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POLITICS

Rome’s new mayor announces plans to ‘discourage’ car use in the city

As Roberto Gualtieri took on the mantle of mayor of Rome on Thursday, he announced plans to double paid parking spaces across the city and increase rates.

Rome's newly-elected mayor Roberto Gualtieri arrives at Rome's City Hall for a handover ceremony with outgoing mayor Virginia Raggi on October 21, 2021.
Rome's newly-elected mayor Roberto Gualtieri arrives at Rome's City Hall for a handover ceremony with outgoing mayor Virginia Raggi on October 21, 2021. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

As the capital’s newly installed leader, Gualtieri said he aims to double the 70,000 paid parking spaces currently available in the city in a staged plan that will start with eliminating almost all of Rome’s 16,800-odd free or ‘white line’ spaces, reports the news daily La Repubblica.

While exclusively residential neighbourhoods will remain largely untouched, mixed-use areas with shopping complexes will have most of their white line spaces removed, to be replaced with fee-paying ‘blue line’ spaces.

READ ALSO: Centre-left’s Roberto Gualtieri voted new mayor of Rome

“The aim is not to raise funds, but to discourage car use by linking the reform to the strengthening of public transport”, members of his team told Italian journalists.

Gualtieri, a member of the centre-left Democratic Party, beat out right-wing candidate Enrico Michetti in a run-off election held earlier in the week.

A trained historian, Gualtieri served as Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finances from 2019 to 2021, and was previously head of the European Parliament’s economic affairs committee.

He officially took over from former mayor, populist Five Star Movement’s Virginia Raggi, on Thursday morning in a formal ceremony which involved receiving a sash with the tricolour Italian flag colours.

Gualtieri and outgoing Rome mayor Virginia Raggi wave from a balcony during a handover ceremony on October 21, 2021.

Gualtieri and outgoing Rome mayor Virginia Raggi wave from a balcony during a handover ceremony on October 21st, 2021. Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

As part of his plans to free up Rome’s congested roads, Gualtieri said he plans to scrap parking season passes altogether and may authorise parking inspectors to hand out fines to drivers who double park (currently they can only issue penalties to those parked in blue line spaces without displaying a valid ticket), reports Repubblica.

Double parking or parking on pedestrian crossings is commonplace in Rome, and is rarely sanctioned by police.

The right-wing newspaper Il Giornale denounced the proposals as “a massacre against car users” in a dramatically-worded article on Thursday morning in which it described the new mayor’s plans to abolish season passes for drivers as ‘diabolical’.

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In aiming to reduce traffic congestion by improving Rome’s public transport networks, Gualtieri has his work cut out for him.

Delays are par for the course, worker strikes are common, and public buses are so old and decrepit that an average of 20 of them catch fire each year.

A 2019 study conducted by the public transport user app Moovit found that Rome’s public transport is as slow as Bogotá’s, with passengers waiting an average of 20 minutes for their ride, and 39 percent of travellers required to wait longer.

Rome’s transport woes were among the major issues that dominated the mayoral race, along with the city’s longstanding issues with waste management, potholes, and flooding.

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POLITICS

Italy’s Meloni begins tricky government talks after election win

Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni and her allies on Tuesday began what is set to be a weeks-long process of forming a new government, with crises looming on several fronts.

Italy's Meloni begins tricky government talks after election win

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, which triumphed in Sunday’s elections, has no experience of power but must assemble a cross-party team to tackle sky-high inflation and energy prices, and relations with a wary Europe.

The 45-year-old is hoping to be the first woman to lead Italy as prime minister, but needs her allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party and former Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, for a majority in parliament.

The division of the top jobs – notably economy, foreign affairs, the defence and interior ministries – will always be political but now, more than ever, “will have to reflect areas of expertise”, the Stampa daily noted.

President Sergio Mattarella will begin consultations on who should lead the new government only once the Senate and Chamber presidents have been elected by parliament, which meets on October 13th.

In the past, it has taken anything between four and 12 weeks for a new administration to take office.

But the first deadline for action is coming up fast, with Italy due to submit its draft plan for next year’s budget to Brussels by October 15th.

READ ALSO: The five biggest challenges facing Italy’s new government

The parties have said they want to make major changes, with a manifesto promising to slash taxes, roll back welfare, and “revise” the terms of Italy’s recovery fund agreement with Brussels – potentially putting the rest of the deal, worth a total of almost 200 billion euros to Italy, at risk.

EU economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said he urged “the next Italian government to ensure that this opportunity is seized”, saying the fund was key to putting Italy on a path to “strong and durable growth”.

Agnese Ortolani, senior Europe analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said she expected Meloni “to continue to reassure the markets by picking a non-controversial figure for the role of finance minister”.

“She will also want to avoid reputational damage by nominating someone who is not perceived as credible by the markets,” she said in a note.

READ ALSO: Doubts rise over ‘loose cannon’ Salvini after Italy’s election

Meloni’s allies have been pitching for heavyweight positions, Salvini wanting his old job as interior minister back, and Berlusconi eyeing president of the Senate.

Their parties’ disappointing performance in the polls, however, with neither reaching 10 percent while Brothers of Italy’s secured 26 percent, means Meloni may already be planning to sideline them.

League leader Matteo Salvini (L) and Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni are set to form a government together following the election. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Salvini and Berlusconi do not see eye-to-eye with Meloni on several fronts, including on Russia and public spending to relieve the cost of living crisis.

With all the potential friction ahead, winning the elections “was almost the easy part”, commented Luciano Fontana, chief editor of the Corriere della Sera daily.

Berlusconi downplayed concerns he would rock the boat Tuesday, claiming his party was ready to make compromises “in the country’s interests”.

His ally Antonio Tajani, a former European parliament president, is tipped as possible foreign minister, an appointment which could both appease Berlusconi and assuage international fears that Meloni’s Eurosceptic populist party plans to pick fights with Brussels.

Salvini may prove more difficult. He is currently on trial for allegedly abusing his powers as interior minister in 2019 to block migrants at sea, which some say could rule him out returning to the job.

“It won’t be an easy relationship. It’s likely that (Salvini) will be given a more marginal role in the government than he wants,” Sofia Ventura, political sciences professor at Bologna University, told the foreign press association in Rome.

“Defusing Salvini” without sparking a backlash that could weaken the government is “Meloni’s first test”, the Repubblica daily said.

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