08:04 GMT19 February 2020
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    The tenth Leopolda meeting (a political meeting held annually on the initiative of Matteo Renzi since 2010 near the former Leopolda train station in Florence) has been held in Florence with a record number of participants registered.

    "Italia Viva", a new political party created by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi after leaving the Democratic Party of Italy, was officially presented there.

    The Leopolda 10 meeting started with the presentation of the party symbol, which was selected from three options by online voting. The symbol has the name of the party in blue and pink, above which there is a stylised image of a seagull.

    So far, according to polls, Italia Viva is on course to get from 3% to 5% of the vote.

    "You can join the party only online. We are the first party to do so. We don’t want to break away from the government, but we want to do differently in our new party. There will be no more party tickets," Renzi pointed out.

    In addition, at the same event, Renzi once again opposed the Quota 100 pension reform – one of the key measures introduced by the previous government of Giuseppe Conte, which allows you to retire at 62 if your employed service is 38 years (previously, the retirement age was 66 for women and 67 for men).

    "Our opposing the Quota 100 doesn’t mean that we have something against the elderly, we just say that spending €20 billion on 120 thousand people in three years is absurd," the former Head of the Democratic Party said and suggested amending the economic manoeuvre that would cancel this measure.

    How will Italia Viva behave towards the new Conte government? How does the party plan to advance its economic strategy? Sputnik spoke to Giovanni Palladino, Member of Italia Viva Party and Leopolda Discussion Coordinator for Industry, to find out.

    Sputnik: The 10th Leopolda meeting has just ended. How did the debut of Italia Viva go?

    Giovanni Palladino: I’d say it could not have been better: there were many of our friends and new faces who were united by the enthusiasm and constructive spirit. There were many young people, which made me very happy and gave hope in our difficult times of growing public discontent when people ceased to trust politicians in general.

    We have discussed proposals and exchanged ideas at numerous thematic round tables; I coordinated the "Contracts in Industry" discussion, an extremely important strategic topic for the growth of the country’s economy, which is entangled by the tentacles of the bureaucracy.

    10 thousand people joined the party in a couple of days. Our goal is to grow without internal disputes, give a voice to certain regions that are often not heard by the authorities, and openly declare to the EU that we are citizens of Italy and the European Union, and we want to be able to speak out and not be afraid that we can be charged with non-compliance with their standards.

    Our party is ready to accept everyone who has the necessary competencies, those who will be able to more accurately translate our values ​​into the programme with concrete proposals.

    Sputnik: Never before has Leopolda seen so many participants. Do you think these people will be ready to give you their votes?

    Giovanni Palladino: Yes, that is what we’re working on and hope for: to grow not only thanks to Leopolda but throughout the country as well. We have just created the party; so far we are underrepresented in the media, but we are regularly talked about in political debates and discussed on social networks. We are not going to stop, and we plan to increase the party’s presence throughout the country.

    Sputnik: The government’s economic manoeuvre has been one of the most pressing issues in recent years. What bothers you the most about it and what suggestions do you have?

    Giovanni Palladino: Regarding the manoeuvre, our first goal is to stop the growth of VAT and all taxes, such as the "sugar tax". Judging by the last meeting of the Council of Ministers, we hope to find a solution together with the government. Money should be received not from taxes, but from the reduction of unnecessary expenses. And we are ready to offer our help in order to find a solution together.

    Secondly, we are strongly against the Quota 100 law. This is an extremely unfair measure that few people could take, about 120 thousand citizens, and the worst thing is that it will be young people that will pay for the pensions of those who don’t want to work for a couple more years. Let’s translate this into figures: it’s planned to spend €4 billion on the initiative this year, 8 billion in 2020, and another 20 billion in three years. We want to voice this figure to all families and add to the salaries of workers, as well as those who want to retire a year earlier. Before the elections, you need to exchange ideas. Matteo Renzi has repeatedly proposed an alternative: Ape Social, Anticipo Pensionistico Social, or early retirement for certain categories of the population (they should be at least 63 years old, unemployed or living with other relatives, people with disabilities and workers in heavy industries).

