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15th Apr 2024

Italy appoints second EU envoy in two months

  • Renzi said he needed an economic development minister who "knew how to run the machine" (Photo: Giampaolo Macorig)

The man who was supposed to lead Italy’s new-found assertiveness in European affairs has been called back to Rome less than two months into the job.

Carlo Calenda, nominated ambassador to the EU in January and in office since 21 March, is going to be the new minister for economic development, prime minister Matteo Renzi announced late on Sunday (8 May).

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“I asked him to come back from Brussels,” Renzi said in an interview with RAI state television.

Calenda, due to be sworn in by the end of the week, previously served as a deputy at the ministry he is going to lead, which deals with industry subsidies, labour disputes, energy policy and foreign trade.

Renzi said he was picked because he needed someone who “already knew how to run the machine”.

The 43 year-old replaces Federica Guidi, who resigned on 31 March over conflict-of-interest allegations.

Police wiretaps revealed that her boyfriend had successfully lobbied her to add an amendment to Italy’s budget law for 2015 that favoured an oil-drilling project in which he had an interest.

The abrupt change at Italy’s permanent representation to the EU is seen as a surprise since Renzi had invested a lot of political capital in Calenda’s appointment, making him the first non-professional diplomat to fill an ambassadorial position in more than 60 years.

It came after another frontrunner for Guidi’s job, former energy manager Chicco Testa, turned down the position, and amid mounting criticism that Renzi’s main weakness is the lack of political talent around him.

“Renzi’s biggest asset, as well as his main problem, is himself," political journalist and author Marco Damilano told the foreign press association in Rome on 22 April.

"After more than two years in government, everything is still centred around him, his energy, his communication skills, his political instinct. Besides that, there is a void.”

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