. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dini Resignation Rebuffed as Italy Takes EU Reins

ROME -- Italy took over the six-month European Union presidency Monday, with a non-elected prime minister who has handed in his resignation and a parliament divided over how to govern the country.


Italian president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, in a traditional end-of-year message in which he urged the political elite to put aside party feuding, said Sunday that Italy offered Europe "humanizing" values of culture, art and fraternity.


Political stability, with the country's non-elected technocrat prime minister Lamberto Dini waiting for parliament to decide his future, was not on the list, although few commentators believe the EU presidency will suffer.


Dini, who completed his own limited agenda just before Christmas with the passing of the 1996 budget, handed in his resignation as expected last week, but Scalfaro rejected the offer and told him to face parliament.


Parliament is due to debate in the next 10 days whether to form a long-lasting cross-party government, probably led by Dini, to thrash out electoral and constitutional reform, or whether to move to an early general election.


The initial signs are that Dini, who remains in office with full powers, will be back. He remains the leading candidate to head whatever government emerges this month.


"I think I've still got a stretch of the road ahead of me," Dini told reporters last week.


Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has been demanding a snap general election, said last week he would back the creation of such a long-lasting multi-party government, angering his allies on the far right.


Critics says Berlusconi fears going to the polls with a bribery trial against him due to start Jan. 17.


Scalfaro said Sunday, in a clear sign he was against calling an early general election, that Italy's politicians needed to "know how to rise above politics."


The politicians were split over Scalfaro's address with many expressing optimism that elections would be avoided in favor of a government of national unity.


"Scalfaro has invited the politicians to be firm, to fix clear conditions for political and parliamentary life to give the country certainty," said Walter Veltroni, the number two in the center-left group led by economist Romano Prodi.


But Gianfranco Fini, leader of the far-right National Alliance that wants elections, said the speech "while containing the hope that the legislature will go ahead, leaves the political situation unchanged."