Tag Archives: Italy

Draghi become Italy’s new Prime Minister; begins unity Gov’t.

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Politicians he met this week said he told them he is opposed to fiscal austerity, despite soaring national debt levels, given the importance of protecting social cohesion.

Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, has agreed to serve as the next prime minister of Italy and unveiled a cabinet that mixed unaffiliated technocrats with politicians from across a broad coalition.

President Sergio Mattarella asked Draghi to be prime minister after party wrangling brought down the previous administration, and set him the task of tackling the coronavirus health crisis and economic meltdown pummelling the country.

Following a week of consultations, almost all the main parties from across the political spectrum have endorsed Draghi, and on Friday he named several prominent figures from these various groups as ministers to cement their support.

Luigi Di Maio, a leader of the Five Star Movement, will remain foreign minister, while Giancarlo Giorgetti, a senior figure in the League party, will be industry minister. Andrea Orlando from the centre-left Democratic Party will be labour minister.

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Technocrats included
However, some key posts went to non-affiliated technocrats, including Daniele Franco, the director general of the Bank of Italy, who was named as economy minister and Roberto Cingolani, a physicist and IT expert, who was handed the new role of minister for green transition.

There were only eight women in the 23-strong cabinet.

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The new team will be sworn in on Saturday, opening the way for debates in both houses of parliament early next week, where Draghi will unveil his policy plans and face votes of confidence – a formality given his cross-party backing.

Draghi received a boost on Thursday when the largest group in parliament, the Five Star Movement, agreed to support the government, meaning it will have such a large majority that no single party will have the numbers to bring it down.

Draghi is tasked with tackling the coronavirus health crisis and economic meltdown pummelling Italy [Yara Nardi/Pool/Reuters]

One of the reasons so many parties have joined forces in the ruling coalition is that they all want to have a say in how Italy spends more than 200 billion euros ($242bn) it is set to receive from a European Union economic recovery fund.

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Draghi, 73, is widely credited with having saved the euro currency during his time in charge of the ECB and he will no doubt be influential now in shaping EU debate on how the bloc should engineer its economic revival.

Politicians he met this week said he told them he is opposed to fiscal austerity, despite soaring national debt levels, given the importance of protecting social cohesion.

He also honoured a pledge to create the powerful new ministry for ecological transition, which combines the environment and energy portfolios, helping win over the Five Star for whom green issues are core concerns.

Policies to fight climate change are required to be a pillar of the recovery plans to be presented by EU countries to the European Commission by April.

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Draghi has also said he will make the coronavirus vaccine programme a priority.

Italy has registered about 93,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe.

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#Newsworthy

Former Bank Boss set to be Italy’s new PM.

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An online vote on whether to take part was delayed earlier this week when M5S founder Beppe Grillo asked Draghi for more details on action he would take on the environment.

With almost all the political parties behind him, Mario Draghi on Friday entered the final straight in his bid to form a new government to lead Italy through the coronavirus pandemic.

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The former European Central Bank chief, called in after the outgoing centre-left coalition collapsed, could visit President Sergio Mattarella as early as Friday evening to be officially named prime minister.

Draghi has spent the last nine days assembling a government of national unity to manage the deadly pandemic that hit Italy almost exactly one year ago, triggering a deep recession.

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After securing the support late Thursday of the final key player, the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), Draghi has almost all the main parties on board, from leftists to the far-right League.

“The Draghi government is born,” headlined Rome-based daily Il Messaggero, while Milan’s Corriere Della Sera added: “Draghi in the home stretch.”

The 73-year-old economist must present a list of ministers when he visits Mattarella, but he has kept extremely coy, speaking in public only once since being asked to form a government.

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With the outgoing government due to hold one last cabinet meeting on Friday, there was speculation that Draghi might wait until Saturday before heading to the presidential palace.

Italy has high hopes for its new leader, dubbed Super Mario after vowing to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro single currency in the 2010s debt crisis.

Mattarella asked him to step in on February 3 after outgoing premier Giuseppe Conte resigned following weeks of political turmoil in his M5S-led coalition.

The president emphasised the urgency of moving quickly to fill the political vacuum as Italy’s Covid-19 death toll approaches 100,000 and the country battles its worst recession since World War II.

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Italy is hoping to receive more than 200 billion euros ($243 billion) in grants and loans from the European Union’s recovery fund to help it get back on its feet.

But Draghi will have to balance demands for immediate hand-outs against the need for long-term structural reforms in Italy — tensions that brought down the last government.

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Broad support
Leaders of M5S, the biggest party in parliament, had indicated early on that they would support Draghi’s efforts to form a broad-based new government — but the membership was divided.

An online vote on whether to take part was delayed earlier this week when M5S founder Beppe Grillo asked Draghi for more details on action he would take on the environment.

The vote was rescheduled for Thursday after the party claimed it had been promised a beefed-up minister “for ecological transition” — and members voted by 59.3 percent to back Draghi.

