Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday presented a new package of measures worth €55 billion to tackle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We worked on this decree with the awareness of the difficulties that the country is facing,” Conte said at a press conference.
The new decree temporarily freezes corporate tax for all companies with an annual turnover below €25o million and grants non-repayable aid of up to €40,000 to small businesses.
The package also allows the government to intervene and recapitalize struggling companies in line with new EU state aid rules allowing public capital injections.
“The tools that we are introducing have been defined by the new European framework and are being adopted in all countries,” said Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri, adding that Italy was among the first countries to make use of the new EU rules.
Gualtieri also stressed the need to level the existing imbalance of state intervention across member countries with a European recovery fund.
The government also earmarked €25.6 billion to extend existing unemployment benefits, more than €3 billion for the health care system, €1.4 billion for universities and research, and more than €1 billion for the agricultural sector.
The decree also introduces a so-called “emergency income” of up to €800 for low-income families.
The new measures also include support for tourism, a sector that accounts for nearly 13 percent of Italian economy.
Low-income families will receive a “holiday bonus” of up to €500 to be spent on accommodation, while hotels and beach resorts will benefit from tax discounts.
Gualtieri announced €2 billion in aid to help businesses which will have to adapt their activities to meet new social distancing requirements, particularly in the tourism sector.
Italy will also grant residence permits to migrants working in the agriculture and housekeeping sectors. While announcing the measure, Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova — who left school to work in the fields at the age of 14 — was moved to tears.
Conte said he firmly opposed the idea of bilateral tourism agreements between member countries to allow the free movement of tourists.
“We don’t accept bilateral agreements within the European Union that create privileged touristic paths,” he said, answering a question on the EU’s tourism strategy which encourages such agreements between areas with similar infection rates.
“This would amount to the destruction of the internal market,” he said.
“We would be outside of the European Union. We will never permit it,” Conte added, adding that he had made his feelings known to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.