Italians take to street to support high-speed rail
ROME — Tens of thousands of citizens and politicians took to the streets in the northern Italian city of Turin on Saturday to show their support for the Turin-Lyon high-speed rail link, which would connect Italy’s industrially developed northern regions to the rest of Europe.
The so-called TAV rail link is controversial because the populist Five Star Movement, which currently rules Italy in a coalition with the right-wing League party, promised voters it would shut down the project, which is financed by France, Italy and the European Union.
The League, which has its roots in the wealthy, industrialized North, is however in favor of the TAV and of infrastructure in general, as are the opposition center-left Democratic Party and the center-right Forza Italia party.
On Saturday, 100 mayors from cities and towns across the North, plus the Democratic Party governor of the Piedmont region Sergio Chiamparino, the Forza Italia governor of the Liguria region Giovanni Toti, and several League MPs, turned out along with about 40,000 citizens at the pro-TAV demonstration.
Still, opposing views about the project reflect deep-rooted differences within the ruling coalition.
“Our two political forces have different beliefs,” Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio told RAI News 24, citing his Five Star Movement’s promise of basic income for the poor and investments in carbon-free energy as ways to stoke Italy’s stagnant economy.
Di Maio’s fellow deputy prime minister and League chief, Matteo Salvini said, “if there is no political agreement on the TAV, we will call for a referendum — clearly I would vote in favor of (the TAV), development and growth.”
Saturday’s demonstration took place in the wake of the latest negative data out Friday from ISTAT, the national statistics institute, which showed that the seasonally adjusted industrial production index declined by 1.6 percent in November 2018 compared to October, and by 2.6 percent compared to November 2017.
In its monthly economic bulletin also out Friday, ISTAT said the numbers “confirm” Italy is having trouble “maintaining production levels” amid declining business and consumer confidence while “the international economy is showing clear signs of deceleration” due to uncertainties over Brexit and trade tensions.