Rome adopts plan for EU aid, straining coalition to breaking point

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Rome, Jan. 13, 2021 Italy’s centre-left government is facing an acid test on Wednesday evening in Rome.

This is coming after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s Cabinet passed plans to use billions of euros in EU coronavirus aid, a cause of ructions in the fragile ruling coalition.

But two ministers from former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s splinter party, Italia Viva, did not vote for it, according to reports from the ANSA news agency.

Renzi has announced a press conference for Wednesday afternoon.

He could announce his party’s withdrawal from the coalition, which he has threatened several times.

Non-partisan Conte had circulated his draft for the use of around 210 billion euros ($256 billion) from the EU post-pandemic reconstruction fund internally on Monday.

For weeks, Renzi had criticised the plans as unacceptable.

The two Cabinet members from his party, Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova and Family Minister Elena Bonetti, demanded again that Rome should apply for funds from the European rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), according to media reports from the night-time meeting.

Conte and the populist Five-Star Movement (M5S), which the head of government is close to, reject this, and the positions of the two sides have hardened.

The government often depends on the votes of Italia Viva in parliament.

In Conte’s alliance, the M5S and the Social Democrats (PD) are the largest forces.

In addition to Italia Viva, there is also a second minor party, Liberi e Uguali (Free and Equal).

Renzi founded his party in 2019 after leaving the PD.

Italian media suspect that Conte wants to avoid fresh elections.

He could ask for a vote of confidence in parliament and try to find another majority coalition.

Regular parliamentary elections are not due until 2023.

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