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MNI (London)
By Silvia Marchetti
     ROME (MNI) - Italy's role at the upcoming European Council will be limited,
although the newly-installed Lega-5 Star Movement coalition government will
start its negative, 'counter-reform' push, MNI understands.
     The new government will use the Brussels gathering to start advocating for
an overhaul of all existing rules and treaties to recover lost sovereignty on
key issues. They also aim to give monetary union -- and specifically euro
governance -- a major restyle, Lega sources have told MNI.
     Lega leader Matteo Salvini -- deputy premier and interior minister in the
new government -- has pledged to use an iron fist against migrants and
dismantle, not just change, the Dublin Treaty on incoming refugees. Salvini
views the Dublin Treaty as penalizing Italy, arguing that Europe has been
helpless so far in adopting an efficient immigration policy.
     Salvini has also criticized the European Commission's post-Brexit long-term
budget proposal of curbing both cohesion funds and resources to agriculture.
     --EUCO IMPORTANCE
     Opposition parliamentarians see the risks of Italy's new government not
being fully immersed in the EuCo decision-making process.
     "This EU Council is crucial. Preliminary decisions will be taken on key
issues concerning Europe's future, from the eurozone's challenges and the next
budget, to the whole union's reform package under discussion including defence
and immigration," warned Luigi Marattin,a newly-elected Democrat deputy who was
adviser to former premier Paolo Gentiloni.
     "Italy's to date pro-reform push will disintegrate, squandering all the
achievements we've made so far," he added.
     Marattin stressed that the previous government had done a huge job in
defining a clear reform plan for Europe that included the adoption of a fiscal
backstop, a common unemployment fund, and the banking union completion.
     "There is already, potentially available, our well defined EMU program that
the new government could pick up instead of starting from scratch. But despite
reassurances, its euro-sceptic position remains dark and ambiguous," he said.
"If they really want a euro overhaul, then why not go ahead and push for it
openly within the EU Council?"
     Marattin also noted that the Democrats had succeeded in pushing the idea of
"public good" to be funded and handled at EU level such as immigration, safety
and investments' support into the European Commission's budget proposals.
     --FRYING PAN TO FIRE
     The appointment of Paolo Savona as new European Affairs minister is also
far from a reassurance for Italy's EU partners. Initially vetoed as finance
minister by President Sergio Mattarella over his controversial anti-euro stances
and past support for an "Italexit", Savona's position on how he will interact
with Brussels remains unclear.
     According to Sergio Fabbrini, a director at the School of Government at
Rome's LUISS University, the new populist government is bound to cause havoc in
Europe.
     "This hybrid ruling coalition isn't at all interested in reforming and
reinforcing European governance. Quite the opposite. They aim to weaken it, halt
and unwind the integration process with a return to nationalism and greater
sovereignty," Fabbrini told MNI.
     In his view, Giuseppe Conte, the "unknown" new premier, lacks the necessary
standing and credentials to be a strong interlocutor on the European stage.
     With Italy sidelined, Germany and France would be given plenty of headroom
to drive the monetary union reform process and shape the future Europe as they
most please, added Fabbrini, indicating a stronger, renewed Paris-Berlin axis
would thus ensue to the detriment of the southern periphery.
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email: les.commons@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: M$E$$$,M$I$$$,M$X$$$,MC$$$$,MI$$$$,MX$$$$,MGX$$$]
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com