in just under two hours against her Serbian opponent, who required extended treatment on her right thigh during a first set that lasted 81 minutes. The Italian now faces German Andrea Petkovic. 

'Long live Italy', Napolitano says on Republic Day

Renzi high-fives with child en route to celebrations

(ANSA) - Rome, June 2 - President Giorgio Napolitano thanked Italy's Armed Forces Monday and Premier Matteo Renzi shared a high-five salute with a child while greeting well-wishers as he walked through Rome's streets towards celebrations marking Republic Day. Renzi shook hands and called greetings as he walked along Via del Corso towards his first such festival as premier. Renzi has been pushing for deep economic and structural reforms as Italy struggles to recover from its worst recession since the Second World War.

Values and traditions in the military was the theme of the event that included speeches and parades as well as a fly-over by military aircraft emitting displays of the three colours of the Italian flag: green, red, and white. "The Armed Forces deserve the deep appreciation of the country for the professionalism, dedication to service and the value shown in all theaters of operation, even in the most difficult situations," Napolitiano said in his message to the Armed Forces. "Long live the Armed Forces, long live the Republic, long live Italy," said Napolitano. 

Fugitive Matacena says he will stay in Dubai

Ex-MP, businessman wants case reviewed by high EU court

(ANSA) - Rome, June 2 - Fugitive politician Amedeo Matacena said he has no interest in returning to Italy but will remain in Dubai, according to an interview published Monday. Matacena, a former MP who fled a definitive conviction for mafia links, said in an interview with newspaper Corriere della Sera that he feels safe in Dubai because it has no extradition treaty with Italy. I am staying in Dubai, I have no desire to return to Italy, even though I know that for this reason all my family is angry with me," he told the newspaper.

He also maintained that his wife Chiara Rizzo, who was extradited last month to Italy from France, did not cheat on him with their associates including former interior minister Claudio Scajola. Scajola, 66, is under investigation for helping Matacena evade arrest but the former close associate of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi denies wrongdoing. Scajola was arrested on May 10 on suspicion that he helped Matacena flee Italian justice after a definitive conviction for links to Calabria's 'Ndrangheta mafia. atacena said he would return to Italy only if his case is put before Europe's Court of Human Rights as well as Italy's high Cassation Court. 

Human smugglers arrested after migrant boat arrives

More than 3,500 migrants arrive on Italian shores over weekend

(ANSA) - Pozzallo, June 2 - Police said Monday they arrested five alleged human smugglers caught as part of the wave of more than 3,500 migrants who arrived on Italian shores over the past few days.

The captain of one of the migrant ships, carrying about 205 migrants, asked for leniency in exchange for his confession of piloting the boat that was tracked by a patrol ship from Malta before it arrived in Sicily Sunday. t was part of a series of arrivals of migrants from Syria and North Africa in about 11 different boats found in Italian waters since Friday. The Italian Air Force was called in to relay many of the migrants from the Sicilian city of Catania to centres in Rome and Verona, to relieve some of the burden on arrival centres in Sicily.

The arrivals included some 838 migrants rescued from the sea on Saturday while another vessel carrying 275 people landed on the southern Italian island of Lampadesua. Another 720 from Libya were ferried into Pozzallo after they were rescued by Italian authorities working through the Mare Nostrum (our sea) program, and 147 people arrived in Catania. Some migrants said they paid first for the journey from Eritrea to Libya, and again for the voyage from Libya to Italy, which for many migrants is a stepping stone into the rest of Europe.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said last week that almost 40,000 migrants have arrived already this year, almost as many as the total 43,000 arrivals reported for all of 2013. "Caution is necessary over estimates on 2014 arrivals but migrant pressure is very high and the trend is growing," Alfano said. Most of that pressure lands on Italian shoulders as the country's southernmost shores, especially the islands of Lampedusa and Sicily, are the first points of arrival for migrants arriving from the Middle East and North Africa crowded on to flimsy boats and rafts. Most migrants "are asking for protection and it is therefore mandatory to welcome them though this obligation concerns Europe and not a single country".

Alfano called for increased resources for the European Union's border management agency Frontex, which helps to patrol the southern borders, and said it should move its headquarters to Italy. This will be a theme for Italy when it assumes the six-month duty presidency of the European Union in July. He also urged the international community to do more to help would-be migrants remain in their homelands.

Since the deaths of some 400 migrants in October in Italian waters in two separate sea disasters, Italy has established a search-and-rescue program called Mare Nostrum (our sea) to try to avoid such deaths in future. But critics say the program only encourages human smugglers, who know their passengers will be quickly rescued from the seas. The rise in migrants has swamped the Italian government's system for welcoming and housing newcomers along its southern shores, but Alfano said a national plan is being put in place "to distribute immigrants shared by regions, provinces and municipalities". 

Lupi says possible Alitalia deal shows investor interest

Etihad CEO 'confident' of deal ahead of airlines

(ANSA) - Rome, June 2 - The likelihood of a deal between Italian flag carrier Alitalia and Etihad Airways demonstrates rising investor interest in Italy, Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said in media reports published Monday. "We are at a turning point...I take it as an encouraging sign that could attract other foreign investors," Lupi told Il Messaggero and La Repubblica newspapers.

He spoke one day after Etihad, based in Abu Dhabi, said in a joint statement with Alitalia that it would send a letter outlining its final conditions which the Italian carrier's board of directors must approve before any investment would be made. Lupi called that a "decisive step". For weeks it had been rumoured Etihad planned to invest as much as 550 million euros in cash-starved Alitalia if certain conditions on the Italian carrier's debt and staffing levels were met. But Etihad remained tight-lipped - until Sunday.

"We are confident that we will reach a positive conclusion of the transaction submitted to Alitalia," Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said in the statement. Previously described by Il Messaggero as a "strategic alliance" that will give Etihad, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, a 49% stake in Alitalia, the deal would give new life to the Italian carrier that was subject to a government-led bailout last fall. That's when the Italian government engineered a 500-million-euro Alitalia restructuring plan that included a 300-million-euro capital increase and 200 million euros in new lines of credit. However, major investor Air France-KLM at the time voted against the restructuring plan, saying it did not go far enough to reduce Alitalia's debt.

Under the plan, Poste Italiane agreed to underwrite the capital increase to the tune of 75 million euros, while Italian banks Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit said they would put in up to a maximum of 100 million euros. That triggered complaints from rival European carriers that have complained that amounts to State aid, an accusation that the Italian government has denied. 

'Renzi's Europe becoming a monster' says Farage

'Taking away people's self-determination'

(ANSA) - Brussels, June 2 - Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) said Italian Premier Matteo Renzi was "just like the rest" who want to "create the United States of Europe as soon as possible". Speaking to ANSA, Farage said "Europe is in the hands of the European establishment" and it's becoming a monster. I fear Renzi is a part of this process". Farage, who after winning EP elections last week is mulling an alliance with Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, went on to defend accusations of racism within his party. "UKIP is neither racist nor sectarian," said Farage, claiming to be the victim of "a witch hunt" after his party's success.

As proof he pointed to the fact that UKIP's constituents recently elected a Muslim businessman, an openly gay man and a seven women. As to why he might side with Grillo, who came in second behind Renzi's Democratic Party in Italy's European elections, Farage said it was to oppose a Europe working against its own people. "What Europe and the national governments are doing is taking away the people's ability to determine their own future," he said. 

Italy gets EU's OK to postpone balancing budget

But Rehn warns move does not put Italy in good position

(ANSA) - Brussels, June 2 - The European Commission has accepted Italy's request to postpone balancing its budget until next year. On Monday, sources said the Commission made the last-minute decision just before it released its economic recommendations for Italy. Italy's 2014 budget was passed by ex-premier Enrico Letta. Meanwhile his successor, Matteo Renzi, has unveiled a major package of tax cuts and investments to revive the weak Italian economy, and last month his administration approved an economic blueprint that aims to balance the budget, in structural terms, by 2016.

European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn suggested the decision to postpone balancing the budget was made reluctantly. "It's important to underscore that postponing mid-term targets doesn't put Italy in a good position with regard to the rules it's endorsed," he said, pointing out that Italy's own Constitution requires a balanced budget. "For that reason it is fundamental to tackle the problem of extremely high public debt by making adequate structural efforts". Italy's massive public debt hit a record 2.1072 trillion euros in February. The amount was up 17.5 billion euros since January. The European Commission has already criticized Italy's 2014 budget for not doing enough to bring down debt, around 132% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Renzi moves to 'unblock' frozen initiatives

'Construction sites, building projects held up by bureaucracy'

(ANSA) - Rome, June 2 - Premier Matteo Renzi called on mayors throughout Italy on Monday to help him "unblock" projects and initiatives that have been held up by bureaucracy. "Dear mayor, Italy is relaunching," said Renzi in a letter sent out to mayors. "Signs of confidence are shown by the determination of the citizens, by various sectors of the economy and by international markets. Nevertheless, it's not enough. We can and we must do more," said Renzi. Speaking at a economics fair in Trento on Sunday, Renzi announced his government's "Unblock Italy" initiative meant to relaunch "projects that have been stalled for 40 years". The plan is to be officially rolled on by the end of June. Renzi, who has been pushing for deep economic and institutional reforms since the start of his premiership in February, was emboldened last week by his party's resounding victory at European elections. In his letter to Italian mayors, Renzi insisted that "no reform will be credible without us first sending a signal that the music has truly changed. That's why I find it a priority that the government adopts all measures necessary to unblock all the initiatives and the construction sites that have been shut frozen for years, due to delays and inconclusive responses from various departments of the civil sector".