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The economist would have probably been able to form a government even without the M5S, but “it is important for him to set off with the broadest possible parliamentary majority”, noted Federico Santi, an analyst at Eurasia Group.

Italy has been without a fully functioning government for almost a month since former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party from Conte’s coalition, which also included the M5S and centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Conte eventually resigned on January 26. Mattarella gave the M5S, the PD and Renzi time to patch things up, but when that failed, called in Draghi.

Draghi’s arrival was greeted with delight on the financial markets — Italy’s borrowing costs dropped to a historic low this week — but the task facing him is huge.

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The EU is expecting Rome’s plan on how to spend the recovery funds in April, while unemployment — at 426,000 higher than one year ago — risks rising further later this year if an existing freeze on job dismissals is not extended.

Another priority is speeding up Italy’s coronavirus vaccination programme, which made a promising start in December but has since slowed, against a backdrop of rising concern about the spread of new variants.

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#Newsworthy

Former Prime Minister, Berlusconi ‘hospitalised after a fall’

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Berlusconi looked frail as he reappeared in public after months holed up in southern France, where his daughter has a villa.

Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi spent the night in hospital after an “accidental fall” at home, a spokesman for the 84-year-old billionaire said Thursday.

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Berlusconi tripped while staying at his residence in Rome, and was bruised on one side. Following the accident, he was taken to his home city of Milan for a hospital check-up.

Italian former Prime Minister and leader of center-right party Forza Italia (Go Italy), Silvio Berlusconi speaks on the set of the broadcast “Porta a Porta”, a programme of Italian channel Rai 1, on January 11, 2018 in Rome. / AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLI

“He was discharged this morning and he is at home, working, to take part in remote voting for the European Parliament,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Berlusconi, who has dominated public life in Italy since the 1980s as a businessman and three-time prime minister, was elected to the EU’s parliament in 2019.

He had travelled to Rome on Tuesday to meet former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, and offer his support to the economist as Italy’s next prime minister.

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Berlusconi looked frail as he reappeared in public after months holed up in southern France, where his daughter has a villa.

In September, the media magnate spent almost two weeks in hospital with coronavirus. He was hospitalised again for a few days in January after suffering heart problems.

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#Newsworthy

Rally spikes behind Mario Draghi in Italy Gov’t talks.

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The League will have to overcome its reluctance to work with the PD and possible reservations about Draghi personally.

Former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi on Saturday wrapped up the first round of talks aimed at forming a new Italian government, hoping to drag the country out of its economic and Covid-19 crises.

Summoned by President Sergio Mattarella this week after prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s coalition collapsed, Draghi — dubbed “Super Mario” for extricating the eurozone from its debt crisis early last decade — has already rallied some political players behind him.

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The centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the small Italia Viva outfit of centrist former premier Matteo Renzi — the man behind the collapse of the last government — had promised support, as well as Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia (FI).

On Saturday, the far-right League led by Matteo Salvini — one of two heavyweight anti-establishment parties alongside the Five Star Movement (M5S) — signalled its readiness for the economist to form Italy’s 67th government since World War II.

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“We stand ready. We are the biggest political force in the country, we are a force that should be in government… unlike some, we don’t think we can get ahead by always saying no,” Salvini said after meeting Draghi.

Italy’ Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks to media on Colonna square as he leaves Palazzo Chigi in Rome on February 4, 2021. – Former European Central Bank chief urged Italy’s splintered parties on February 3 to get behind him as he tries to form a new government amid political turmoil. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

“I prefer to be on the inside and in control,” he said.

While he did not reveal any conditions for joining a government, the former interior minister said his final decision would come after a second round of talks next week.

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‘Confidence in Europe‘ –
Time is ticking as Italy must present plans for how it will spend around 200 billion euros ($241 billion) from the EU’s pandemic recovery fund — the largest share for any single country — by the end of April.

Draghi “already has the confidence of Europe and the markets. Soon he will receive parliament’s confidence,” daily Il Corriere della Sera predicted.

Wolfango Piccoli of consulting firm Teneo agreed.

“The question has somewhat shifted from ‘if’ Draghi could form a government to ‘how’ this government will be constituted, meaning which parties will be part of the coalition.”

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Draghi’s final weekend meeting was with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), which had backed Conte to the hilt with its roughly one-third of MPs and senators.

But saying he had always worked “for the good of the country,” Conte on Thursday promised not to be an “obstacle” to Draghi and wished him “good luck!”

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The League will have to overcome its reluctance to work with the PD and possible reservations about Draghi personally.

The former central banker personifies a European elite that the nationalist, anti-immigration party and its counterparts across the bloc love to hate.

– Pandemic havoc –
After finishing his first round of talks with politicians Saturday, Draghi will meet civil society groups like unions on Monday before tackling the political parties again later next week.

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While the wrangling goes on, the European Union’s third-largest economy is ailing from the effects of coronavirus after shrinking 8.9 percent last year — one of the sharpest drops in the eurozone single-currency area.

A harsh lockdown in March and April brought activity to a near-standstill after Italy became the first European nation to suffer a coronavirus wave.

