Negotiations on the former ILVA continue


The Italian government and the Indian multinational ArcelorMittal are continuing to deal with the future of the former ILVA and seem closer to some kind of agreement. On Sunday several newspapers wrote that ArcelorMittal would be willing to pay up to one billion euros to the Italian government in order to terminate the contract which obliges it to purchase the steel plant within two years. Today the newspapers also speak of alternative plans that instead continue to provide a role for the Indian multinational, but which also include the entry of public companies and even that of Chinese capital, so as to guarantee the production and employment generated by the former ILVA.

This last phase of the very long industrial story of the plant has now lasted for more than a month, since last November ArcelorMittal announced its intention to abandon ILVA, which a year earlier had undertaken to purchase by 2021. The Indian multinational supports that the steel market has deteriorated so much in the last year that continuing the business represents too great a loss. Furthermore, he claims he cannot comply with the requests made by the judiciary of Taranto to improve the safety of the plant and not to be able to comply with the purchase contract without the penal shield for his managers (removed following a complicated political affair).

Although ArcelorMittal's explanations do not convince all observers (some trade unions and newspapers, for example, accuse the company of having intended from the beginning to close the plant), the multinational has started the procedures to terminate the contract and the December 20, the first hearing is scheduled for the Milan court. ArcelorMittal claims to be legitimized because the Italian government would not have fulfilled its commitments, abolishing the criminal shield. The Italian government, through the commissioners who administered the former ILVA, thinks differently and even accuses the multinational of wanting to abandon the plant without respecting the agreements.

Although justice is following its course (in the meantime, other investigations have been underway in the prosecutor's office in Taranto and in Milan), the government and the company continue to negotiate to try to find a solution. The conditions set by ArcelorMittal to continue production are particularly hard: redundancies of about half of the more than 10 thousand employees of the company and closure of the hot area of ​​the Taranto plant, the one with the blast furnaces on which the magistrature of the city has requested to the company to intervene with some safety measures.

The government has defined these conditions as unacceptable and has instead demanded the maintenance of current employment levels. According to a proposal for an agreement circulated today in various newspapers, the government would be willing to accept redundancies for a maximum of 1,800 employees (who will then be helped to relocate with tax relief and other public interventions). In return, a series of public and private companies should arrive in the capital of the former ILVA, which will help ArcelorMittal to shoulder a share of the heavy investments for the environmental safety that the multinational had undertaken to carry out (a total of about 4 billion euros for the next few years).

One speaks for example of the arrival of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and of Snam, the public company that deals with the distribution of gas. The newspapers also make the name of Arvedi, a private steel mill based in Trieste that could bring the skills to introduce electric blast furnaces, much less polluting than those currently used in the plant, in the Taranto plant. In this list of possible "saviors" of the former ILVA, some newspapers also include unspecified Chinese partners who would have been contacted by some important members of the 5 Star Movement, such as the political leader Luigi Di Maio.

The other possibility, that circulated on Sunday, is that the government and ArcelorMittal agree on an "orderly" exit of the latter from ILVA, that is, without litigation in court. According to several newspapers, the Indian multinational would offer a billion euros in exchange for the termination of the contract, a figure calculated excluding any penalty. The government would have considered the offer too low and would have asked for a figure closer to 2 billion euros, which includes over 500 million euros in penalties, even another 350 million euros for the lack of maintenance of the Taranto plant in the year in which it was managed by ArcelorMittal.

The Ministry of Economic Development has so far denied that this negotiation has developed formally, and denies the existence of an exchange of letters that would contain these details. If an agreement were reached in any case, there would be no more reason to continue the current litigation before the Milan court (in which the commissioners claim that there are no reasons to terminate the contract for the rental and purchase of the former ILVA, as he asks instead the multinational), but it is not certain that the inquiries of the magistrates of Milan and Taranto that investigate possible incorrect behavior by ArcelorMittal would be concluded.

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