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Italy to rename airport after Berlusconi despite growing protests

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Italy to rename airport after Berlusconi despite growing protests
Silvio Berlusconi pictured in 2018. There were growing calls to cancel plans to name a Milan airport after the late former prime minister, who remains a highly controversial figure. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Italy's government was set to rename a Milan airport after Italy's scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi, despite growing calls this week for the plan to be scrapped.

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Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also transport minister and head of the populist League party, announced the name change on Friday, just over a year after Berlusconi's death.

"The final decision rests with the Minister of Transport and I am ready to sign it, with pride and emotion, in memory of my friend Silvio, great entrepreneur, great Milanese, and great Italian," Salvini said.

Milan's mayor Giuseppe Sala said on Tuesday the decision to change the name of Malpensa, one of the biggest airports in Italy, should not have been Salvini's alone.

"Can a decision of this kind be made in 24 hours?" he was quoted by the AGI Italian news agency as saying.

A petition on Change.org had since attracted almost 100,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning, calling on the government to cancel the plan to name the transport hub after "such a divisive and controversial figure".

The appeal was launched by the youth wing of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) in Lombardy, the region surrounding Milan.

Billionaire Berlusconi, who died in June last year aged 86, had strong ties to Milan but was a highly divisive figure.

While some Italians saw him as a charming, self-made man, others slammed him as an international embarrassment, particularly due to his many legal woes and sexual scandals.

The former cruise ship singer was born in the northern Italian city and built his immense fortune there.

For over 30 years he chaired AC Milan, which won the Champions League five times on his watch.

But he was also dogged by accusations he paid young starlets for their silence over his notoriously hedonistic soirees, which he always insisted were elegant dinners.

Berlusconi was sentenced in 2013 to seven years in jail for paying for sex with a 17-year-old starlet known as "Ruby the Heart-Stealer", though that conviction was later overturned.

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His second wife, Veronica Lario, divorced him in 2014, saying at the time that she could no longer tolerate his "consorting with minors".

Left-wing trade union CGIL also posted a petition on Change.org to propose naming the airport instead after Carla Fracci (1936-2021), a renowned Italian ballet dancer from Milan.

It said Fracci "transmitted elegance, style and bravura throughout the world", and appealed to authorities to "avoid choices that are sources of deep divisions".

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Caroline Judge 2024/07/11 08:22
I think that there was a bit more to Berlusconi than is mentioned in this article. He was democratically voted into government and served in 3 periods, 9 years. A charismatic character who revolutionised the media world in Italy, he was obviously going to to subject to a lot of unfounded accusations and jumped up criminal charges. That’s the way the left operate.
Penelope Hart 2024/07/10 19:02
Please start a poll to ask who is against the new name for Malpensa airport - and send to Meloni’s government. Berlusconi was a crook and should be DIS- Honoured. Malpensa is just fine as a name for an airport.
Bill Roberts 2024/07/10 18:29
Terrific. I want to know if there will be a Bunga Bunga lounge?

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