So far Italy has recorded more than 90,000 Covid-19 deaths — the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain — and 2.6 million cases.

The more contagious British coronavirus variant has also been detected in some people testing positive.

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If Draghi fails to secure a parliamentary majority or loses MPs’ backing after taking office, Italy could hold early elections, probably in June.

But Mattarella, who would make such a call, said Tuesday that he wanted to avoid going to the polls while the country suffers through its health and economic shocks.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Vatican museums reopens Monday.

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The entire country remains subject to a night-time curfew however, while table service at bars and restaurants must end at 6:00pm.

The Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel, said they will reopen on Monday after being closed for 88 days due to coronavirus restrictions — the longest closure since World War II.

The world-famous collections will open their doors to the public from Monday to Saturday, but visitors must pre-book tickets and will be given timed entry slots.

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Curators used the closure, sparked by Italian government measures introduced to stem the spread of Covid-19, to carry out maintenance and refurbishment works.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 1, 2020 people visit the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) which reopened to the public in The Vatican, while the city-state eases its lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. – (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

That included careful dusting of 15th-century frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, which normally attracts six million visitors a year.

“The Pope’s Museums await you with pleasure!” a statement said.

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The news comes amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions, with all but five Italian regions put in the low-risk “yellow” category from Monday.

That allows bars and restaurants to reopen during the day, alongside museums.

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 24, 2020 shows a view of the deserted entrance of the closed Vatican Museums in the Vatican during the lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus) pandemic. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Rome’s Colosseum and the Forum were also set to reopen on Monday, although they are to remain closed on weekends.

The Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia and regions of Umbria, Puglia and the autonomous province of South Tyrol are the only areas still subjected to tighter curbs in mid-risk “orange” zones.

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Italy was the first European country to face the full force of the pandemic early in 2020.

A nationwide lockdown, the collapse of the tourist trade and widespread closures since then have plunged the economy in a deep recession, while almost 88,000 people with the virus have died.

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#Newsworthy

Italy: PM, Conte to resign, Tuesday.

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Shortly before the announcement on Conte’s resignation, Five Star said it would stand by Conte.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte intends to hand in his resignation to the president on Tuesday after a morning cabinet meeting to inform his ministers, according to his office.

The prime minister, who has been in office since June 2018, hopes President Sergio Mattarella will give him a mandate to form a new government with broader backing in Parliament, according to media reports.

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Conte lost his majority in the upper-house Senate last week when the centrist Italia Viva party led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi quit the country’s coalition government in a dispute over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession.

The prime minister’s office said in a statement Conte “will inform his ministers of his intention to resign” at a meeting convened for 9am (08:00 GMT). “He will then go to see President Sergio Mattarella,” it added.

Mattarella, as head of state, can accept the resignation, possibly asking the prime minister to try to form a more solid coalition that can command a majority in Parliament. The president could also reject the offer. But he has frequently stressed the need for the nation to have solid leadership as it struggles with the pandemic, with its devastating effects on Italy’s long-stagnant economy.

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Conte, a lawyer and university professor, has led a long-bickering centre-left coalition for 16 months. Before that, for 15 months, he headed a government still with the populist Five Star Movement, the parliament’s largest party, but in coalition with the right-wing League party of Matteo Salvini. That first government collapsed when Salvini withdrew his support in a failed bid to become prime minister himself.

Italy has had 66 governments since World War II and administrations are regularly ripped up and then pieced back together in tortuous, behind-the-scenes talks that open the way for cabinet reshuffles and policy reviews.

However, once a prime minister resigns, there is no guarantee that a new coalition can form, and always a risk that early elections might end up as the only viable solution.

Earlier, MPs in the prime minister’s own coalition warned he would face defeat in Parliament this week in a vote over a contested report on the justice system, which could only be averted by handing his resignation.

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Conte had resisted resigning so far for fear that he might not be reappointed. Instead, he tried to draw wavering senators into his camp with vague promises of a new government pact and possible ministerial positions.

However, his efforts have floundered and MPs from the co-ruling Democratic Party (PD) said he needed to stand down and open formal negotiations in order to win time to create a new coalition.

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Trying to allay his fears of a political imbroglio, PD MPs said they would support him to lead a new cabinet.

No affiliation

Conte has no direct party affiliation but is close to the largest coalition group, the Five Star Movement.

“We remain at Conte’s side,” said a statement from the party’s leaders in both parliamentary houses, Davide Crippa and Ettore Licheri.

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It has also made clear that it does not want any attempt at reconciling with Renzi.

“He is a problem and cannot be part of the solution,” said Stefano Patuanelli, industry minister and a Five Star politician.

Renzi has indicated he would return to the coalition on the condition that Conte accepted a string of demands.

Looking to put pressure on waverers, the main ruling parties have warned that snap elections – two years ahead of schedule – will be the only way out of the impasse unless a solution is rapidly found.

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A recent reform cut by one-third the number of parliamentary seats up for grabs at the next national ballot, meaning that many of the current MPs are unlikely to win re-election, whatever the result.

