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ENERGY

Fuel crisis: Italy braces for delays as truck deliveries suspended from Monday

Italy’s road haulage companies said they will suspend services across the country from Monday, March 14th, due to the recent “explosion” in fuel costs.

Fuel crisis: Italy braces for delays as truck deliveries suspended from Monday
Trucks on a motorway near Rome during a previous nationwide strike against high fuel prices in 2007. Haulage companies are suspending work and organising protests this week over the recent surge in fuel costs. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

Italian haulage industry union Trasportiunito said that the planned action was not a strike, but an “inevitable” suspension of services due to “force majeure” – namely the soaring cost of fuel, according to Italian media reports.

In a letter sent to the government this week, the union said it was coordinating action taken by hauliers who “are no longer able to guarantee contractual obligations” due to fuel prices, reported Italy’s Ansa news agency.

Petrol and gas prices have skyrocketed across Europe since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including in Italy.

READ ALSO: Italy announces plan to end reliance on Russian gas by 2025

It is not known how long the suspension might last, but industry associations warned of price rises if the government did not intervene to slash the cost of fuel.

Consumer watchdog Codacons told Ansa the hauliers’ actions would lead to a “surge” in retail prices that would cause further difficulties for households already struggling with the soaring cost of energy.

“The road transport block will have direct effects on the community, suspending the supply of goods to the commercial sector and leading to a surge in retail prices in shops and supermarkets,” said Codacons president Carlo Rienzi.

He said this was “an inevitable consequence, considering that 85 percent of goods sold in Italy are transported by road”.

Rienzi said it was “not clear what the government was waiting for”, calling for it to “immediately cancel VAT on petrol and diesel and reduce excise duties”.

Luigi Barone, of the Italian Federation of Organisations for Consortia and Industrialisation (FICEI), told Euronews on Friday that haulage was among the “numerous energy-intensive companies” that “have slowed down their production due to the disproportionate increase in energy costs.”

“It is clear that the higher costs, unfortunately, will filter to the consumer who will find it a double drain: the doubling of bills will increase the cost of numerous foodstuffs on the shelves,” he said.

Truck drivers are also planning to hold demonstrations around the country on Saturday, March 19th.

Though the demonstrations and stoppages are expected to cause price rises, Italy’s supermarket bosses insisted that there is no immediate threat to supply chains after rumours of a transport blockade of ports in Sardinia reportedly prompted panic-buying on the island this week. 

Unions meanwhile stressed that reports of a planned blockade in Sardinia were untrue, saying such a measure would be illegal.

“Blocking basic necessities is a crime, it is not possible to deprive the population of primary goods,” the general secretary of trade union Filt-Cgil, Arnaldo Boeddu, told newspaper Il Messaggero.

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ENERGY

Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

As the European energy crisis continues, some cities in Italy have chosen to save on electricity by downsizing regular Christmas displays, thus making this year’s festivities a little less flashy.

Lights out: How Christmas in Italy will be different this year

With less than a month to go until the Christmas holidays, many might be rejoicing at the prospect of finally seeing their cities lit up by dazzling Christmas displays.

But, as the European energy crisis shows no sign of abating and many cities across the boot keep struggling to square their accounts in the face of soaring bills, some residents may be disappointed to know that this year’s festive decorations might differ from the norm.

Milan, Italy’s economic capital, was one of the very first Italian cities to announce it would significantly reduce Christmas displays to save on energy.

READ ALSO: Lights off and home working: Milan’s new energy-saving plan for winter 

After reports emerged in early October that the city would end up spending a whopping €130 million on energy bills alone in 2022, Milan’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala, was quick to warn residents that Christmas decorations would be “restrained” and operate “for shorter periods of time”.

And, it wasn’t long before Sala made good on his promises. 

Earlier this month, the city’s authorities agreed on putting up decorations and light displays on December 7th (that is over two weeks after the usual date) and taking them down on January 6th instead of late January. 

Christmas lights in the streets of central Milan

Christmas lights in Milan will be switched on on December 7th, that is over two weeks after the usual switch-on date. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Also, while in previous years Milan’s city centre was illuminated overnight, this year’s Christmas lights will be switched on at 4pm and switched off at midnight. 

But, while Milan residents might be slightly dissatisfied with the new arrangements, they sure have little to complain about when compared to Rome residents. 

It’ll be a dark Christmas (literally and, perhaps, even figuratively) for most areas of the Eternal City and not merely because of the current energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: Energy crisis: The Italians reviving ‘nonna’s’ traditions to keep costs down

The city’s tender for this year’s Christmas lights contract received no bids before its deadline on October 27th, which means that, in many neighbourhoods, festive decorations will be largely left to the goodwill and financial means of the residents.

So while the popular Piazza di Spagna, Porta Pia and Via Alessandria will light up over the holiday season thanks to private funding, the San Giovanni and Tuscolano neighbourhoods and Via Cola di Rienzo are currently expected to remain au naturel.

Christmas light in a street in Rome

Many areas of the capital, Rome, will be without lights this year due to lack of funding. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Things will generally be better in Venice and Florence, where local authorities have recently chosen to maintain their usual arrangements, the only exception being the replacement of regular lights with energy-efficient, LED ones. 

So, while the lighting might be a little softer and displays might not be as remarkable as in previous years, both cities should be able to deal with late-December energy bills more comfortably than they would have had to do otherwise.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Italy has avoided a huge hike in gas prices – for now 

Having said that, not all Italian cities have decided to resize their Christmas offerings on the back of eye-watering electricity prices. 

Naples, which has long been known for the extravagance of its Christmas and New Year celebrations, has seemingly chosen to turn a blind eye to the energy crisis and will allocate as much as €1.5 million (that’s €150,000 to each one of the ten local municipalities) to this year’s displays.

Unsurprisingly, the comune’s decision has been drawing widespread criticism, with many local political figures pointing out that part, if not most, of the above-mentioned amount should have been spent elsewhere, perhaps in the form of a one-off ‘Christmas bonus’ for struggling households and businesses.

The available money should have been used to “turn off the crisis and light up people’s hearts”, city councillors Antonio Culiers and Francesco Flores said in a joint statement earlier this month.

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