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Rome mayor threatens to 'halt city' over funding row

Marino says John Paul II's canonization at risk

27 February, 11:36
Rome mayor threatens to 'halt city' over funding row (ANSA) - Rome, February 27 - Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino on Thursday threatened to bring the city to a standstill if he does not get answers from central government after it dropped a decree featuring measures to help the capital's cash-strapped council. Marino also upped the stakes by warning that the ceremony for the canonisation of popes John Paul II and John XXII on April 27 was at risk in what threatens to become the first big headache for Premier Matteo Renzi's new executive.

"I'll halt the city from Sunday," Marino told the Mix24 radio station. "The politicians are lucky because they have chauffeur-driven cars, but the Romans won't be able to move around. People will have to fend for themselves". The government announced Wednesday that it was dropping the so-called Save Rome decree, which was passed by the administration of Renzi's predecessor Enrico Letta. This was because it had been hit by obstructionism from opposition parties, especially the Northern League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), was not on course to be passed within the two-month time limit from its approval by the cabinet. Relations with Parliament Minister Maria Elena Boschi said the government, which was sworn in Saturday and passed confidence votes in parliament Tuesday, would re-examine the measures and then present a new piece of legislation. She said this legislation would also include measures for Milan Expo 2015 and for Sardinia after recent floods.

But Marino, a member of Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), said the government had to move fast. "In March there won't be money to pay 25,000 city employees, to pay for fuel for the buses, to keep the nurseries open, to collect rubbish or to organise the canonization of the two popes, an event of a planetary scale," he said.

Marino, who has said he would quit rather than oversee the capital move towards a default, also argued that he was not asking for charity from central government, but for the city's rights to be respected. "The money for what you journalists call the Save Rome decree is the money of Romans' taxes," he said.

"The Italian government must give it back to us. It belongs to Rome".

A previous version of the Save Rome decree was abandoned by Letta's executive after President Giorgio Napolitano expressed doubts about its Constitutionality, as many measures unrelated to the main thrust of the legislation had been attached to it. Marino said he was confident Renzi, Italy's youngest premier at 39, would listen to his demands.

"I'm sure that my concern is his concern too," Marino said.

"Rome is the capital of the country that Matteo Renzi is the premier of.

"The government has to clearly say whether it is giving us the legislative tools to solve the problem once and for all.

"Rome must be able to spend the money it has and only that.

It's no longer time for chatting, its time for deeds".