• Italy's news in English
 
Renzi calls for 'radical change' in Italy
The new premier called for a "radical and immediate change" in Italy in an impassioned speech on Monday. Photo: AFP/Andreas Solaro

Renzi calls for 'radical change' in Italy

Published: 24 Feb 2014 11:29 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Feb 2014 17:31 GMT+01:00

The new premier said there were no excuses for failing to tackle the recession-hit country's ills and told senators Italy would become a "country of opportunity" in a largely ad-lib speech ahead of a confidence vote in the upper house of parliament.

"If we lose this challenge the fault will be all mine. No-one has an alibi anymore," said the 39-year-old -- Italy's youngest ever prime minister.

"This is an Italy of possibilities, an Italy of fundamental change," he said, stressing the "urgency" of implementing reforms in "a rusty country...gripped by anxiety".

Renzi, who grasped power after helping oust his predecessor Enrico Letta over failures to do enough to boost a flagging economy, reiterated plans for rapidly overhauling the tax system, job market and public administration.

Telling the personal stories of specific individuals -- including a jobless father and a man killed by a reckless driver -- he pledged to review unemployment benefits, establish a guarantee fund for small companies and comprehensively reform the justice system.

He also promised to cut the tax burden by a double-digit figure by the first half of 2014 and pay off public administration debts.

The confidence vote later Monday will be a key test of Renzi's power to unite warring factions in Italy's parliament and secure a solid majority.

The former mayor of Florence is expected to win based on the support of his own centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and his coalition partners -- the centrists and the New Centre Right (NCD) party.

Political analysts will however be paying close attention to the size of the majority he manages to secure, as an indication as to whether the new government has a chance of living out its mandate until 2018 or whether the country will end up back at the polls.

"We are not afraid of going to the polls," Renzi said.

Former premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) party is in opposition, although it has agreed to support key decrees on a case by case basis.

The anti-establishment Five Star movement -- Italy's other main opposition party -- has slammed Renzi for stealing the top job and called for immediate elections, and some political watchers say Renzi's failure could significantly boost their numbers.

A bold-faced Renzi stared down critics hollering insults from among the movement's benches and spoke out against populism and for Europe.

He said Italy must tackle its towering public debt -- equivalent to 130 percent of total economic output -- not because German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for it, but because "it is our duty to, for our children's sake".

He spoke of the need for greater transparency -- making public spending receipts available online -- and of the need to attract foreign investors and shake off the image of Italy "as just a great holiday destination".

Renzi's insistence on speed has impressed some analysts, who say it may help him avoid getting stifled under the weight of Italian bureaucracy.

"By keeping up the momentum, Renzi is increasing the chances of these important reforms going through despite likely resistance from various camps," Christian Schulz, senior economist at Berenburg, said in a note.

"Much will depend on the concrete reform proposals and how they will be watered down in the inevitable political wrangling afterwards," he said.

But Chiara Corsa and Loredana Federico from Unicredit asked "whether the Renzi government is strong enough or sufficiently 'revolutionary' to implement the reform agenda".

Don't miss a story about Italy - Join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.it)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
 Italy's Northern League launches southern conquest
Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

Italy's Northern League launches southern conquest

The Northern League, led by the rising star of the Italian right Matteo Salvini, launched its political conquest Friday of the country's south, with a view one day to capturing national power. READ  

Historic buildings closed by Tuscany tremors
Tourist crowd Florence's Piazza della Signoria. Photo: AFP

Historic buildings closed by Tuscany tremors

Some of Tuscany's landmark historic buildings were closed to visitors Friday as part of the region was shaken by 80 mini-earthquakes centred on the Chianti wine region. READ  

'I will not be here in ten years': Pope Francis
Pope Francis said he would not be around to watch the 2024 Olympics games. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

'I will not be here in ten years': Pope Francis

Pope Francis on Friday said he will not still be in the Vatican in ten years time, during a meeting with athletes and officials from the Italian National Olympic Committee. READ  

Italy's Chianti region hit by earthquakes
The epicentre of the strongest quake was nine kilometres below ground close to Greve in Chianti. Photo: Konrad Lawson

Italy's Chianti region hit by earthquakes

Several mini-earthquakes with a maximum magnitude of 4.1 shook Italy's famous Chianti wine region on Friday. READ  

