Italian PM launches high-profile debate on economic relaunch

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has launched a nine-day set of high-level talks aimed at relaunching the country”s economy after weeks of the coronavirus lockdown.

Most of the discussion with ministers, European Union officials, and representatives from corporations, the financial sector, and trade unions will take place behind closed doors.

But Conte spoke to reporters and the public on Saturday as part of the formal launch of the initiative, which is tied to the European Union”s (EU) proposed 750 billion-euro ($845 billion) recovery plan.

“We are working on a clear plan that will carry us out of this crisis,” Conte said.

“We have to remove the obstacles that have put the brakes on Italian economic growth.

“We are working on three strategic lines — modernization of the country, a transition toward environmental sustainability, and social inclusion,” he added.

Also addressing those in attendance on Saturday was Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, who expressed optimism over the health of the Italian economy as it emerges from weeks of lockdown.

“Your government has taken bold measures, asking people to stay home for long weeks and months,” von der Leyen said.

“It required courage, but it worked. And you led the way for other (EU) member states. You have also taken bold measures to secure jobs, protect companies, and limit the damage to the Italian economy.

“And after the deep fall in the past months, economic activity is gradually rebounding.”

Conte is hosting the event at Rome”s historic Villa Pamphili, though many of the speakers will participate via video link.

Other high-profile officials expected to participate include Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank; International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva; and former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who is now EU Commissioner for Economy.

The talks will continue until June 22.

As of Sunday, Italy, one of the hardest hit in the world, recorded a total of 236,651 COVID-19 cases, with 34,223 deaths.

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