Government criticises ILVA decree (5)

Negotiations frozen pending outcome of legal action

(ANSA) - Taranto, November 29 - Sparks flew between the Italian government and local and regional authorities in Puglia on Wednesday after the latter challenged a decree modifying the environmental cleanup plan for the troubled ILVA steel plant in Taranto. Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti expressed his surprise at the move, saying the new industrial plan for Europe's largest steelworks is strong and that the environmental plan is the best that has ever been seen. Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda accused the local and regional authorities of schizophrenic management and said the deal on ILVA involving sale to a consortium led by ArcelorMittal and the associated environmental clean-up risked falling apart. "Enough of stealing our children's future, blackmail doesn't frighten us," replied Taranto mayor Rinaldo Melucci in reference to the ongoing health risk posed by the plant. Meanwhile Calenda has frozen negotiations pending the decision by the Legge regional administrative court.
    If the appeal against the decree is upheld production at the plant must stop. Metalworkers' union FIOM also expressed criticism of the move by the centre-left Puglia regional government led by Michele Emiliano.
    "CGIL (the trades union confederation of which FIOM is a part) considers Emiliano's decision a mistake. This is not the time for courthouses, there are negotiations underway, it is the time for responsibility," former FIOM general secretary Maurizio Landini said. The Taranto plant is undergoing a painful restructuring to revamp it and clean it up after years in which it was linked to high local cancer rates.
    The decree at the centre of the controversy was approved by the government at the end of September.
    Puglia Governor Michele Emiliano said later Wednesday "I fear that this affair of the adjudication of ILVA to Arcelor-Mittal is all wrong." He said "they have caused a concentration much higher than the maximum amount" allowed "and now they're trying to find a scapegoat to blame for their failure". "They tried to propose to the (European) Commission the exit from the consortium of Marcegaglia," he said.
    "But we established in these days in Brussels that this proposal by ArcelorMittal was so far-fetched that it wasn't even taken into consideration by the European authorities." The governor added that he wanted to "urge everyone to calm" and said that "useless panic should not be created".
    He said it would be strange if the latest appeal "has different effects from those that are made every day".