(ANSA) - Rome, December 3 - A row over the reform of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) escalated on Tuesday with Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio saying his 5-Star Movement (M5S) will only back the reform of the eurozone bailout fund if it is changed.
The reform, which is set to be signed off later this month, would make the ESM more similar to the IMF, with support for States in financial difficulty made conditional on debt restructuring.
Premier Giuseppe Conte reported to parliament on the ESM on Monday after the centre-right opposition said he had already signed up to a treaty that penalizes Italy, as it risks creating renewed pressure on the financial markets, and would not be amendable. Conte dismissed this and said League leader Matteo Salvini was aware of the negotiations of the ESM reform as he was part of his first government, which was replaced by a new executive with a different coalition after Salvini pulled the plug in August.
In the process, Conte suggested Di Maio, who was deputy premier and industry minister in his first government, was fully informed about the ESM talks too.
Di Maio played this down on Tuesday, amid reports of tension with Conte, and said the M5S's backing was not a foregone conclusion. "We knew that the ESM had reached a certain point of its reform, but also that it was part of a package that included the reform of the banking union and insurance on deposits," Di Maio said.
"These three things go together for the M5S and it is not possible to do one thing at a time".
"We will decide how and if the ESM reform will pass".
M5S MP Michele Gubitosa said the M5S was working on presenting a resolution from the ruling majority in parliament that would highlight doubts about the reform and give the government a mandate to renegotiate some aspects of it at the EU level. "The ESM should be improved because, with its current contents, it is not beneficial for our country and it is not possible for us to vote for it," Gubitosa said. Salvini on Tuesday denied he was aware of changes to the ESM when he served as deputy premier and interior minister in the previous cabinet and renewed his offensive against Conte.
"Someone in the government is saying the truth and someone is lying", Salvini said.
"Nobody ever showed me the text of changes to this treaty and it is also thanks to us that we are talking about it.
"The treaty is not amendable. It must be stopped, period".