New Italian gov't confirmed by Senate

AP News
Posted: Apr 30, 2013 9:18 AM
New Italian gov't confirmed by Senate

ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Enrico Letta's cross-party government won a final vote of confidence vote in Parliament on Tuesday, giving life to a grand coalition that aims to put aside decades of animosity to return the eurozone's third-largest economy to growth.

Letta's first order of business is a trip to Berlin, where he is expected to press German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the necessity of easing austerity politics that have put pressure on ordinary Italians in favor of growth policies.

Letta will take the message to Paris, where he meets Wednesday with President Francois Hollande, and then to Brussels. The European tour aims also to demonstrate that this government wants to remain at the heart of the decision-making in Europe.

The new government was confirmed Tuesday by the Senate by a vote of 233 in favor, 59 against and 18 abstentions, a day after it easily won confirmation by the lower house.

The government brings together in an uneasy coalition the center-left Democratic Party, which won the lower house in February elections — but not the Senate — along with its long-time political opponents, the center-right under Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party.

Letta outlined to the two houses an ambitious program to get young Italians into work , reform the electoral law, reduce the cost of maintaining Italy's political class, reform the judicial system and make it easier for the children of immigrants born in Italy to become citizens. He said the government would step down if he hasn't accomplished his goals within 18 months.

Letta already has made one big concession to Berlusconi's backers: a pledge to put on hold an unpopular tax on first residences until it can be reviewed. Berlusconi on Tuesday said he will only support the government if the tax is repealed.

The tax on first homes, which was reintroduced by the technical government of Mario Monti, generates 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) a year, and the decision to suspend June payments will cost the state 2 billion euros, at a time when the government needs to come up urgently with additional funds to pay for a fund for workers on temporary layoffs.