NEW populist leaders in Italy commemorated the country becoming a republic 72 years ago by attending a pomp-filled military parade — and then promised to get to work creating jobs and expelling migrants.
‘The free ride is over,’ said Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League and the new interior minister, at a rally in northern Italy as he warned migrants: ‘It’s time to pack your bags.’
Prime minister Giuseppe Conte, a law professor chosen to head an unlikely alliance of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement and the League, said Saturday’s celebrations transcended recent tensions.
‘It’s the celebration for all of us, of our republic,’ he said.
Mr Conte’s cabinet was sworn in after a last-minute deal averted the threat of a new election that could have turned into a referendum on Italy staying in the euro.
Markets eased on Friday’s deal but Italy’s European neighbours are concerned about eurosceptism and plans for heavy public spending.
‘Italy is destroying itself — and dragging down Europe with it,’ read the headline of Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, the cover of which featured spaghetti with one dangling strand tied up as a noose.
Mr Conte has so far left policy to the people behind his improbable rise — his two deputies: Mr Salvini and Five-Star leader Luigi Di Maio.
Mr Di Maio, the new economic development minister, reported for work after the parade to his ministry, which would normally be closed for the holiday.
‘Starting today, we get to work to create work,’ Mr Di Maio said in a Facebook video tour of the empty building. Mr Di Maio is also the minister for labour, a combination he said made sense since the two ministries must work together.
The government got support from Italy’s small neo-fascist CasaPound party, which wants to exit the EU.
The Five-Star/League agenda has no such plans but Mr Conte was irked by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who said Italy had to stop blaming the EU and ‘that means more work, less corruption. Seriousness’.