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Italy's populist governing coalition fights for survival in crisis talks: ‘Everything is fine’

Summit on Monday evening appears to show way forward to avoid early elections

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Tuesday 11 June 2019 10:57 BST
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Luigi Di Maio, Giuseppe Conte and Matteo Salvini at Chigi Palace in Rome
Luigi Di Maio, Giuseppe Conte and Matteo Salvini at Chigi Palace in Rome (Reuters)

Italy’s two governing populist parties held a crisis summit to save their administration on Monday in a bid to bridge the growing differences between the two populist outfits.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League and the country’s deputy prime minister, told reporters that “everything is fine” and that the government would continue, after the summit with his counterparts in the Five Star Movement (M5S).

Mr Salvini had met with Luigi Di Maio, the M5S’s leader, and Giuseppe Conte, the country’s M5S prime minister at the Chigi palace in Rome, the seat of Italy’s executive.

The leaders held the two-hour meeting over the direction of their government, with M5S wanting a focus on the introduction of a minimum wage, while the League wants to prioritise a flat tax.

The two parties are also at odds over who should control different ministries in the Italian government, and on their approaches to Europe. Mr Salvini’s League is seen as more open to a confrontation with Brussels over deficits, linked to his plan for tax cuts.

“I will not be the first prime minister to bring Italy against the wall of the infringement procedure,” Mr Conte warned ahead of the meeting, referring to the EU’s debt controls that could be triggered if Italy steps too far out of line.

There had been suggestions Italy could face early elections if no programme acceptable to both parties was found. After the meeting, both sides said the government would find common ground by focusing on tax cuts.

The meeting was the first between the leaders of the government since before the European elections last month – a measure of the difficult relationship between the two governing parties.

“At the summit there was a positive climate for those who want to work to the maximum for Italy. The first objective and priority at this moment is to lower taxes, and we will work for this,” said Mr Di Maio after the meeting.

Mr Salvini added: “Everything is fine at the top. Does the government go on? I never had doubts.” He said the government’s “common goal” would be “growth, the right to work and the cutting of taxes”.

The leaders are expected to meet again in the coming weeks to finalise the new programme.

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