• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Renzi calls for 'radical change' in Italy

AFP/The Local · 24 Feb 2014, 17:31

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".

Story continues below…

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
Interview
'My problem is too many ideas': Italy's couture king
Francois Guillot / AFP

Giambattista Valli says his fledgling ready-to-wear line is thriving -- thanks to spillover synergy from a haute couture operation that has made him a darling of the celebrity A-list set.

Italy orders man to buy feminist books for prostitute
An image of a customer meeting a prostitute. Photo: Italian investigators

A court in Rome has handed down an unusual penalty to the client of an underage prostitute, ordering him to buy her 30 books on the theme of women's dignity, Italian media reported Friday.

Pope holds multi-faith meeting with Nice victims
Pope Francis kisses a baby on arrival at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/ AFP

Pope Francis will on Saturday hold a multi-faith meeting of grieving relatives and survivors of an attack in France in July when a jihadist ploughed his truck into a crowd in Nice.

For one day only: €1 nighttime entry to Italy's cultural sites
Fancy getting up close and personal with David after dark? Photo

Saturday is European Heritage Day, and Italy is celebrating with €1 entry to many of its most famous sites.

The real reasons young Italians aren't having kids
Why have Italians seemingly stopped making babies? File photo: Pexels

Italy's government is campaigning to get Italians to have babies - but what are the reasons behind the slowing birthrate?

Renzi vows to restore quake towns to former glory
Amatrice, the town worst hit by the August 24th quake. Photo: AFP

"The areas will be more beautiful than before," Italy's Prime Minister promised, one month on from the earthquake.

Italy spearheads citizen drive for EU soil policy
Italian farmland. Photo: michael kooiman/Flickr

An area of fertile soil the size of Berlin is lost across the EU each year.

Italian PM dismisses idea of Rome 2024 Olympics
Happier times: Renzi announcing Rome's candidacy for the 2024 Games. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

It looks like it's all over.

Yet another earthquake strikes in central Italy
Damaged houses in Accumoli, where another earthquake has struck. Photo: AFP

Repeated aftershocks since the initial quake have made recovery difficult in the disaster-hit region.

The 300-year-old story of what makes Chianti wine so special
Chianti wine on display during the Vinitaly exhibition earlier this year. Photo: AFP

It all started with a Tuscan Duke...

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Culture
Eight things you should know about Rome's Spanish Steps
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The incredible hero dogs of Italy’s earthquake
National
Why quake-hit Amatrice will never be the same again
National
Why discontented Italians could derail their economy
Society
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Culture
Why coffee in Italy is a culture you must taste to understand
Society
The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still rich today
Culture
So why do pasta-loving Italians live such long lives?
National
Italy's Renzi prepares for stormy autumn
Society
This 104-year-old just saw the sea for the first time
National
Should Rome give up on its 2024 Olympic dream?
Society
The Italian doctor giving hope to thousands of migrants
Culture
Ten 'Italian' dishes that don't actually exist in Italy
Sport
Five Italian athletes going for gold at the Rio Olympics
Travel
Trastevere: From a fiery past to Rome’s souvenir stand
Politics
Think Trump would be a disaster? Just ask the Italians
National
How Brexit has helped to expose Italy’s banking malaise
Politics
After Brexit, keep a close eye on Italy's Five Star Movement
Lifestyle
12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Italy
National
Why Milan could be Europe's post-Brexit financial hub
Travel
Five crowd-free alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
2,529
jobs available