New Italian PM tells country ‘we all win or lose together’

Letta calls for seriousness and stability in face of financial crisis

Italian prime minister Enrico Letta gestures at the Lower house of the parliament in Rome yesterday. Mr Letta acknowledged that one of his first priorities would be to establish the “seriousness and credibility” of his executive. Photograph: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

Italian prime minister Enrico Letta gestures at the Lower house of the parliament in Rome yesterday. Mr Letta acknowledged that one of his first priorities would be to establish the “seriousness and credibility” of his executive. Photograph: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

Tue, Apr 30, 2013, 06:00

The new PD-PDL coalition government headed by prime minister Enrico Letta last night won its first confidence vote in the lower house by an overwhelming majority.

Earlier, in a wideranging speech, Mr Letta had appealed to sceptics on both sides of the house, arguing that his government merited respect because it would be one of “service”, based on the principles of “national cohesion” and adding: “[With this government], we all win or we all lose together.”

Mr Letta, whose administration was formed after seven weeks of deadlock in the wake of an inconclusive general election in February, acknowledged that one of his first priorities would be to establish the “seriousness and credibility” of his executive. To that end, he will today fly to Brussels, Paris and Berlin in an effort to reassure EU partners that a responsible, steady hand is back at the helm of the Italian ship of state.

Arguing that it is vital that the EU implements economic policies which guarantee the stability of state finances without at the same time discouraging growth, Mr Letta suggested that the EU was facing a “crisis of legitimacy” at exactly that moment when its citizens most needed reassurance, adding: “The European Union can become the engine of sustainable development only if it opens up. We cannot have winners and losers in the north and the south of the continent, if the EU gets this one wrong ...”

Mr Letta indicated that another of his most urgent priorities would be the enactment of measures which would, to some extent, ease the tax burden on ordinary Italians, while at the same time creating more favourable conditions for small- and medium-sized industry, the traditional backbone of the Italian economy. For example, he announced he would be suspending the dreaded property tax, IMU, in June to properly evaluate a more equitable system.


Frontier of hope
As for his own government, Mr Letta pointed to the appointment of black woman Cecile Kyenge, of Congolese origins, as a new concept of “borders”, moving from a frontier of barrier to one of hope. The new prime minister also said that, for Italy, integration was a complex process which must begin at school and university.

Despite his reasonable words yesterday, many commentators remain convinced that the bitter divisions between centre-right and centre-left will make it almost impossible for the Letta government to implement any meaningful legislation, such as the electoral and constitutional reforms indicated yesterday.

Nor was confidence much strengthened by a remark attributed to new PDL minister Gaetano Quagliarello, who speaking of his party leader, tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, said: “Berlusconi has put us all in a rubber dinghy but when it suits him, he will deflate it.” l

Job losses
Meanwhile, the Greek parliament has passed a bill, by 168 votes to 123, which will see 15,000 state employees lose their jobs by the end of next year. The bill is part of continuing moves by the centre-right government to cut costs and ensure more bailout money from international creditors. – (Additional reporting by agencies)