From Italian news agency ANSA:
Leftists on warpath after Vicenza approves expansion plan
Left-wing and pacifist elements in the nine-party governing coalition urged Prodi and Defence Minister Arturo Parisi to act after Vicenza city council approved the project in a narrow vote on Thursday night .
Vicenza already hosts an American military base with 2,600 troops.
The expansion project would involve building barracks at Vicenza’s airport Dal Molin to accommodate 2,400 more US troops who are currently stationed in Germany.
Although the plan was approved by the centre-right council headed by Vicenza Mayor Enrico Hullweck, the final say rests with the government and in particular Parisi.
The centrist Parisi has spoken in favor of the base’s expansion, arguing that it is in the spirit of friendship between Italy and the US and would be a natural extension of the current US military presence in Vicenza .
But the Democratic Left (DS), the largest government party, and smaller parties including the Greens, the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) and the Italian Communists’ Party (PDCI) protested on Friday .
DS Senator Felice Casson said that “this business is an example of negative politics because it is murky, far removed from citizens’ concerns and anchored in the strategic thinking of the past” .
“It’s obvious that this government’s foreign policy is different from that of the American administration,” Casson said, referring to the centre left’s Europe-focused policy and its decision to pull Italian troops out of Iraq.
Welfare Minister Paolo Ferrero, a member of the PRC, said that an expanded base would “reduce Italian territorial sovereignty”.
He said Vicenza citizens should be allowed to decide for themselves via a referendum.
Vicenza councillors rejected on Thursday proposals to hold a referendum on the base’s fate even though local polls have shown that 84% of citizens would like to have a say on the issue.
The same polls have shown that 61% of residents are against expanding the base.
The PRC said that “Vicenza council’s decision to accept America’s request for the expansion of the base should count nothing towards the final verdict, which is up to the government…
We expect the government to nix the project in line with its pacifist manifesto”.
Critics also stressed that agreement has only just been reached on the closure of a controversial US nuclear submarine base in Sardinia.
Local Vicenza members of the PDCI accused the mayor of trying to “militarise Vicenza against the wishes of the people” and urged the government to adopt a swift and unequivocal position.
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