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POLITICS

Italian MPs slammed for claiming Covid-19 emergency welfare

Italy's political class was up in arms on Monday after reports that five lawmakers had allegedly sought to claim a "Covid Bonus" designed to help struggling Italians during the coronavirus epidemic.

Italian MPs slammed for claiming Covid-19 emergency welfare
Italy's lower house of parliament in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

First reported by La Repubblica on Saturday, then splashed across other front pages, the scandal involves five unnamed MPs who are accused of applying for the €600 per month aid.

News reports said the MPs, dubbed “i furbetti del bonus” or 'the bonus schemers' in Italian headlines, came from the opposition right-wing League party, the ruling populist Five Star Movement and the centrist Italia Viva party.

READ ALSO: Face masks remain and cruise ships return: What's in Italy's new emergency decree?

Not all the MPs who applied for the bonus received it, La Repubblica subsequently reported on Monday, saying that its sources said only three had actually got the pay-out.

“The 12,439 euro net salary each month wasn't enough. Nor were the privileges and benefits parliamentarians have historically enjoyed,” the paper wrote in its original expose.

Another 2,000 elected officials on regional and city councils also claimed the aid, according to the report.

The government aid of €600 for the months of March and April and €1,000 for the month of May was intended to help self-employed and seasonal workers affected by the coronavirus lockdown. Some €6.9 billion of the aid was distributed to Italians.

To qualify, applicants needed to have to have a partita IVA (VAT number) and to be able to demonstrate that the crisis had wiped out at least two-thirds of their usual income.

READ ALSO: 'Stopgap' or life saver?: Italy's scheme to help the self-employed survive the coronavirus crisis

The MPs' dipping into the scheme, caught by a government anti-fraud body, elicited strong reaction.

“It's shameful, really indecent,” wrote Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio of the Five Star Movement on Facebook, calling for the money to be returned and the lawmakers to step down.

The head of the League, Matteo Salvini, initially said they should resign but later called for their suspension.

The Italia Viva party, founded by former prime minister Matteo Renzi, denied that any of its parliamentarians had received the bonus.

A number of local councillors came forward to say that they too had claimed the bonus or other government support during the crisis, defending themselves on the grounds that politics wasn't their only job.

Member comments

  1. Shameful, it’s a disgrace!!
    They should be named and shamed and forced to pay all the money back. And they should be made to resign.

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POLITICS

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.

“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass
immigration.

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.

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