Thursday 19 September 2019

Academic to lead Italy in Eurosceptic government

Giuseppe Conte was appointed as Italy's new prime minister. Photo: AP
Giuseppe Conte was appointed as Italy's new prime minister. Photo: AP

Nick Squires Rome

A little-known academic was confirmed as Italy's new prime minister last night despite accusations that he had inflated his curriculum vitae.

Giuseppe Conte was appointed the country's next leader amid doubts over the reliability of his claims that he had studied or taught at the Sorbonne, the University of Malta and New York University.

In a brief address, the 53-year-old law professor promised "a government of change" but acknowledged that Italy was going through a "delicate" time of great challenges.

Prof Conte has no political experience but was chosen as a compromise candidate by the hard-right League party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, who will now form Western Europe's first populist, Eurosceptic government. The Five Star Movement rejected claims Mr Conte had embellished his CV, insisting that there were no inconsistencies on the resume.

There is intense speculation that the new economy minister could be Paolo Savona, an 81-year-old economist, banker and one-time minister who has called Italy's adoption of the euro a "historic error".

In a book to be published this week, Mr Savona calls for a "plan B" to be drawn up to allow Italy to leave the eurozone with as little damage as possible if that should prove necessary.

If the coalition sticks to its promises and flouts strict EU-imposed spending rules, it would likely provoke a bruising showdown with Brussels.

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