This means that there will be no rush in Parliament for a vote, putting pressure on party leaders to find a compromise.

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#Newsworthy

Sciatica forces Pope Francis to skip New Year masses

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The chronic nerve condition that causes hip pain for the 84-year-old meant that “celebrations this evening and tomorrow morning… will not be led by the Holy Father,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.

Pope Francis will be unable to celebrate New Year’s masses Thursday evening and Friday morning at St Peter’s Basilica because he is suffering from sciatica, the Vatican announced.

Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will celebrate the vespers on Thursday, while Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin — the pope’s right-hand man — will preside over the New Year’s Day mass, Bruni said.

Later Friday, the pontiff will lead the Angelus prayer from the library in the Apostolic Palace “as planned”, the spokesman said.

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Shortly before Christmas, two cardinals in the pope’s entourage contracted Covid-19, raising fears that Francis, who rarely wears a mask, risked infection.

In addition to the Argentinian-born pope’s official events reported by the Holy See’s press office, he also has many private meetings at the Vatican’s guest house Santa Marta, where he lives.

During Italy’s first lockdown in March, Francis initially delivered his Sunday Angelus prayers from the Vatican library instead of his usual window overlooking crowds on Saint Peter’s Square.

The restriction prompted him to say he felt “caged”, and he made several brief appearances at the window, greeting the few people who ventured out into the vast square.

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The pope has a risk factor for Covid aside from his advanced age. When he was 21 years old in 1957, he suffered from severe pleurisy, requiring surgery to remove part of his right lung, according to biographer Austen Ivereigh.

The Vatican has not yet indicated when the pope may be vaccinated against Covid-19.

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#Newsworthy

Paulo Dybala could join Pochettino at new Club

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The operation would cost around 60 million euros. This is not the only market target the coach has reportedly proposed.

Tuttosport says that one of Mauricio Pochettino’s requests in view of his imminent arrival at PSG is to sign Paulo Dybala from Juventus.

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PSG is about to begin a new phase with Mauricio Pochettino at the helm and ‘Tuttosport’ revealed one of their requests, probably the most demanding: Paulo Dybala.

His incorporation could be closed for about 60 million euros to tidy up the coach’s sports planning.

This situation is remarkable, as the Parisian team already has in its ranks one of the most promising young strikers on the planet, Kylian Mbappé.

Perhaps the arrival of the current Juventus striker will open the door for the Frenchman, who has no shortage of suitors.

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In economic terms, the offer referred to by the source mentioned in the first paragraph is higher than the player’s current market value. As estimated by the parameters of ‘ProFootballDB’, it is 41 million euros. He is committed to Juve until 2022, so his club has the upper hand.

And are there any other requests from Pochettino to the board? Yes, it has already been leaked that Dele Alli and Eriksen may be some of the coach’s ideas to rekindle the flame of a project that has already agreed to the dismissal of Thomas Tuchel. The new PSG could have an Argentinean accent.

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#Newsworthy

[Italy] Boat conveying nearly 370 migrants reaches Lampedusa.

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A fishing boat carrying nearly 370 migrants landed overnight on the Italian island of Lampedusa, the country’s news agencies reported on Sunday, as a nearby humanitarian ship carrying another 350 people sought a port of disembarkation.

Italy has been struggling in recent months to deal with daily arrivals of hundreds of migrants to its southern shores, a task complicated by security measures imposed by the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The boat carrying 367 people, which was in danger of sinking due to high winds, was escorted by the Italian coast guard and police to the island’s port, ANSA news agency said.

They were met at the port by a demonstration organised by the far-right, anti-immigrant League party.

The migrants, whose nationalities were not known, underwent temperature checks before they were taken to an emergency reception centre on the island which now houses some 1,160 people, 10 times its maximum capacity, Lampedusa’s mayor, Toto Martello, told ANSA.

About 30 other small boats, mostly from the Tunisian coast, had already reached the island since Friday carrying some 500 migrants, the Italian press reported.

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“Lampedusa can no longer cope with this situation. Either the government takes immediate decisions or the whole island will go on strike. We can’t manage the emergency and the situation is now really unsustainable,” Martello told ANSA.

Nello Musumeci, the right-leaning leader of sister island Sicily, on Sunday wrote on Facebook that he would ask the government for a meeting on the “humanitarian and health crisis”.

“Lampedusa can’t do it anymore. Sicily cannot continue to pay for the indifference of Brussels and the silence of Rome,” he wrote.

– ‘Traumatic injuries’ –

The Italian coast guard on Saturday also transported 49 people who had been rescued in the Mediterranean by the MV Louise Michel, a vessel funded by the street artist Banksy.

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The 150 other passengers on that ship were transferred late Saturday to the humanitarian rescue boat Sea-Watch 4, which now has some 350 people on board and is looking for a port of disembarkation.

The crew of the vessel chartered by German NGO Sea Watch and medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) wrote on Twitter that it was treating people for “fuel burns, dehydration, hypothermia & traumatic injuries”.

