News Analysis: Gentiloni on European Commission to improve Italy's ties with Brussels

Source: Xinhua| 2019-09-13 06:04:21|Editor: yan
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ROME, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- The choice of former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni as the European Commission's top economic official is a choice full of symbolism, analysts said, both for Italy and for incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Gentiloni is a political heavyweight, with years as a leading political figure. In addition to his role as Italy's head of government from 2016 to 2018, he has also served as the country's minister of foreign affairs, minister of communications, and has been a member of parliament for nearly two decades. Now, Gentiloni will start his job as European Commissioner on Nov. 1.

The nomination of Gentiloni to take Italy's place on the commission was among the first moves from Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte after he unveiled his list of ministers last week, while von der Leyen's choice of Gentiloni as European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs is seen as a boon to Italy.

"The symbolism goes both ways," Antonio Villafranca, head of the European Program with the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, a think tank, told Xinhua.

"The Conte government sending a high-profile pro-Europe figure like Gentiloni to the commission shows Italy wants to repair ties with Brussels," Villa said. "And the fact that he was chosen for such an important role on the commission shows Brussels wants to support pro-European elements in Italy."

The previous Italian government, also led by Conte, repeatedly clashed with the European Commission on topics ranging from the country's debt and deficit levels to migration policy. But with different parties supporting his second mandate, Conte has vowed the new government will take a more traditional stance when it comes to European Union (EU) relations.

"We are already seeing signs that the standoff between the European Commission and Italy is softening," Antonello Folco Biagini, a historian at Rome's La Sapienza University, said in an interview. "I expect the trend will continue and Gentilini is a part of that."

In von der Leyen's mission letter to Gentiloni, she said the Italian would oversee the EU's highly important Stability and Growth Pact, the agreement designed to ensure all 19 members of the euro currency zone follow the same set of rules on government debt, deficit, and other fiscal matters. Gentiloni is also charged with drawing up a framework for a carbon tax, reducing the overall level of government debt, and simplifying tax regimes across the EU.

Of those issues, Italy, Gentiloni's home country, is among the EU states most in need of improvement in terms of debt and deficit levels as well as for streamlining its tax laws. In that regard, Gentiloni's appointment could also be good news for Italy, since von der Leyen's mission letter also said the new commissioner would be able to use "all the flexibility the rules allowed", said analysts.

Gentiloni will replace former French Minister of Finance Pierre Moscovici as European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, and will take the place of Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy as Italy's representative on the commission.