Italy is often cited as being the laggard in the European class for failing to adopt EU laws, or seeking exceptions. That may be about to end, as the government has just agreed on a revolutionary and wide-ranging package of economic reforms, bringing the country into line with Brussels norms, and perhaps a smile to long-suffering consumer’s faces. Prime Minister Romano Prodi: “We have taken a number of very important decisions in many different areas. We can say that we have launched a phase of real liberalisation and dynamism for our economy.”
Prodi has won over his coalition colleagues. Parliament will be the next hurdle, but some of the vested interests the reforms tackle head-on are already venting their anger.
Worst hit will be Italy’s petrol vendors. Now service stations will face a challenge from the supermarkets, and the 25 000 service stations may decide on a 15-day strike when they meet today. There is a crackdown on misleading advertising, particularly in air travel, where rock-bottom prices often hide significant extra costs in the small print.
Distribution, insurance, banking, telecoms, and food will all be shaken up and modernised, and starting a new company will become easier.