Rome - “A mess made by the State playing with people’s health”; a mess into which “an investigation must be opened” to find out “who took their eye off the ball” and “who in particular is responsible”. On Friday morning, Luigi Di Maio reported to Parliament about ILVA, one day after the letter in which the Anti-Bribery Authority rejected the tenders for the steel group. One percent of Italy’s GDP is at stake, as well as the clean-up of the largest and most polluted steel mill in Europe, which can be postponed no longer.
Di Maio might have announced the stop of the sale and the opening of a new round of tenders. But it was Friday morning, and many Deputies had already gone home for the weekend. The Chamber was empty, deserted, with even the newly elected young deputies from M5s and the Lega nowhere to be seen. But political controversy was unleashed, and Arcelor Mittal also intervened to confirm that its proposal was above board, solid and “unrivalled”, and that they were working to improve it further.
The day started with Di Maio. “The principle of competition has been violated”, the vice-premier said, but it was not the members of parliament he spoke to, but the thousands of people listening to him via live streaming, and those listening to him after the fact on social media. Many from Taranto.
The critical problems confirmed by ANAC “are a great burden, they are very serious”. Di Maio explained, slowly and clearly that even a child could understand the rules of the game were changed while the procedure was in progress. “When the tenders were launched on 5 January”, he explained, “those who wanted to participate had to make an offer that included an environmental plan by 31 December of the same year. A monumental task”, and then once the deadlines arrived (i.e. the doors closed to other competitors) “The environmental plan’s deadline”, he continued, was then “postponed” and not by six months, but seven years. “ If a deadline of 2023 had been set right from the start, we would have had many more offers, and better ones, even from Arcelor”.
Di Maio also pointed a finger at the poor discipline of the relaunches. And the decision to place greater weight on the economic proposal, as opposed to the environmental proposal or the employment plan. “If it is shown that the tender did not focus on the greatest possible employment protection, environmental protection and health protection, then those who set up this procedure will be politically accountable”, he said, attacking his predecessor Carlo Calenda in all but name. And then Di Maio announced “an ‘internal investigation at the MISE” dedicated “to the citizens of the Tamburi district”, the first victims of the many postponements.
But now, Di Maio admits, “time is short”. The replies do not take long to arrive, especially from Carlo Calenda, who tried to bring the debate back to the point: “Dear Di Maio,” he tweeted, “take responsibility for cancelling the tender if you consider it flawed”, claiming responsibility for the procedure and defending the MISE officials.
On the relaunches, he made the point that he had sought the opinion of Italy’s Government Legal Service, but on the extensions of the time-limits he admitted: “since the tender was taking longer, we postponed the deadline with the agreement of the two parties” that remained.
Michele Emiliano, the President of the Puglia Region, was satisfied and reaffirmed his relationship of trust with the new Minister for Economic Development. He continued, “I hope that Minister Di Maio will take the right decision to protect the health of my fellow citizens first and foremost, as well as the productive needs of the country, which obviously need to be taken very seriously.”
In the evening ArcelorMittal also spoke via a press release, pointing out the “propriety of its offer, and its commitment and dedication” and that it had “complied” with “Italian and European laws”. They confirmed that they wanted to present “an improved proposal” in the next few days, which would increase the “environmental and employment plans”, trusting that “all parties, including the trade unions, would be pleased with it.”