The German-flagged Louise Michel had said it needed aid after helping a boat carrying at least one dead migrant in the sea that divides Africa and Europe.

Its crew said the 31-metre (101-foot) ship had become overcrowded and unable to move, warning that some of the migrants had fuel burns and had been at sea for days.

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The rescued migrants later said three people had died at sea before the arrival of the Louise Michel.

Banksy, who keeps his identity a secret, explained in an online video that he had bought the boat to help migrants “because EU authorities deliberately ignore distress calls from non-Europeans”.

Thousands of people are thought to have died making the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean to flee conflict, repression and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, attempts by migrant boats to cross the Mediterranean into Europe have increased this year, up 91 percent from January to July over last year’s figures, to more than 14,000 people.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: First volunteer receives Italian vaccine.

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An Italian hospital said on Monday it had inoculated a first volunteer with an anti-COVID-19 vaccine as part of human trials expected to last six months.

The woman, in her 50s, received the first dose developed by Rome-based biotech company ReiThera at the capital’s Spallanzani Institute for infectious diseases.

The trials, developed between ReiThera and Spallanzani researchers, will be carried out on 90 volunteers divided into groups by age to test the efficacy of different dosages of the vaccine, developed since March.

If the first results of Phase 1 of the human trials prove positive, researchers say they will be able to proceed to phases 2 and 3 by the end of the year, on a larger number of volunteers even outside of Italy.

The vaccine has already passed pre-clinical tests on animal models.

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“It will take at least 24 weeks to complete phase I human trials of the vaccine,” said Giuseppe Ippolito, the institute’s scientific director.

Countries are racing to develop their own vaccines against the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 800,000 people around the globe.

“Having an Italian vaccine means not being slaves and servants of other countries that will say ‘Me first’,” said Ippolito, who said he hoped the vaccine would be ready for use by spring 2021.

ReiThera is a subsidiary of Swiss company Keires.


#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Cases in Italy rising.

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Italy recorded more than 1,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the worst daily figure since lockdown was lifted in May, the health ministry reported on Saturday.

Officials in Rome said the capital region recorded 215 new coronavirus infections in the same period mainly because of people returning from holiday, the biggest such rise since lockdown in March.

The health ministry said Italy recorded 1,071 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the last day and three deaths, for the first time crossing the threshold of 1,000 infections since May 12.

It marks a relentless uptick in cases in the last few days, from 947 on Friday, 845 on Thursday and 642 on Wednesday.

People wearing a face mask walk along the Via del Corso main shopping street on August 20, 2020 in Rome during the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

The figure of 215 for Rome is a record, more than the 208 people were infected in a one-day period on March 28, when Rome had come to a virtual standstill to stop the coronavirus spreading, the capital’s health official Alessio D’Amato said.

“Sixty-one percent (of the cases) are linked to people returning from vacation,” D’Amato said, almost half the cases were returning from the island of Sardinia.

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Sardinia had been spared the first wave earlier this year but D’Amato said the movement of tourists and people partying had helped spread the virus.

Francesco Vaia, director of Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital specialising in infectious diseases, told Italian media “the solution is to do tests on departing boats, planes and trains. This is the only way to prevent the virus spreading”.

D’Amato said most of those infected were young people who were not showing symptoms and it was urgent to “block the chain of transmission as fast as possible by finding the asymptomatic and averting the spread of the virus among families.

“Be very careful especially with your relatives and the people dearest to you,” he said in an appeal to the young.

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He warned them to stay at home and not meet up with people while awaiting test results. “Don’t feel invincible,” he urged them.

Italy — particularly the northern Lombardy region, the Venice area and Rome — are seeing a resurgence in the virus over the summer.

The Italian government has taken several steps to block the spread, such as closing nightclubs since August 17 and making mask wearing compulsory in busy public spaces between 6 pm and 6 am.

Since the pandemic erupted, Italy has recorded more than 257,000 cases, including more than 35,000 dead.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Italian discos sow discord.

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“Put your masks on!” repeats the DJ, shouting vainly into his microphone, but the dancers below, dripping in sweat, don’t seem to care.


On a recent night at the Kiki nightclub in Ostia, a popular seaside resort on the outskirts of Rome, the coronavirus threat seems both distant and yet very present.

During a night for over-50s at this open-air disco on Ostia’s beachfront, the rules are well known: a mask is mandatory, and dancing must be done at least one metre from a partner.

“Who cares about all that,” laughed one partygoer, Claudio, his belly jutting forward and shirt wide open. With his mask in his pocket, he boogies alone, not to respect social distancing but because his friends are chatting elsewhere.

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Around him, the approximately 200 to 300 party-goers dance to the blaring electro music, many without masks as they flirt, laugh and drink gin and tonics in the heat.

It takes the weary insistence of the staff, the calls of the DJ and a rumour of a possible police raid to get the crowd to comply begrudgingly and cover their faces.

