June 5, 2018 / 9:24 AM / 6 months ago

Italy's "government for change" seeking parliament's backing

ROME, June 5 (Reuters) - Italy’s anti-establishment government will seek backing in the Senate on Tuesday, one of the final hurdles before it can begin implementing its plans to challenge European Union rules on budgets and immigration.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday will ask the upper house to vote confidence in his “government for change”, as it has been dubbed by the two parties backing him.

Conte speaks at 1000 GMT in the Senate, which votes later on Tuesday, while the lower house confidence vote is scheduled for Wednesday. The coalition has about a 10-vote majority in the Senate and a wider margin in the lower house.

Conte, a little-known 53-year-old law professor, is backed by the 5-Star Movement which grew out of a grassroots protest network, and the right-wing League. Together the parties have issued a budget-busting agenda of tax cuts and higher welfare spending.

The League in particular is seeking to clamp down on irregular migration, with party leader Matteo Salvini on Monday pledging that Italy will no longer be “Europe’s refugee camp”.

Once the parliamentary votes are over, Conte will leave for his first international summit, a G7 meeting in Canada that starts on Friday.

Conte will be closely watched to see whether he sticks by the side of his European partners, who have condemned U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium, or whether he warms to President Donald Trump.

The League’s Salvini has repeatedly praised Trump, and he even adopted “Italians first” as his main campaign slogan, an echo of Trump’s “America first”.

Conte was tapped for the prime minister’s office as a compromise figure from neither governing party, though he is considered close to 5-Star.

He has taken over the first anti-establishment government to lead one of the core EU countries, seen as hostile to the euro single currency although the coalition’s eurosceptic members have repeatedly denied they are planning to ditch it.

Conte, who has said he would be “the defence lawyer for the Italian people,” has already indicated he would seek changes to EU asylum rules, the bloc’s overall budget and its plans to complete a banking union.

European leaders say they are prepared to hear the new government out.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday she would “approach the new Italian government openly and work with it instead of speculating about its intentions”.

The president of the European Commission said on Tuesday that Italy is a pillar of the EU and deserves respect.

“Italy, yesterday as today, deserves respect and trust,” Jean-Claude Juncker told an economic conference in Brussels. “Italy’s place is at the heart of Europe.” (Reporting by Steve Scherer Editing by Peter Graff)

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