Divided Italian lawmakers approve raft of new measures for Ilva sale

The Italian senate voted to approve a raft of new measures to facilitate the sale of troubled Italian steelmaker Ilva on Wednesday July 27, following an emotional debate.

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Under the decree, a €300 million ($330 million) loan provided by the government to Ilva for the purposes of environmental remediation must now be repaid by the administrators which currently own the steelmaker, rather than by any consortium which is successful in acquiring the business through the sale process.

This decision was intended to “simplify and facilitate” the sale of Ilva, the decree said.

Ilva has long faced accusations of causing pollution, including an investigation by the European Commission into environmental damage caused to the area surrounding the steelmaker’s 11.50 million-tpy plant in Taranto, southern Italy.

Another measure approved in the senate was the extension of the deadline for implementing a plan for environmental remediation following the sale of the steelmaker. The new date is “no later than 18 months” after June 30, 2017.

Consortiums led by ArcelorMittal and Italian government agency Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), which have submitted rival binding offers for Ilva, had to present their respective environmental plans as part of the sales process last month.

The environmental plans will be considered separately from the consortiums’ industrial plans, and will be reviewed by a government-appointed committee. This committee will propose any amendments to the plans within 120 days after June 30, 2016, which was the deadline for binding bids.

A total of 168 members of Italy’s senate voted to approve the latest decree, with 102 representatives voting against and two abstaining.

Impassioned speeches were heard from representatives with differing opinions on the issue during a lively session in the Italian senate.

“Ours is a country that has chosen to reject a modern industrial policy based on sustainability of production and fully consistent with the objectives of respect for health and the environment,” Salvatore Tomaselli, a deputy from the governing centre-left Democratic Party, who voted for the decree, said in the senate yesterday.

“Ilva can and should be the leader of a new steel industry, technologically and environmentally advanced in the global market,” he added.

But there was also widespread opposition to the measures.

“Nothing will change with the approval of this decree. Rather, the measures it contains will worsen the current situation for citizens and workers,” Michelino Davico, a representative for the right-wing Northern League party, said.

“Too much time has passed and we no longer want to provide strategies for dealing with the delays, especially as they are expected on the assumption of trust,” he added.

“In Taranto, there are 200,000 people suffering the effects of what you do here, to save 11,000 jobs,” Carlo Martelli, a representative from the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), who voted against the decree, said.

“When you cook pasta using a stainless steel pot made from Ilva steel, remember that stuff is dripping with blood,” he said. “You are eating with blood-red pots and cutlery red with blood – the blood of the people of Taranto.”

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