– Party pooper –
While the threat of a second wave of coronavirus looms nearer in several European countries, such as Spain, Italy is trying to stem new infections in the middle of “Ferragosto”, the sacrosanct holiday weekend of August 15.

On Sunday, after a period of arm wrestling between the government and regions over the thorny issue of discos, Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed a decree suspending their operation.

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The new rules go into effect on Monday, giving partygoers one last weekend night to celebrate.

An airport cleaning staff, wearing a respiratory mask (C), controls baskets at Rome’s Fiumicino international airport March 13, 2020.. Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

Closed establishments had already been prohibited from operating but regions had the discretion to decide whether or not to allow open-air clubs.

Calabria, for one, had ordered the closure of all dance venues while Sardinia had kept them open. Some, like Veneto to the north, mandated reduced occupancy.

Already, traditional rites of summer have been altered. Bonfires on the beach and a traditional midnight jump into the sea at Ferragosto were banned this year.

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The topic was politically sensitive, as authorities don’t want to appear to be punishing Italians during well-deserved summer holidays after a gruelling lockdown that was largely respected.

The sector employs nearly 50,000 people in 3,000 nightclubs around the country, according to the nightclub operators’ union (SILB).

– Wild and free? –
Images of crowds of young holiday-goers dancing and drinking at night have been plastered on the front pages of Italian newspapers.

“The contagion is on the rise but we’re dancing,” proclaimed the Corriere Della Sera, which slammed Sardinia’s clubs as being “joyful contagion machines”.

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At the establishment Manila Beach in Fregene, on the coast outside Rome, party organiser Gianluca Skiki said his venue, which normally welcomes up to 2,000 customers on its beach, had to make do with 250.

Despite some semblances of a nightclub — a DJ, sequined miniskirts and high heels worn by some — the experience appeared odd. Couples were sitting at tables with distance between them to eat, and were instructed to dance only in front of their tables.

“If the police come, everyone has to be at their table,” Skiki explained. “There’s no real nightclub here any more, it’s about the only thing we’re allowed to organise.”

He acknowledged the experience fell short of the carefree, wild parties of the past.


#Newsworthy…

Stunning New Genoa bridge ‘inaugurated’ two years after collapse

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Italy inaugurates a sleek new bridge in Genoa on Monday, though relatives of the 43 people killed when the old viaduct collapsed say the pomp and ceremony risk overshadowing the tragedy.

Jets trailing the colours of the Italian flag will roar overhead as the national anthem plays, almost two years to the day the Morandi highway gave way during heavy rain, hurling dozens of cars and several trucks onto railway tracks below.

President Sergio Mattarella will be the first to officially cross the new bridge, designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, who gave it a curved, gleaming underbelly evoking the hull of a ship in tribute to Genoa’s maritime history.

The names of the victims will be read aloud — though many of their loved ones will not be present.

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“We won’t be at the inauguration, we don’t want the tragedy to be transformed into a carnival,” said Egle Possetti, whose sister died in the August 14, 2018 disaster along with her husband and their two children.

“You can have this sort of big party if you knock down the bridge because it’s old, you build a new one, and no one’s died.”

The Morandi bridge had been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance, and its collapse threw the spotlight on Italy’s creaking infrastructure.

The tragedy also ended the longstanding concession of highway maintenance by a company majority-owned by the powerful Benetton family.

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The new high-tech structure will have four maintenance robots running along its length to spot weathering or erosion, as well as a special dehumidification system to limit corrosion.

It is expected to open to traffic on Tuesday or Wednesday.

– ‘An atrocious sight’ –

Architect Piano, a Genoa native whose building designs include the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and The Shard in London, has described his new creation as a “child born of tragedy”.

The Italian Air Force acrobatic unit Frecce Tricolori (Tricolored Arrows) perform past the new San Giorgio bridge on the inauguration day on August 3 , 2020 in Genoa. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

“It was horrific. I remember the sounds, the smells, terrible things,” said Silvano Ruffoni, one of the first paramedics on the scene when, at just after 11:30 am, some 250 metres (820 feet) of the vast concrete structure crumbled into the void.

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“We were met by such an atrocious sight. The bridge was gone. We were thunderstruck,” he said in an interview with the local daily Il Secolo XIX last week.

The new viaduct, he said, was “a sign of rebirth”.

But Possetti, who is a spokeswoman for a victims’ relatives group, said she would “never cross that bridge”.

“How could you be there and not think of everything that happened, and that destroyed your family,” she told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

The Morandi was hailed a marvel of engineering when it opened in 1967, but an investigation into the disaster found it was neglected.

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Autostrade, which runs almost half of Italy’s motorway network, has been accused of failing to maintain it properly, amid allegations of falsified safety reports and in-house pressure to slash maintenance costs.

A wide angle view shows the Italian Air Force acrobatic unit Frecce Tricolori (Tricolored Arrows) performing over the new San Giorgio bridge on its inauguration day on August 3, 2020 in Genoa. 
Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Atlantia, the parent group of Autostrade, is controlled by the wealthy Benetton family, which finally bowed to pressure last month to relinquish control of its besmirched toll-road operator, which will be nationalised.

