Italy: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte

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Largely unknown prior to running, Giuseppe Conte is an academic and was a law professor before entering the Italian political sphere.  He graduated from La Sapienza University of Rome in 1988, where he studied law. He continued to study at various universities, including Yale Law School, Duquesne University, Cambridge, and more.  He began his career as a professor, teaching at Roma Tre University and continued teaching at various universities, including LUMSA University, the University of Malta, the University of Sassari, and the University of Florence.  He stepped into politics when he was elected as a member of the Bureau of Administrative Justice in 2013. In May of this year, Conte was proposed to be the Prime Minister, representing a coalition government between the Five Star Movement and the far-right League, both political parties in Italy.  On June 1, 2018, Giuseppe Conte was sworn in as the 58th prime minister of Italy.

Despite having little political experience, Conte he has strongly advocated for various new policies, including stricter immigration policy, stronger actions to fight political corruption, and reform of the Italian tax system.  Many have dubbed him as the “new anti-elite prime minister.” The coalition of the Five Star Movement and the League, which Conte represents, is known as Government of Change.  Conte has assured that as part of reforming the Italian tax system, he will introduce flat tax rates for businesses and individuals in addition to creating a no-tax area for low income families.  Conte has suggested lifting the sanctions placed on Russia imposed after Russia annexed Crimea. Conte and the coalition he leads have also placed public health reform, public water improvements, and more attention towards the environment, on their political agenda.

Prime Minister Conte attended the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, which was one of his first times taking the international stage.  While getting along the fellow leaders attending the summit, Conte took one stance that was controversial to many of the seven leaders.  He backed President Trump in his call to re-admit Russia into the G-8, in line with Conte’s suggestion that sanctions placed on Russia should be lifted.

Trump and Conte have an unexpected connection over two important issues. They both take the same stance regarding lifting sanctions for Russia and admitting them back into the G8. In addition, both world leaders agree on strong immigration policy. For his first G20 Summit, it will be interesting how the dynamic between Conte and the other leaders plays out, as Conte shares similar viewpoints as President Trump. However, as part of the EU, represented by Tusk and Juncker, it is interesting that Conte has not taken a strong stance regarding Trump’s tariffs. Tariffs and trade are expected to be a large part of the discussion at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, and as such, Conte’s stance on this topic will be a point of interest.

“I agree with President (Trump). Russia should be re-admitted into the G8. It is in the interests of everyone,” Conte said in a Twitter post.

“Italy cannot accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it comes to immigration.”

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