The Italian government today halted the launch of tenders for the controversial high-speed rail link between Italy and France, ahead of a Monday deadline that threatened to tear apart the country’s ruling coalition.
In a letter to TELT, the Italo-French company that oversees the development of the infrastructure project, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote: “I ask you to suspend immediately any action that might raise any legal commitment whatsoever for the Italian State.”
“Specifically I ask you to suspend communications relating to the tenders to avoid third parties making offers that could weigh on the final decision of my government.”
The rail project has pitted Italy’s ruling parties — the populist 5Star Movement and the far-right League — against one another and raised the possibility of a government crisis. The 5Stars are strongly opposed to the project, which they claim is too costly, while the League — led by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini — is adamant the high-speed rail link should be built.
The prime minister’s letter effectively greenlights a partial go-ahead of the project to avoid losing EU funding while also giving Italy the possibility to change its mind on the project at a later stage.
In its response to the prime minister, TELT said it would publish the so-called “avis de marchés” for the tenders relating to the French part of the tunnel to avoid losing €300 million in EU funding.