The EU urges Italy to stick to the program as more funds are approved

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BRUSSELS/ROME, Sept 27 (Reuters) – The European Commission urged Italy’s new government to stick to reform plans as it paved the way for the payment of an additional 21 billion euros ($20.2 billion) on Tuesday in post-COVID recovery funds.

The commission said Italy had met a series of 45 milestones and targets in reforming areas including public employment, procurement, tax administration, education and healthcare to qualify for another part of a €192 billion scheme.

“So congratulations Italia and keep up the good work! The Commission is by your side on your road to recovery,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

A right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni won Italy’s parliamentary elections on Sunday and expressed concern in Brussels that relations with the new government would be more difficult than under Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the funding offered a unique opportunity to transform the Italian economy.

“I call on the next Italian government to ensure that this opportunity is seized,” Gentiloni, a former Italian prime minister, said in a statement.

Meloni said ahead of the election that there should be scope to change the program to reflect the impact of the energy crisis.

The latest funds, pending final EU approval, will be invested in areas such as 5G telecoms, tourism and justice system reforms.

Italy has already received around €46 billion in funding, disbursed in the form of grants and loans. ($1 = 1.0382 euros)

Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout and Marine Strauss in Brussels and Keith Weir in Rome; Editing by Alison Williams

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