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Letta to start talks with parties for policy pact

Aim to reduce bickering, increase stability for coalition govt

07 January, 13:49
Letta to start talks with parties for policy pact (ANSA) - Rome, January 7 - Premier Enrico Letta was set to start talks on Tuesday with the parties supporting his left-right coalition government on a policy pact for this year.

Letta's government was sworn in in April after a long deadlock followed February's inconclusive general election.

Based on an unnatural alliance between Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's now defunct centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party, it veered from one crisis to another for much of last year.

Berlusconi's party, which he has revamped under its former name Forza Italia, pulled its support for the government in November after the PD supported the drive to have the media magnate ejected from parliament following the supreme court's decision to uphold a tax-fraud conviction against him.

Letta has said his government is now in a stronger position, even though it has a smaller majority in parliament.

The executive survived with the support of the New Centre Right (NCD) party, a group of pro-government moderates led by Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who split from Berlusconi loyalists.

Letta has postponed a summit with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was set to take place in Istanbul on January 17 to be able to work on the policy pact. The aim of the pact to ensure the executive does not get bogged down again this year with bickering between the different groups.

Letta's government has a long list of problems that urgently need to be addressed.

It is aiming to boost the Italian economy after two years of recession and combat unemployment that has reached record levels of 12.5%, with over four in 10 under-25s out of work.

The executive also wants to push through reforms to cut the cost of Italy's political machinery and make the country easier to govern.

The government plans to introduce a new election law, after the previous system was declared illegitimate by the Constitutional Court, reduce the number of parliamentarians and curtail the Senate's law-making powers to make it easier to get legislation through parliament, among other things.

The round of consultations will start later on Tuesday with a meeting with the small centrist Civic Choice (SC) party, which was founded by his predecessor, Mario Monti. Later this week Letta will meet Alfano and Matteo Renzi, the 38-year-old mayor of Florennce who has been waging a campaign for Italy's political old guard to be sent to the scrap heap and recently took over as leader of the PD.

Alfano and Renzi have expressed major differences in recent weeks over what the policy pact should cover.

On Friday Alfano struck down the idea proposed by Renzi of making the legal recognition of civil partnerships - including same-sex unions - part of the pact.

Alfano also took issue with another suggestion by Renzi for an overhaul of Italy's tough immigration laws.