Ital­ians take to street to sup­port high-speed rail

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

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.

STRINGER / AFP

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