Paolo Gentiloni, former Prime Minister and founding member of the Democratic Party, said he was “honoured” after it was revealed he is likely to get the powerful economic and monetary affairs portfolio. But the news was quickly attacked by former interior minister Matteo Salvini who said Italy’s new Government was the country’s first to be “born in Brussels”.
And now critics fear a move to the old and pro-EU establishment could leave Italy trapped if Mr Gentiloni is forced to introduce tough and deeply unpopular economic rules or austerity measures.
There are growing concerns the move could trigger a rise in support for Mr Salvini’s anti-EU Lega party as the new government slumps in popularity.
Italian newspaper Avvenire noted: “If he is too soft on Italy, he’ll be accused by Nordic hawks of favouritism.
“If he is too hard, he will provide League leader Matteo Salvini the occasion to call him and the PD ‘slaves of Brussels’.”
An EU diplomat told politics news site Politico.co.uk: “My fear is that without addressing the domestic concerns in Italy, we might in two years’ time again see that pro-Kremlin republic.”
The remarks come after Italy’s new government, combining the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement – formerly Lega’s coalition partner – and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), was sworn into office earlier this month, promising to reset Rome’s often fraught relations with Brussels.
“I love Italy and Europe and I am proud of this task. Now let’s work for a better season.”
But the confirmation of Mr Gentolini angered Mr Salvini, whose party had been due to name Rome’s commissioner after it triumphed at European parliamentary elections in May, taking 34 percent of the vote.
The outspoken right-winger, said: “This is the first Italian government to be born in Brussels, with an Economy Minister, a professor of History, who arrives directly from Brussels, with a Health Minister with no experience in the sector, with a Transport Minister without any transport experience and with an Education Minister who said that to increase the salaries of professors we must tax snacks and carbonated soft drinks: it would be funny if there were no Italians involved.
Mr Salvini offered a dire prognosis about the fledging Government as he looked forward to the general election he hopes will happen soon.
He posted: “The government of the strong European powers will not have a long life.
“Opposition in Parliament, in municipalities and in the streets, then finally we will vote and… we will win!!!