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Italy parliament approves competitors invoice to unlock European funds

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Taxi drivers wait for customers at Duomo square, as their services have been losing business since the country’s coronavirus outbreak, in Milan, Italy February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) – The Italian parliament has given its final approval to a highly contested bill to promote competition in product and services markets, required to help secure a new tranche worth 19 billion euros ($19.4 billion) of post-pandemic European funds.

The reform championed by the outgoing government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi has triggered protests from lobby groups, especially taxi drivers who were against opening up their sector to broader competition including from multinationals.

After Draghi’s national unity administration collapsed last month, measures related to the taxi drivers were removed from the bill following pressure from the rightist parties in parliament.

In May Parliament also softened rules to open up tenders for lucrative contracts to manage bars and other facilities on the country’s 7,500 kilometres of coastline.

The bill establishes that current concessions remain in effect until the end of 2023. Italian authorities can extend them for a further year to conclude the tender process.

Italy is entitled to benefit from more than 200 billion euros in post-pandemic recovery funds from the European Union until 2026, but must pass a series of incremental reforms to ensure the cash continues to flow.

The government so far has secured almost 67 billion euros of EU funds. Rome now needs to reach 55 new targets in the second half of 2022 to get the 19 billion euro tranche, something that analysts say might prove more difficult without Draghi at the helm. ($1 = 0.9814 euros)

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