Autostrade is under investigation, along with several transport ministry officials, for culpable homicide.

The preliminary probe is due to wind up in October, before a trial begins early next year, Possetti said.


#Newsworthy…

Breaking: Italian prosecutors seek 8-years jail term for Shell & Eni executives

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Italian prosecutors are seeking a jail term for oil majors, Eni and Shell, and some of their present and former executives, including Eni CEO, Claudio Descalzi, over their alleged involvement in a long-running trial over alleged corruption in Nigeria.

In a Milan court on Tuesday, prosecutors alleged that the two oil companies acquired a Nigerian oilfield in 2011, knowing most of the 1.3 billion dollar purchase price would go to politicians and middlemen in bribes.

The prosecutors, therefore, asked the court to pronounce an eight-year prison term for Descalzi and seven years and four months for shell’s former head of upstream Malcolm Brinded.

They are also seeking a fine of 900,000 Euros each and sought to confiscate a total of $1.092 billion from all the defendants in the case, the equivalent of the bribes alleged to have been paid.

The companies and individuals accused in the case have all denied wrongdoing in the case.


#Newsworthy ..

Italy’s Foreign Minister lands Libya

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Italy’s foreign minister made a lightening trip to Libya on Wednesday amid a flaring conflict between a UN-recognised government in the west and eastern-based forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Luigi Di Maio was due to meet the head of Tripoli’s Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj, as well as the interior minister and his foreign affairs counterpart, Italian agencies Agi and Ansa said.

Rome considers Libya “a priority… our most important issue, which concerns our national security,” according to an unnamed ministry source, cited by the Messaggero daily.

“We can’t afford a partition of the country. That is why we went first to Ankara, a (diplomatic) channel we’ve always kept open,” the source said, referring to Di Maio’s trip to Turkey on June 19.

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He last visited Libya in January.

During his Wednesday visit Di Maio is set to examine an amended “memorandum” of cooperation between the two countries over migration, the Repubblica said.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longt-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The Arab League on Tuesday called for the withdrawal of foreign forces in Libya and urged talks on ending the conflict in the north African country.

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The Turkish-backed GNA has recently made major military gains against Haftar’s forces, who have sought to regain control over the west in an abortive attempt to seize Tripoli.

Egypt, which supports Haftar, has warned that advances by Turkey-backed forces on the strategic Libyan city of Sirte could prompt an Egyptian military intervention.

The GNA denounced Cairo’s statements as a “declaration of war”.

Besides Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia back Haftar’s forces.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Invest in Trado-Medical experts – Nigerian Govt plead.

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A trado-medical expert, Alhaji Hassan Ajeigbe, has urged the government to look for local solutions in the fight against COVID-19 in the country.

According to him, trado-medical experts should be consulted to combat the pandemic which now has 1532 cases in Nigeria.

He also advised the government to divert some of the funds spent on testing kits to equip trado-medical experts in researching on the virus towards a cure.

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“Sometimes, we do not appreciate what we have and view it as less important. I will suggest that traditional doctors should be involved in the fight against Coronavirus.

“We should invest in traditional medicine and encourage its practitioners to come up with a cure for some deadly diseases. We can achieve it if giving necessary backing,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

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Ramsey reveals Ronaldo helps him settle in at Juventus


Aaron Ramsey has revealed how five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo helped him settle in at Juventus.

The Wales midfielder joined the Portuguese legend at the Serie A side following his free transfer from Arsenal last summer.

And Ramsey received a warm welcome from Ronaldo at his first training session with the Turin giants.

Ramsey, 29, told The Sun: ‘He’s a great person as well as an unbelievable player and one of the best in history.

‘For example, the first time I had a training session at the club, I went into the canteen and he said, ‘Come and sit by me’.

‘We just started talking immediately and he made me feel at ease straight away as did the rest of the team.

‘That’s a little insight into the sort of guy he is. I don’t need to tell you about his footballing ability or the records he has but I can tell you that he’s a great guy, he loves his team-mates and he gives everything in training.’
Ramsey has his sights set on lifting his first title with leaders JUve when the Serie A campaign resumes after the coronaviris lockdown.

But Ramsey, who started his career at Cardiff, has opened the door to returning to the Welsh capital after life in Turin.

Ramsey added on his own Instagram Live: ‘Cardiff will always hold a special place in my heart. Who knows what the future may hold? So yes, why not?

‘I grew up and started my career there and they helped me become a professional footballer so why not?’


#NobleSports

Sarri ‘not fully convinced by Rabiot’ but Juve don’t plan to sell the midfielder


Juventus have decided what to do with French midfielder Adrien Rabiot, according to a report from Italian media outlet Calciomercato.com today.

The report details how the 25-year-old Frenchman, who is contracted to the Bianconeri until 2023, has struggled to settle in Italy in his first season. The player failed to earn consistent minutes at the start of the season, before finally becoming a starter in December.


