When Giuseppe Conte was plucked from political obscurity to become prime minister of Italy’s populist coalition government in 2018, few believed he would be around very long.
The former law professor was at the time little more than a softly-spoken figurehead whose main job was to mediate squabbles between the real power players, Luigi Di Maio, then leader of the radical Five Star Movement. and Matteo Salvini of the anti-migration League.
Since then the “people’s lawyer”, as he was dubbed at the time, has survived an attempt by Mr Salvini to oust him and built a new, far more pro-EU coalition government with the centre-left Democratic party.
Mr Conte is now just over four and a half months away from becoming only the 15th-ever Italian prime minister to last more than three years in office. But to get there, he must survive a crunch confidence vote by Italian lawmakers on Tuesday. If he loses, he will have to hand in his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella.
The Senate vote was triggered by last week’s resignation of former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva party from the ruling coalition.
Mr Renzi accused Mr Conte of failing to sufficiently consult other parties when drawing up plans to spend the estimated €200bn of the country’s EU coronavirus recovery money.
So slim is Mr Conte’s majority in the Italian upper house that he has since scrambled to find enough “responsible” lawmakers outside the current government to lend him their votes.
On Monday, speaking in front of Italy’s lower house, Mr Conte defended his government’s response to the pandemic and blasted Mr Renzi’s resignation for causing unneeded instability.
“This crisis has caused deep dismay in the country,” he said. “It risks producing considerable damage and not only because it has caused the spread to rise but even more because it has attracted the attention of the international media and foreign chancelleries.”
The numbers are tight, but it appears that Mr Conte may have managed to find enough senators to prevent his government from collapsing.
The problem: even if Mr Conte does manage to cling on by cobbling together a coalition that includes a number of side-switching senators, his government will find itself severely weakened.
In this scenario it will probably be harder for Italy to spend the European funds it has been given wisely. The country’s economic recovery from the pandemic may suffer as a result.
The French government has kiboshed a potential takeover of supermarket chain Carrefour by Couche-Tard, one of Canada’s largest publicly traded company (see chart above). While Emmanuel Macron’s government has proclaimed France “open for business”, the merger block was justified on the grounds of protecting the country's “food sovereignty”. The FT reports on what the thwarted takeover means for France's ability to attract foreign investment during the pandemic.
EU finance ministers take part in a virtual Ecofin meeting to discuss bad loans in the banking system and the implementation of the bloc’s Covid-19 recovery fund.
The European Commission will publish its communication on its vaccines strategy later on Tuesday.