Europe

Italy gets new coalition as lawyers target ex-minister Salvini

New Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese (L) sworn in, as PM Giuseppe Conte (R) looks on, 5 Sep 19 Image copyright AFP
Image caption New Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese (L) is sworn in as PM Giuseppe Conte (R) looks on

Italy's new populist-centre left government has been appointed amid legal moves against the ousted right-wing Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini.

Prosecutors launched a libel suit against Mr Salvini on behalf of migrant rescuer Carola Rackete. She ignored Mr Salvini's order to keep her charity ship out of Italian waters.

And a mayor who defied Mr Salvini by sheltering migrants in the southern town of Riace saw his ban lifted.

An independent has replaced Mr Salvini.

She is Luciana Lamorgese, a career civil servant and immigration specialist. She is expected to bring Italy closer to its EU partners on immigration, ending Mr Salvini's strident campaign against the charity ships rescuing migrants off Libya.

The new government has 10 ministers from populist party Five Star (M5S) and nine from the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), with independent Giuseppe Conte remaining prime minister.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Three of the seven women ministers (L-R): Paola Pisano (technological innovation); Paola De Micheli (transport); Luciana Lamorgese (interior)

With an average age of 47, the government is the youngest in Italian history. And seven of the 21 ministers are women.

Five Star and the PD have long been political rivals, but agreed on a coalition after Mr Salvini's League tried to force a snap election, clashing with Mr Conte.

'Avoid quarrel with Brussels'

The coalition must still win confidence votes in the Chamber of Deputies (lower house) and Senate (upper house) on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. It is expected to win both, though it has only a slim majority in the Senate.

Mr Salvini is bitterly critical of the EU, accusing the bloc of letting Italy become "Europe's refugee camp". But the new EU Affairs Minister, Vincenzo Amendola, said "the parties in this government will do their utmost not to quarrel with Brussels, not to have pointless fights or rows".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCarola Rackete: People are terrified on these boats

In recent years Italy, like Greece, has struggled to cope with migrant boats sailing from North Africa or Turkey.

They are on the front line of the crisis, as people-smuggling gangs exploit migrants desperately fleeing war or dire poverty.

Case against Salvini

Prosecutors in Rome are acting on a complaint by Carola Rackete accusing Mr Salvini of conducting a smear campaign against her German non-governmental organisation, Sea-Watch.

The prosecutors are requesting seizure of Mr Salvini's social media accounts. He is a prolific user of Twitter and Facebook.

The lawsuit concerns Salvini phrases such as "illegal and outlawed organisation", "pirate ship", "accomplices of smugglers and traffickers", and "delinquents".

Mr Salvini hit back on Twitter, saying (in Italian): "Denounced by a German communist, a trafficker of immigrants, who rammed a finance guards motor launch: a medal for me! I'll never give up."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Salvini poses for a selfie with a supporter in Taormina, Sicily

Italian media report that by mid-May Mr Salvini had spent just 17 days at the interior ministry since the start of the year.

A court in Locri meanwhile revoked the ban imposed on Riace mayor Domenico Lucano, famous throughout Italy for having welcomed migrants to his town.

He was put under house arrest and then expelled in October 2018, but now he can return to Riace.

More on this story