Italy delays private beach reform in defiance of EU rules

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Italy delays private beach reform in defiance of EU rules
Vacationers swim and sunbathe at a private beach near Santa Margherita Ligure, southern Genova, on August 11, 2011. Photo by OLIVIER MORIN / AFP.

Italy's parliament has voted to postpone an EU-mandated overhaul of its private beach concessions system, putting the Meloni government at odds with Brussels.


Holders of Italy's private beach concessions were given cause to celebrate last week, after Italian parliament passed a bill that extends ongoing licences until at least the end of 2024. 

The concessions, which have been automatically renewed since 1992, were due to expire on December 31st, 2023 - but under the 'Milleproroghe' decree approved by the lower house on Friday, the reform will be delayed by a year.

The decree also provides for a further extension to the end of 2025 for municipalities that have difficulty conducting the tender process due to disputes or lack of personnel, and blocks all tenders until July 27th.


The move flies in the face of an EU directive to put Italy's beach resorts up for tender in order to bring fair competition to a sector widely considered to be mired in secrecy and corruption.

Permits to manage the country's lucrative private beach resorts, which take up an estimated 50 percent of Italy's 8,000km-long coastline, often stay in the same family and are passed from one generation to the next with little to no oversight - opening the door to tax fraud and, sometimes, criminal activity.

READ ALSO: Italy’s private beaches to face public tender in tax fraud crackdown

The Meloni government's decision was not unexpected; before coming to power, her Brothers of Italy party had consistently voted against implementing the EU's rules, and during her electoral campaign last year she criticised those who wanted to push competition on small businesses.

Matteo Salvini, Meloni's coalition partner and co-deputy prime minister, has also long courted beach resort managers, and his party's opposition to the directive put him at odds with the previous coalition government headed by Mario Draghi.

READ ALSO: Why are so many of Italy’s beaches privatised?

The Meloni government defended its choice by saying it needs more time to map all the beach concessions available and to decide how the directive should be implemented.

Fabrizio Licordari, president of the beach association Assobalneari Italia, told reporters that the government was protecting Italian companies and he was proud of them for not "submitting to Brussel's diktats that Italy is all too familiar with."

But Italy's President Sergio Mattarella was highly critical of the move, saying it put Italy in violation of EU regulations.




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