Italian government to introduce ILVA decree Friday

Measure 'will help avoid closure of steel plant'

Italian government to introduce ILVA decree Friday

Rome, November 29 - The Italian government will pass a decree on Friday aimed at keeping the troubled ILVA steelworks plant in southern Italy operational after its activities were put at risk by a legal and political dispute involving an environmental upgrade. The government of Premier Mario Monti is working on a decree to obtain an Integrated Environmental Authorisation (AIA) in order to keep the plant operating after prosecutors said the company would either have to introduce the environmental measures or face permanent closing. ''The next step is government action, and this will be carried out through a legal instrument which is the decree'', Monti said. ''The time frame will be very short, tomorrow, and the matter will be finalized during the course of the Council of Ministers meeting". Monti made the comments at a meeting in Rome held with ILVA management, regional authorities and workers' representatives on Thursday. The government move follows ILVA management's warning on Monday that a court order for the seizure of steel and semi-finished products as part of a corruption probe that saw seven top managers arrested would lead to the ''almost immediate'' closure of the plant. It also warned that related operations in other parts of Italy would also be shut down as a result. The planned decree could avoid this. In fact Environment Minister Corrado Clini earlier this week had said the government was prepared to take on prosecutors to keep the ILVA plant open. The Taranto plant's furnaces were placed under special administration in July following accusations emissions from them caused abnormally high levels of tumours and respiratory diseases in the Taranto area. ILVA workers all over Italy began strike action Tuesday to protest the prosecutors' actions. ILVA and the government have been trying to keep the plant in operation while remediation measures necessary for ILVA to obtain the AIA are carried out. Obtaining the order is necessary to help ILVA continue functioning in the southern city of Taranto, where jobs are scarce. Italy's Labor Minister Elsa Fornero on Wednesday expressed worry about the impact a forced closure of the ILVA steel plant in Taranto could have on the southern Italian city, adding that it could lead to some 20,000 job losses. Also attending the meeting in Rome on Thursday were Italian Industry Minister Corrado Passera; Environment Minister Corrado Clini; ILVA Chairman Bruno Ferrante; Puglia region president Nichi Vendola; Labor Minister Fornero; Industry Ministry Undersecretary Claudio De Vincenti; and Labor Ministry Michel Martone. Representatives of trade unions including the three main ones, CGIL, CISL and UIL, also attended.

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