Cocaine channeled to heart of Venice by mob
The criminal gang channel huge quantities of cocaine into Venice and the north of Italy. Photo: Rosie Scammell

Cocaine channeled to heart of Venice by mob

Police on Friday arrested ten people accused of running a cocaine trafficking operation with its criminal headquarters in the heart of Venice. READ  

Baby born in Milan to clinically dead mother
The clinically dead woman was kept on life support in intensive care. Intensive care photo: Shutterstock

Baby born in Milan to clinically dead mother

In what has been hailed a miracle, a baby boy has been born to an Italian woman pronounced clinically dead in October. READ  

Chinese firm trumps Italian bid for Club Med
Club Med first became a top name in the European tourism industry for its all-inclusive budget family villages, but has since moved up-market. Photo: Club Med

Chinese firm trumps Italian bid for Club Med

Chinese conglomerate Fosun raised its offer to buy French holiday group Club Med on Friday, as it strives to win the longest bidding war in Paris market history against an Italian tycoon. READ  

Italian president confirms resignation 'imminent'
Giorgio Napolitano reluctantly agreed to a second term as president in April 2013. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Italian president confirms resignation 'imminent'

President Giorgio Napolitano on Thursday confirmed his resignation is “imminent”, paving the way for a new head of state to be voted in early next year. READ  

Artisans cry foul as Pope shuts down scrollmakers
Paolo Pensa works on a papal parchment in the workshop Pensa Rino in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Artisans cry foul as Pope shuts down scrollmakers

Rino Pensa and son have been making papal parchments for decades, crafting hand-painted blessing scrolls in Italy which are purchased by the faithful around the world to celebrate marriages, baptisms and anniversaries. READ  

Grillo's anti-euro campaign gathers pace
Beppe Grillo holds a “Out of the euro” campaign sign in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Grillo's anti-euro campaign gathers pace

The campaign by Italy’s Five Star Movement to exit the euro currency gathered pace on Thursday, with leader Beppe Grillo announcing the party has so far gathered 50,000 signatures calling for a referendum. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
Top 10: 'Untranslatable' Italian words
Politics
Two Italian parties call for exit from euro
Gallery
How to party with Italians this Christmas
Culture
10 'Italian' dishes that don't exist in Italy
National
Disastrous olive oil harvests drive up prices
Culture
Top 10: One-hit wonders from Italy
National
Anti-mafia probe shakes Italian capital
Travel
Top 10 Christmas markets in Italy
National
'Mona Lisa was a slave from China': historian
Business & Money
Will Renzi really kick-start sclerotic Italy?
International
Italian man leaves million euro artwork on TGV
National
Italians post breast selfies 'for science'
Society
10 tips for men's winter fashion in Italy
Culture
Rome wins cameo role in new Bond film
Health
Cancer survival rates climb in Italy
National
Russian craft takes Italian astronaut to space
National
Russian fined €20,000 for defacing Colosseum
National
Mafia use tigers and parrots to wield power
National
Top ten: Italy's weirdest place names
National
Mafia 'cashes in' on Sicily's migrant influx
National
Dozens of foreigners vie for €1 homes in Sicily
Sponsored Article
Ever wanted to try out home exchange?
International
Italy: Crimean Russians won't get visas from us
National
Wild bears spark fear in Italy's north
National
Italy's immigration crisis moves to the streets
Society
Italy under pressure over Roma camps squalor
International
VIDEO: Greenpeace activist injured in Canary Islands oil clash
Vatican
Topless feminists target 'political' Pope
Education
Italy's 'rigid' education system stifles job market
Education
Italians speak better English than the French
Education
How Turin is defying Italian austerity
Travel
Top ten: great late autumn escapes in Italy
National
Quake experts cleared in 'science on trial' case
Culture
10 things you should never say to an Italian
Travel
Italy tops world favourite destination list
Gallery
Top 10: The best Italian proverbs
Opinion
Why foreigners in Italy are happier than Italians
Opinion
'Forget the baby bonus, we need investment'
National
UN fears for migrants as Italy ends rescue mission
Politics
Quiz: How well do you know Italian politics?
Culture
Ten Rome baristas who brighten your day
Business & Money
Italy bows to EU pressure over budget
Travel
Ten of the best students bars in Rome
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

504
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply