“Now the only way to Ilva is to deal with Mittal”. Interview with Carlo Calenda


When he was Minister of Economic Development, Carlo Calenda followed the negotiations on the former Ilva of Taranto first hand, up to the transition to ArcelorMittal, with the card of criminal immunity to commissioners and buyers. Today the plan of the Franco-Indian giant provides for five thousand redundancies, in addition to the request of 2 billion euros from the state. “The government has now broken eggs because it has released the fate of the steel crisis to which the Covid crisis has been added from a mandatory and binding contract. The situation is now totally out of control, “the Action leader told the Huffpost, who now says that the only way is to” keep Mittal with a new agreement “, reintroducing the criminal shield. Because thinking about a state management of the Taranto steel mill “is madness”.

Is there anyone who claims that it is the fault of the policy that he has given to the multinational?

“Anyone who says this does not know the story and is by definition and political speculation in favor of the closure of the former Ilva. When he won the tender, ArcelorMittal signed a contract that provided for the impossibility of dismissal until 2023, under penalty of the cost for each individual dismissal of 150,000 euros and 2.4 billion of investment. Until the date of the fall of the penal shield and therefore of the consequent invalidation of the contract, AcerlorMittal has respected every commitment, environmental and employment. You can verify this with the 5-star minister Sergio Costa, for the part of execution of the environmental plan, and with the FIM-CISL secretary Marco Bentivogli for the employment part. In fact, when steel went into crisis, Mittal moved production to other sites, precisely because it had a contract that bound it and it was not something it could get out of.

So whose responsibility is it?

At the beginning of the mandate at Mise Luigi Di Maio carried on the negotiation that I was following, confirmed the criminal shield, but then in June he changed his mind. Seeing it removed, Mittal obviously challenged the contract. At that point politics instead of saying ‘Ok, now let’s go for lawyers’, she went back and said ‘find a solution’, but at that point she found herself in a weak position because the contract was contestable, while instead before it was not.

Did Di Maio change his mind after the European Championships?

There had been strong pressure from Barbara Lezzi and a group of senators quite decisive for the majority, but the abolition was voted by the Democratic Party, by Italia Viva, who had established the shield, and obviously by Movement 5 stars. At that point Mittal denounced the contract.

The governor of Puglia Michele Emiliano spoke of the decarbonisation of the ex-Ilva. What do you think?

Impossible today for a variety of reasons. Meanwhile, there is no steel plant the size of Ilva that runs on gas. The only one in Europe is from Mittal and makes one twentieth of Ilva’s production. Then, for steel to be made with gas, it must be a gas that costs 30 percent less than what it costs in Europe and you cannot subsidize it, because it would be state aid.

Now what are the possible scenarios?

By now the government has broken eggs, the mess is total. The situation is now totally out of control.

And turn it into a state steel mill?

It would be madness because steel is one of the most complicated businesses in the world, there are few large groups that do it and therefore it is impossible to get it done by a public company that only has a steel mill.

So what would you do if you were in Patuanelli’s place?

I would keep Mittal with a new agreement, even if obviously it will now be pejorative for Italy. We are talking about the first European and world steel group and made an agreement to buy this factory which is unprecedented as an investment in the South, totaling 4.2 billion, taking on very stringent obligations. All this has jumped with the shield, the rest are bar talk.

So to keep them, should the criminal shield be reintroduced?

Of course, first. Then I would negotiate but I don’t know any side of it today because I haven’t talked to Mittal since I left.

What does the history of Ilva tell about our country?

It is the classic story of why Italy will never be able to attract investments from abroad, in particular to the South. If you have a binding contract with a large multinational company that invests as much as a financial one in the largest steel plant in Europe and you give them, in the midst of the steel crisis, an opportunity to challenge that contract, you are such a co-one for which you can show that nobody can ever invest here. The market must be protected from unfair behavior, especially in the negative peak phases.

Will the steel market recover?

Now it will certainly start again, it is nonsense to leave Italy now and Mittal knows it. But the negotiation should be done by people who at least know English and how a company works.

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