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15 Aug, 2018 13:10

Salvini says EU budget rules risk safety of Italians after Genoa bridge collapse

Salvini says EU budget rules risk safety of Italians after Genoa bridge collapse

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has laid the blame for the Genoa bridge collapse on the European Union, saying that spending restrictions has limited the country’s investment in its infrastructure.

Salvini, the leader of the eurosceptic Northern League, told reporters in Sicily that the fall of the 100-meter-long stretch of the A10 motorway in the port city on Tuesday showed that budgetary strictures imposed by the EU are putting lives of Italians at risk.

READ MORE: ‘It was a miracle’: Survivor of Genoa bridge collapse shares his story (VIDEO)

“If external constraints prevent us from spending to have safe roads and schools, then it really calls into question whether it makes sense to follow these rules,” said Salvini, according to Reuters. “There can be no tradeoff between fiscal rules and the safety of Italians.”

At least 35 people are reported to have died in the incident. The bridge, known as the Ponte Morandi, was built in the late 1960s and has undergone various redevelopment works over the years. The director of motorway operator Autostrade said the collapse of the bridge was impossible to predict, but its design has come in for criticism in the past.

Antonio Brencich, a professor specializing in reinforced concrete construction at the University of Genoa, called the Morandi bridge “a failure of engineering” in an interview with an Italian broadcaster in 2016. The academic told Primocanale: “That bridge is wrong. Sooner or later it will have to be replaced. I do not know when. But there will be a time when the cost of maintenance will be higher than a replacement.”

Salvini is pushing for the EU to relax its deficit-reduction targets which will allow Italy to raise its spending and cut taxes. He has been joined by Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli and budget committee chief Claudio Borghi who railed against budgetary restrictions on Twitter. “The safety of the Italians must come first,” he wrote on the social media platform.

READ MORE: ‘This is hell’: Eyewitnesses relay tragic Genoa bridge collapse (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

Italy currently has a national debt of around €2.3 trillion ($2.7 trillion), a figure that has forced the European Commission to insist on stricter rules governing deficit reduction, according to Bloomberg.

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