(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s main opposition party, seeking a return to relevance after months in the political wilderness, is backing a new euro-zone budget to help member states cope with high unemployment, as part of its platform for next month’s European Parliament elections.
Nicola Zingaretti, the new leader of the Democratic Party, said a “European unemployment allowance” will be a top priority for the group, which was crushed in last year’s national elections. The plan calls for the budget to be funded by resources including Eurobonds and a share of profits from the European Central Bank.
“If this allowance is created, no European citizen will fear losing his job,” Zingaretti, 53, told reporters at the Foreign Press Association in Rome. “Those countries which suddenly see a high increase in unemployment can access the fund, and the country which does so commits itself to refunding it later.”
Zingaretti was named party chairman in March, following a tumultuous year for the Democrats in which both former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Maurizio Martina held the position. Zingaretti, who is also governor of the Lazio region, is battling to overtake the anti-establishment Five Star Movement as Italy’s second-biggest party. Five Star and the rightist League, which is riding high in opinion polls, are partners in the ruling coalition.
The Democrats, or PD, scored more than 40 percent of the vote in European Parliament elections in 2014 but sank to 18.7 percent in the March 2018 general elections, their worst-ever result.
The party’s fortunes have improved slightly according to recent polls, which show it claiming support of about 21 percent of voters, compared with 33 percent for the League and 22 percent for Five Star, which has slumped since winning last year’s general elections.
Zingaretti, who got involved in politics at the age of 17 through peace and anti-racism movements, said measures like the eurozone budget will help win back workers and other voters from what he called Italy’s “nationalist-populists.”
The new party manifesto calls for incentives for businesses, restarting blocked construction projects and an EU-funded investment plan to boost growth, with the bloc’s existing budget increased to 1.3 percent of GDP.
Zingaretti also spoke of the need to “welcome and integrate” new arrivals, a stark contrast with the hard-line stand against illegal immigration taken by Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini of the League, who has blocked migrant ships’ access to Italian ports.
Despite his new high-profile job, Zingaretti is far less famous than his brother Luca, who stars as Inspector Montalbano in the hit Italian series of the same name on the Rai 1 channel.
“The only Zingaretti I like is the one on Rai 1,” Salvini quipped earlier this month.
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