    Italian premier Giuseppe Conte gives a press conference at Chigi Palace in Rome Thursday evening, Aug. 8, 2019. Italy faced a government crisis Thursday as Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League party called for a new election, saying his party's coalition with the populist 5-Star Movement had collapsed over policy differences.
    © AP Photo / Alberto Pellaschiar
    Italian premier Giuseppe Conte gives a press conference at Chigi Palace in Rome Thursday evening, Aug. 8, 2019. Italy faced a government crisis Thursday as Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League party called for a new election, saying his party's coalition with the populist 5-Star Movement had collapsed over policy differences.

    Our third goal is employment growth: the cost of services has grown to €150 billion; it should be reduced as soon as possible in order to support the creation of new jobs. And we are fully aware that if this is done, it will become easier for entrepreneurs to hire people.

    Lastly, I am against lowering the cash limit (which provides for reducing the limit of cash expenses from €3 thousand to 1 thousand in order to stimulate the use of bank cards). At the last Council of Ministers, this measure was postponed until July 2020 – our small victory; we believe that it’s possible to reduce the limit, but at the same time it is necessary to lower bank commissions on credit cards for everyone and for any amount. But we are still discussing this issue.

    Sputnik: According to Conte, the decision to introduce flat tax remains, but Patrizia De Luise, Head of Confederation of representatives of commercial and tourist organizations and enterprises has spoken about the mandatory introduction of POS-terminals (for accepting payment cards, or acquiring), which “will cost small businesses more than €2 billion.” Do you agree with her assessment?

    Giovanni Palladino: Yes, I absolutely agree. We need to reduce the commission on credit card payments through payment terminals if we want to avoid tax evasion and spread card payment.

    Sputnik: As we saw in the letter from Brussels, the EU is starting to lose patience. What explanations could the government give to convince Brussels that Italy’s economic plan is in line with the goal of reducing public debt?

    Giovanni Palladino: We all knew that the condescension to the new Conte government was temporary: Moscovici has specified the nature of the letter, and now the government will have to answer (they have already replied that “there are no significant deviations, and the budget manoeuvre is consistent with the EU Stability and Growth Pact”). I’m sure that Italia Viva will be able to make a significant contribution, and the government will accept our proposals. We have already prevented the VAT increase without any discussion, and I believe that the Italia Viva MPs will introduce new decisions that can improve the manoeuvre.

    Sputnik: In your opinion, will the accusation of violation of pan-European rules be launched? What is the risk of Italy?

    Giovanni Palladino: I hope not, including thanks to our struggle. We want to make our country competitive and streamline its budget.

    We’ll do our best to prevent the worsening of the situation and to avoid excessive deviation from the budget policy requirements set by the European Commission.

    Sputnik: According to polls conducted by Tecnè for the Dire agency from 17 to 18 October, the government’s approval rating has fallen to 30.6%, and 57% of voters don’t even hope for anything to change under this government.

    Giovanni Palladino: Now, more than ever, Italians are waiting for concrete decisions from the central government and regional administrations. Because of the crisis, people are worried; anxiety has grown into distrust and has led to the fact that politics is now seen as something too far from the people, dubious and unreliable. This discontent is reflected in the young. And for me, it is the worst and most alarming.

    It’s no coincidence that this year at our event we focused on the term “community”: we wanted to show that a positive and constructive climate is possible when people listen to each other; and we can conduct a dialogue with our voters directly, exchanging experiences, skills and talents. The hysteria of politicians and populism, their anger and intimidation, push citizens away from politics. We want to overcome these fears with a clear programme and competence.

    Sputnik: How will Italia Viva behave towards the new Conte government?

    Giovanni Palladino: Since we have recently seen Brussels’ increased attention to Italy, we want to help the government before the end of its term by providing our ideas; this means not fighting with the government, but avoiding erroneous or even dangerous for our country political measures and decisions, like, for example, an increase in VAT.

    European Union, Florence, Matteo Renzi, taxes, party, Italy