- POSTED: 22 Feb 2014 03:10
- UPDATED: 22 Feb 2014 04:00
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Matteo Renzi formally accepted the role of Italian prime minister, kicking off hopes for a revival in the Eurozone’s third-largest economy and a fresh approach to the country's ills.
ROME: Matteo Renzi formally accepted the role of Italian prime minister on Friday, kicking off hopes for a revival in the Eurozone’s third-largest economy and a fresh approach to the country's ills.
"I am aware of the responsibility, delicacy and extraordinary honour which comes from creating a government capable of bringing hope," the former mayor of Florence told journalists after nearly three hours of talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
"I will do everything possible to deserve the trust of deputies, senators and millions of Italians who are waiting for this government to provide concrete answers," he said.
The 39-year-old has become Italy's youngest-ever prime minister at the head of a coalition government, after helping engineering the downfall of his predecessor Enrico Letta, blamed for failing to carry out promised reforms.
Renzi unveiled his new 16-strong cabinet, which will be sworn in on Saturday, before the government goes to a vote in parliament next week.
Half of the new ministers are women, and - with an average age of 47.8 years - it is the youngest government in Italy's history, according to the Corriere della Sera daily.
The key post of finance minister has gone to Pier Carlo Padoan, the chief economist at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The interior ministry remains in the hands of Angelino Alfano, the head of the New Centre Right (NCR) party - Renzi's coalition partner - while the post of foreign minister has gone to Federica Mogherini, a specialist on European relations.
The announcement came after a day tense with last-minute haggling over key posts, with the new prime minister reluctant to keep a team that worked with Letta.
"Renzi's imprint emerges clearly from the many new names called to take on the role of minister for the first time," Napolitano said.
He called on the new government "to enact the institutional and economic reforms quickly," and bring relief to a country lumbered with a public debt equivalent to 130 percent of total economic output, and where hundreds of thousands of enterprises have been forced to fold.
Renzi has vowed to overhaul the job market, education and the tax system in his first few months in power.
His plan, outlined after a round of political negotiations on Wednesday, includes cutting the cost of politics, implementing constitutional and institutional reforms, and tackling the country's bloated justice system.
"All this will allow us - by July, and our appointment with the EU presidency - to be able to say what Italy asks of Europe, and not just what Europe asks of Italy," said Renzi, who has vowed his government will be able to last until the next scheduled elections in 2018.
The first test of political prowess for the fresh-faced former Boy Scout will be surviving a confidence vote in parliament next week.
Many Italians have appeared sceptical that the young Renzi can revolutionise the leadership and his popularity was dented by his daring power grab, which came just two months after he ruled out unseating Letta.
But in a country thirsting for change, analysts say his lack of experience in national government or parliament mean he is untainted by political corruption scandals, which may prove a winning quality.
With his catchy slogans and savvy use of social media, the informal Renzi has also proved particularly popular among younger voters turned off by old-school politicians - and has called for his stellar rise to power to inspire the downtrodden and unemployed.
"If an under 40-year-old like me can become prime minister, this is a sign for the many youngsters who say that nothing is possible in Italy. It is not true," he said.
Renzi is little known internationally but sees himself in the mould of former British prime minister Tony Blair and the "New Labour" programme, and his new government will be closely-watched by centre-left parties in Europe.