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Election results on either side of the Alps have further complicated an already complex and controversial railway project between France and Italy, as political allegiances and support for the tunnel have shifted.
A proposed 270km-long train link between Lyon and Turin, which would include one of the longest rail tunnels in the world, risks languishing in development hell following EU and regional elections in May.
Italy’s ruling government, a coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right Lega party, has been divided over the project from the outset.
Five Star has cited economic and environmental concerns, while Matteo Salvini’s Lega is a staunch advocate.
In February, Italy’s transport ministry, led by Five Star politician Danilo Toninelli, released a report that insisted the tunnel would be a waste of money and leave a hole of €7-8 billion in Rome’s coffers.
“As everyone can now see for themselves, the numbers of this economic and transport analysis are extremely negative,” Toninelli said. “It is now up to the government to make a decision.”
That decision could now loom closer following last week’s EU elections, in which Lega thumped Five Star in the polls. Salvini’s party raked in 34% of the vote, while Luigi Di Maio’s movement only managed 17%.
Political analysts have suggested that Salvini could cash in his electoral success and call early elections for September. However, he pledged immediately after the results were confirmed to preserve the fractious coalition between the two parties.
Current polls predict that Lega could clean up in a snap election, thanks to voter disappointment in Five Star and the gradual recovery of the Democratic Party (PD).
Di Maio and Salvini’s forces also clashed on Sunday (2 June) over transport issues, after a cruise ship accident nearly ended in tragedy in Venice. One of the giant ships that visit the UNESCO site every day crashed into a tourist boat, injuring four.
In a thinly veiled accusation towards Five Star, Salvini said a solution to the problem had already been proposed but had been blocked by a ministry not controlled by Lega.
Five Star sources shot back that “we always hear from Lega that they have a solution to everything, but so far there has never been a proposal on the table from them”.
This article first appeared on www.euractiv.com
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