Rome

Environment minister and ILVA pressure Taranto court

Call for collaboration before cabinet meeting

Environment minister and ILVA pressure Taranto court

Rome, January 21 - The Italian environment minister and the ILVA steel company publicly pressed for the Taranto judiciary to release its grip on the embattled ILVA steel plant in the Italian southern port city on Monday. Italian Environment Minister Corrado Clini told Radio 24 that the government could take new measures to pressure the Taranto judiciary to comply with government policy. A government cabinet meeting in which ILVA is on the agenda is scheduled for Tuesday. "I hope it will not be necessary to adopt another measure on ILVA," Clini told Radio 24, while clarifying that none had yet been drafted. "What I fear is that a sort of conflict on the part of the Taranto judiciary against the law. I have worked in all these months carefully avoiding open conflict, because I don't believe it is the path," Clini added. "As a government, we (chose not to) to open a jurisdictional dispute last July," Clini continued, without openly threatening to switch course. "On Wednesday, I will be in Taranto to meet with local authorities, the company and local stake-holders. And I have invited the Taranto prosecutor's office as well, because I am convinced that the objectives are in common and I hope collaboration is reached," Clini added. A law decree passed late last year was designed to make it possible for the embattled steel plant to continue operating while it conducts much needed clean up measures. But rather than implementing the so-called "Save ILVA" decree, Taranto prosecutor's office this month filed a complaint in constitutional court against the government for conflict of powers between judiciary and state as well as violation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. If the law decree were implemented, it would lift court-seizures of plant smelters and products. "The only objective of ILVA's release from seizure is to finance its environmental remediation and salaries," Clini said. ILVA chairman Bruno Ferrante spoke to reporters in Rome on Monday, where he met with unions to discuss the situation. "The blockade on products has gotten to the point where it has rendered more difficult, I'd say dramatic, a situation that has dragged on for many months by now and thus creates many difficulties for the company," Ferrante declared. "The fundamental premiss from which one should begin the clear affirmation of total respect for the law," Ferrante added. A Taranto judge shut down the smelters of ILVA's Taranto steel plant - Italy's biggest - in July to protect the health of workers and nearby residents from toxic emissions found to have caused illnesses and deaths over a period of years. In October, the court also seized control of products sitting in the docks, waiting to be commercialized, and issued a new wave of arrests in a corruption probe linked the on-going pollution probe. When a Taranto judge rejected the company's request to lift the seizures on the basis of the government decree, the government modified the decree to countermand the Taranto court's ruling. The revised decree was approved by parliament in December. "We must give back continuity of production to the company, protect jobs, and also allow the application of all the provisions that the government-issued AIA requires the company to implement," continued Ferrante. AIA is the name given to the decree document which stipulates environmental measures to which company operations must comply.

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