Italy’s recovery bigger than high-speed rail link to France: PM

Rome: Propelling Italy out of its third economic recession in a decade is “a bigger problem” than the planned euro high-speed train link to France that has split the ruling coalition, populist Premier Giuseppe Conte said on Monday.

“You are one of the Italian citizens obsessed by the Tav,” Conte told a reporter here in response to a question on the 8.6 billion euro rail project connecting the northwest city of Turin with the French city of Lyon, known as the Tav.

“But I am facing a bigger problem – Italy’s recovery and re-launching its infrastructure – it would be nice if building the Tav was enough to achieve this,” he said.

Conte’s comment came after he helped draft a legal document over the weekend to allow tenders for the project to be launched by a Monday deadline to avoid the loss of 300 million euros of European Commission funding.

The legal letter sent to TELT, the Franco-Italian company in charge of the Tav, was described as a piece of “legal acrobacy” as it gives Italy and France another six months to reassess the project while keeping its European Union funding on track until any final decision is taken.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the far-right League party, is a strong supporter of the Tav, while Luigi Di Maio, head of the grassroots 5-Star Movement – the League’s coalition partner – opposes it.

Italy’s economy fell into recession in last three months of 2018, in a blow to the populist coalition, which has pledged to boost the country’s chronically low GDP growth.