With the new government in place New Europe’s Federico Grandesso spoke in exclusive with Massimo Bitonci, the Under-Secretary for Economy and Finance, in his first interview as a cabinet member, the Italian politician presented some of the initiatives of the new government and his vision on the EU and its relations with Russia.
Has the EU fully understood that the new Italian government has a different approach from its predecessors?
Yes, they understood that when (Foreign) Minister Matteo Salvini announced a stop of the immigrant arrivals on Italian soil, then some EU leader started saying that Italy was left alone to face this emergency. At that moment, I saw that the European bureaucrats were not as self confident as they were before. At that moment, it made me remember that Italy is not a small country and at an economic level we are a world power.
In my recent speech at the Chamber a few days ago, I said to PM (Giuseppe) Conte and the ministers “be brave and go to Europe, put your fist on the table and firmly stress the value of this country. Be sure to highlight that we can’t accept to be conditioned or limited by the EU”.
We can’t accept, for example, that if we want to rescue our banks that we always receive a negative decision from the EU, while other countries like Germany, France or Spain always find a “second way” to do it. The rules must be applied fairly for everybody or we should give Italy the opportunity to act as a “sovereign” country and the possibility to make its own autonomous decisions.
Do the EU sanctions against Russia still serve a purpose?
I think that sanctions and duties are not useful at all and they are negative for our economy. We all know that sanctions are bad for both parties, therefore I think we should stop this scandalous attitude. In my own city of Padova, the sanctions on Russia have severely hit the local exporters of agricultural products, which is one of the biggest production markets in Europe. These sanctions are antithetical and I want to say that also to US President Donald Trump. Barriers can be built up through the quality of the products and not through unfair duties.
For you, personally, which is the most important part of the new governmental programme-contract?
For me, they key points of the programme are what we called the “fiscal peace”. This is a more “human” relationship with fiscal authority in favour of citizens and enterprises. We can accept that a citizen could be kicked out of their home and their property and belongings confiscated because of an intervention of the fiscal bodies. We have to find tailored solutions considering the earnings of the average citizen. On the other hand, we can’t tolerate that a firm could be obliged during the second semester to choose between paying the value-added tax or their employees.
This is unacceptable! Another important point, together with the introduction of a flat tax, will be the theme of simplification. This will generate additional savings of more than €5 billion each year for citizens and enterprises. We need to massively cut the bureaucracy, which is a very heavy burden, especially for our SME’s.
In order to find fresh financial resources to finance your initiatives, I head that you are going to cut the funds allocated for migrants. Are there other further cuts that are possible?
Our goal is to find the financial resources that are needed. Last year, we spent €4 billion on immigration management. Therefore, Minister Salvini has planned a cut on a series of allocations which are not given out in the other EU Member States.
Beyond that, I would like to stress the role of fiscal federalism that could introduce standard costs in the economy for the healthcare sector, but also at the ministerial level. In this way, we could get some new resources out of being wasted by the administration.
I follow the doctrine of the famous economist (John Maynard) Keynes, therefore I’m very much in favour of investments done by public authorities. We have to free the burdens of the stability pact much more than what the previous centre-left government did and we have to boost investments to build new schools, sports centres, fix the roads, and even start planning big public infrastructure projects.