However, coach Maurizio Sarri is not fully convinced by Rabiot’s performances and wants reinforcements to the department in the summer.

Rabiot is not worth selling for the Old Lady, the report continues. The player’s value has plummeted over the last two years and even selling him now wouldn’t earn back the money Juve invested in him. The club are still looking for new midfielders and Rabiot’s position will be evaluated over time, although he is not expected to play the main role next season.


#NobleSports

Coronavirus cases continue to fall as another 578 people die in Italy.


Another 578 people have died in Italy over the last 24 hours after contracting COVID-19, but the number of new cases and intensive care admissions continue to fall.

In the daily press conference, it was confirmed the death toll is now 21,645.


There are currently 3,079 patients in intensive care, a drop of 107 from yesterday, which puts less pressure on the healthcare providers and allows them to focus more individual treatment.

In total, there are 27,643 people in hospital, a drop of 368 over the last 24 hours.


The people who have tested positive and are in self-isolation, so do not require hospital treatment, now stand at 74,696, which is 71 per cent of the total.

Another 962 patients were given the all-clear, meaning 38,092 have now recovered from the virus.

Since the start of the crisis, 1,117,404 tests have been performed.


#Newsworthy

Juventus to rival Barca and Man City in pursuit of PSG’s ‘new Verratti’


Paris Saint-Germain made the first move, snatching two very talented guys in Xavi Simons and Kays Ruiz-Atil. Now, Barcelona are ready for revenge by signing Edouard Michut, already dubbed as the “new Verratti” in France. Slim physique and a great technical ability to play close to the defence.

The 17-year-old grew up in the academies of FC Le Chesnay and then FC Versailles, before being discovered by PSG observers at the age of 13. Michut is considered a very complete midfielder from a tactical point of view, being able to play in more than just one role.


Recently, as Calciomercato have learned, there have been scouts from Barcelona to observe the youngster, who is yet to sign a professional agreement with the French side and the current contract expires in 2021. As a result of this, he could leave for almost negligible economic compensation.

This is a situation that Manchester City, Valencia and Juventus are perfectly aware of, rivalling the Catalan side. The Bianconeri have excellent relations with PSG (not forgetting the recent talks for De Sciglio, Kurzawa, Meunier, Dybala and Pjanic) and Michut is on their wish list.


#NobleSports

Lautaro Martinez funds local hospitals


Inter forward Lautaro Martinez has made a huge donation of medical equipment and personal protective clothing to the hospitals in his hometown of Bahia Blanca.

The Argentina international went directly to the hospitals with two different sets of donations.


The first was delivered at the start of the month and a second batch arrived today, as confirmed by the Mayor of Bahia Blanca, Hector Gay.

Between the two sets, Lautaro Martinez, girlfriend Agustina Gandolfo and their families provided 4,350 litres of hand sanitiser, 1,000 pairs of rubber gloves, 6,500 coveralls, 3,800 masks and 7,000 visors.


Italy and specifically Lombardy have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, but so far it is relatively at bay in Argentina.

Recibimos la segunda parte de las donaciones de Lautaro Martínez, su pareja Agustina Gandolfo y su familia, para los Hospitales Municipal y Penna. Llegaron 3500 camisolines, 1000 litros de alcohol en gel, 1000 cofias, 3800 barbijos sanitarios y guantes de látex. ¡Gracias! pic.twitter.com/KPOWNJD7mW


#NobleSports

Calhanoglu ‘wants to renew with Milan but Rossenneri unsure whether to keep him’


Calhanoglu’s future at Milan will be decided in the next few weeks, Calciomercato says.

The attacking midfielder wants to renew his deal, which expires in 2021, but Milan are unsure if they want to keep him.

The club will make a decision after they find a new coach, with Ralf Rangnick the top candidate. If the German takes charge, there is a good chance Calhanoglu will stay.


#NobleSports

Inter ‘Rejected Firpo, Rakitic & Semedo’ In A Possible Deal For Lautaro


Inter have already rejected Barcelona trio Nelson Semedo, Junior Firpo and Ivan Rakitic as possible makeweights in a possible deal for Lautaro Martinez, according to NobleSports reliable source.

Antonio Conte, the Inter coach, is not interest in any of the three players as he builds for next season, although he is open to other players in the Barça squad as the Catalans look to bring down the Argentine’s 111 million euros price tag.


According to the same report, Barça offered Semedo, Junior and Rakitic as part of the initial negotiations with the Serie A club, but failed to achieve a breakthrough.

Inter, though, are still demanding a huge price Lautaro, although they would accept it in installments. Barça continue to insist on the idea of including players to bring the cost down. The most interesting player for Inter could be Arturo Vidal.


Barça have put Ivan Rakitic on the transfer market (he seems to only want to move to Sevilla), along with Junior (there is interest in Italy) and Semedo (Manchester City have suggested a swap deal for Joao Cancelo)

However, Barça to have other players in mind to use in a player plus cash deal and it seems that the negotiations are about to move into the definitive stage.


#NobleSports