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"We'll start from scratch": the first interview of Rome's first female mayor

"We'll start from scratch": the first interview of Rome's first female mayor
By Euronews
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Virginia Raggi, aged 37, is the newly elected Mayor of Rome.

Virginia Raggi, aged 37, is the newly elected Mayor of Rome. She is from the anti-establishment 5 Stars Movement, which was founded in 2009 by the comedian, Beppe Grillo.

On Sunday, with 67,15% of the votes, she beat her rival, Roberto Giachetti from the centre-left Democratic Party. This is the same party as the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi.

With a debt of around 13 billion euros, the Italian capital is in a very bad state and risks becoming bankrupt. If Raggi succeeds, her party could become the main opposition in the legislative election planned for 2018. If not, the 5 Stars Movement could lose its popularity.

Biography: Virginia Raggi

  • Virginia Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer from the Eurosceptic, populist Five Star Movement 1.
  • Her political activity dates back to 2011, just after her son was born 2.
  • Raggi won 67 per cent of the vote during a run-off election against Roberto Giachetti of the Democratic Party 3.

Simona Volta, euronews: “Our guest today in The Global Conversation is Virginia Raggi, the new mayor of Rome.

“Congratulations, Mayor Raggi. My first question is: what are the two first things you’ll do when you take office in Campidoglio?”

Virginia Raggi, mayor of Rome: “We will start to tackle the problem of the large sums of money being wasted, which amount to 1.2 billion euros per year. We have to eliminate this waste and put the money into public services.

“We must start renegotiating Rome’s debt, which amounts to between 13 and 16 billion euros. We must first do an audit to determine what comes under the government appointed commission. Then we must renegotiate the interest rates. We can’t pay interest rates that were negotiated in 2008.”

euronews: You’ll have to deal with Renzi’s government and his Democratic Party with whom you had many verbal clashes during the electoral campaign. Things could get complicated.

Virginia Raggi: “Certainly not from my side. I have always said that I want a loyal and frank relationship with other institutions. The Democratic Party was very harsh towards me during the electoral campaign. As far as I am concerned there isn’t a problem. We’ll start from scratch and work in the interest of Rome and its citizens. I expect the same integrity from the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, and the other institutions.”

euronews: “Would you like to clarify what happened in 2012 when you gave your legal advice to a public entity and declared this income in 2015? During the electoral campaign you said your opponents were mudslinging. Now you are mayor, the voters want an answer. You have always said that transparency is your strong point.”

Virginia Raggi: “First of all, it was an assignment of legal assistance. As a legal assistant, my task was to enforce the judgement of the Court of Audit saying that ASL (the local health authority) had been a victim of fraud by a doctor. ASL paid more money than they had to. My job was to recover that money on their behalf. I was given the assignment in 2012. I carried out several enquiries and made an invoice in 2014 which was entered into the company accounts. In 2015 a warrant for payment was issued. My bill was paid in 2015 and entered into my individual tax return for that year.”

euronews: “Mafia capitale seems to have touched everything in Rome. Criminal organisations have infiltrated everywhere, with the complicity of politicians. What can be done to change this and above all to avoid getting back into the same situation in the future?’

Virginia Raggi: “First of all, the law must be applied and respected. We need to implement rules for public tenders. Every company wanting to work for Rome in whatever sector will be given equal opportunity to propose their offers to the municipality, and the best offer will win the commission.”

euronews: “You are talking about public tenders but the problem is mafia infiltration. It’s not easy to exclude criminal organisations.”

Virginia Raggi: “We must use the systems we have, for example the anti-Mafia statements. The National Anti-Corruption Authority analysed around 1500 contracts, 90% of these contracts were against the law and they also violated the rule of common sense. So it is clear that the administration has malfunctioned for years, and now we must get back on the straight and narrow.”

euronews: “The suburbs of Rome have become a place of social exclusion. Some European cities are reviewing a model that didn’t work and led to ghettoes. I’m thinking about cities like Amsterdam or Hamburg where the new model adapts social housing to create a social mix. Is it too late for Rome?”

Virginia Raggi: “No, not at all, but Rome must start immediately to blend the outskirts with the centre. And when I say outskirts I don’t mean the outer belt of our city, I mean all those areas just outside the centre that are deprived of the most important services, like transport, social services, cinemas and theatres. These suburbs have become dormitories with completely empty apartment blocks. So no, it is not too late but we need to take action now.”

euronews: “But with Rome’s budget, how can you take action?”

Virginia Raggi: “First of all we need to recuperate the money that has been wasted.”

euronews: “I started this interview by saying ‘many congratulations’ but I don’t know if I should have done. Ruling a complex and complicated city like Rome is a very daunting task. Aren’t you afraid that if something goes wrong with this Rome experience, it could affect the whole 5 Star Movement?

Virginia Raggi: “ I believe that during these elections, citizens, especially in Rome, have shown that they want changes in the city. I don’t think we should underestimate this desire. During the last three years of opposition and the last three months of the electoral campaign I always said that Rome will change if the Romans change. We can do anything if we stand together. I’m confident the experience will be a positive one. It will take time because we don’t have a magic wand. We have been left with a city which is crumbling, but I am very confident we can turn the tide, get back on track and go towards a future where the citizens are once again at the centre of politics.”

euronews: “After Paris and Madrid, we have another female mayor of a Europen capital. Is it just a coincidence ?”

Virginia Raggi: “I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not. I’d say that it’s a good sign, a sign of changing times. It shows that people are ready for a new adventure and I hope also that this will be a first step towards the development of gender policies.”

euronews: “Thank you for your time Virginia Raggi.”

Virginia Raggi: “Thank you.”

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