Many the issues on the table during this Italy-France summit. Not just Europe and a possible banking union, but also Italy taking over the Eu presidency in the second half of 2014. The two leaders had also the time to discuss the high speed rail line connecting Italy to France (TAV). This is a hot debate in italy right now with opponents of the project demostrating not just in Rome but in other parts of the country.
Italy will use its rotating EU presidency in the second half of 2014 (1st of july / 31st of dec 2014. now it’s Lithuania and for the first half of 2014 it will be Greece) to boost integration and create jobs, Italian Premier Enrico Letta said.
Apart from the next Italian EU presidency term, an important part of the summit concerned the threat from “populist parties”which might prevail in next year‘s elections for the European Parliament, both leaders warned.
In France, the right-wing National Front is topping opinion polls. In Italy the Five Star Movement is also faring well. Both parties have called for their countries to abandon EU-dictated austerity policies and leave the euro.
“The next European elections will probably not be a contest between left and right … but between those who want a Europe of the peoples, and those who want a Europe of populists,” Prime Minister Enrico Letta said.
Since the EU assembly has a say on most of the bloc‘s legislation, eurosceptic parties could significantly influence policymaking if they were to win a large number of seats in the Europe-wide elections scheduled for May 22-25.
And what about the Tav?. As the Tav is concerned (the super high speed rail line going from Turin to Lyon) opponents argue the project is wasteful of public funds and destroys the sorrounding countryside. Supporters say it will cut down on vehicles and truck pollution and make cross-border shipping and transit more efficient. Rail links between Italy and France are not only a priority, said Letta at the press conference, they will promote ”osmosis” between the two countries.
The Tav issue is not a light one but rather a serious one. While the summit was taking place a huge demo organised by opponents of the Tav was taking place outside the venue. I will probably write about this specific topic in another post as I believe it deserves a lot of attention