Dispatch from Rome: Early January 2024

The Haizum Italian Insider Report is a monthly news service that monitors the most relevant issues in Italy. This document focuses on political, Economic, and Strategic matters, considering the role of Italy within the European Union, the MENA region, and Transatlantic Relations. The report will deliver clever insights by leveraging Haizum’s deep connections in the national institutional ecosystem.

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The Italian strategic landscape is characterized by dynamic political shifts, diplomatic changes, and key appointments across Government institutions. Premier Meloni‘s response to a fabricated phone call incident and diplomatic reshuffling sets the stage for the analysis. Government priorities are reflected in appointments at INPS and INAIL, along with managerial changes in Ministries. The parliamentary debate on third terms for regional presidents tests regional autonomy.

In politics, Chiara Appendino‘s election as M5S vice president and committee restructuring signal internal dynamics. The 2024 Defense Budget shows growth and challenges, emphasizing Italy’s commitment to NATO targets. Italy’s participation in U.S.-led Combined Space Operations enhances military space capabilities. Prime Minister Meloni’s calls for EU reform in Croatia reveal strategic considerations.

Economic indicators highlight Moody’s stable credit outlook, improved debt prospects, and a robust banking sector. The European Commission approves Italy’s Recovery Plan changes, and Government intervention blocks Safran’s acquisition of Microtecnica, shaping economic and national security. Chiara Scotti‘s appointment at the Bank of Italy adds international expertise.

In the energy sector, Enel’s 2024-2026 Strategic Plan focuses on financial discipline, sustainability, and a leaner structure. Generali reports resilient performance in the insurance sector despite natural disasters. Intesa Sanpaolo faces turmoil amid Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation leadership changes, revealing corporate governance and political dynamics.

Leonardo witnesses leadership changes at Orizzonte Sistemi Navali, emphasizing continuity and collaboration with Fincantieri. Telecom Italia (TIM) faces legal challenges from Vivendi over Netco’s sale, highlighting the balance between corporate decisions and shareholder interests. Corporate dynamics in energy, insurance, defense, and telecommunications shape Italy’s economic and political future.

Meloni Extends Olive Branch to Former Diplomatic Advisor, Talò

In the aftermath of the media-diplomatic uproar surrounding Premier Meloni‘s fabricated phone call with Russian comedians, her former diplomatic advisor, Francesco Talò, finds a new role coordinating military policy with Minister Guido Crosetto. Despite the setback, Meloni expressed gratitude to Talò, commending his decades-long diplomatic career and labeling him a true patriot. The premier’s endorsement continues as Talò is poised to assume the presidency of ISPI. The decision underscores the Government’s unwavering confidence in Talò, emphasizing his accountability for issues beyond his direct control. Meanwhile, Lucia Pasqualini, the embassy counselor responsible for African and developing countries, maintains a low profile amid allegations of errors facilitating a prank call to Meloni. Pasqualini’s absence from recent diplomatic delegations and social media hiatus hint at potential repercussions. As the situation settles, she may temporarily return to the Foreign Ministry.

Fabrizio Saggio Appointed as Meloni's New Diplomatic Advisor

Saggio’s selection comes as a surprise, considering recent speculations that Ambassador Fabrizio Bucci in Albania was the front-runner for the role. Like Bucci, Saggio is not a top-ranking ambassador, a departure from recent norms, reflecting a broader trend among senior diplomats reaching age limits. This news is particularly significant for Prime Minister Meloni, actively engaged in foreign affairs, especially considering Italy assuming the G7 Presidency in 2024, where Luca Ferrari will lead the diplomats of the Prime Minister’s Office.

New Presidents for INPS and INAIL

After 187 days of extraordinary administration, the new heads of INPS and INAIL have been approved by the Council of Ministers: Gabriele Fava for INPS and the ‘confirmation’ of Fabrizio D’Ascenzo for INAIL. The appointment of lawyer Gabriele Fava, sponsored by the League, has been confirmed for INPS. 

Fava, a former commissioner of Alitalia (nominated in 2021 by then-Minister Giorgetti), will replace the outgoing extraordinary commissioner Micaela Gelera, the first woman to lead the social security institution. Gelera is expected to be reinstated in the board representing Brothers of Italy. Born in 1963 in Milan, Fava is an expert in Italian labor law. In June 2023, the League president of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Fedriga, appointed him president of Autostrade Alto Adriatico.

Attention now turns to the selection of general directors. Despite sponsorship, Valeria Vittimberga, an internal executive trusted by Prime Minister Meloni, faces difficulties at INPS. It is likely that Vincenzo Caridi will be reconfirmed as the general director. Fabrizio D’Ascenzo, a full professor at the Faculty of Economics of the University “La Sapienza” in Rome, has been confirmed as the president of INAIL. He began his role on June 15 as the extraordinary commissioner, representing Brothers of Italy.

Round of Appointments Across Ministries

The Council of Ministers approved several managerial appointments across various Ministries. Here are the details of the appointments:

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Farnesina):

  • Stefano Gatti: Appointed as Director General for Cooperation and Development.
  • Mauro Battocchi: Appointed as Director General for the Promotion of the Country System.
  • Nicoletta Bombardiere: Appointed as Director General for Globalization and Global Issues.
  • Lucio Demichele: Placed out of office as “Political Advisor of the EU Special Representative for the Gulf Region” in Brussels.
  • Gabriele Altana: Placed out of office at the Ministry of Health as Diplomatic Advisor to the Minister.

At the Ministry of Defense:

  • Promotion to the rank of General of the Carabinieri: Marco Minicucci, Massimo Mennitti, Aldo Iacobelli, Fabrizio Parrulli.
  • Confirmation of General Antonio Vittiglio as Director General for Military Personnel.

At the Ministry of Tourism:

  • Barbara Casagrande: Appointed as Secretary General of the Ministry.

At the Ministry of Agriculture:

  • Giuseppe Blasi: Appointed as Head of the Department of Common Agricultural Policy and Rural Development.
  • Felice Assenza: Appointed as Head of the Department of Central Inspection for the Protection, Quality, and Repression of Fraud in Agri-food Products.
  • Marco Lupo: Appointed as Head of the Department of Food Sovereignty and Horseracing.

At the Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security:

  • Loredana Gulino: Appointed as Head of the Department of General Administration, Planning, and Natural Heritage.
  • Federico Boschi: Appointed as Head of the Energy Department.
  • Laura D’Aprile: Appointed as Head of the Department of Sustainable Development.
Controversy Surrounding Third Term for Regional Presidents

The third consecutive term for regional presidents has become a contentious issue, causing rifts within the majority Government parties. Vice Premier Antonio Tajani of Forza Italia has rejected the notion of a third term, leading to heated exchanges with the League party, particularly figures like Luca Zaia and Matteo Salvini, who advocate for citizens’ freedom to choose their representatives without restrictions. The debate is governed by national law, specifically Law 165/2004, Article 2, Clause 1, Letter f, which outlines the ineligibility criteria, including the non-immediate re-election after the second consecutive term for directly elected regional governors.

This legislation is an implementation of Article 122 of the Constitution, emphasizing regional autonomy in determining election rules for regional councils and presidents. Despite the legal framework restricting presidents to two consecutive terms, past instances, such as those involving Roberto Formigoni and Vasco Errani, highlight the complex interpretations and challenges surrounding the enforcement of term limits. The current focal point of the debate is Luca Zaia, the incumbent president of Veneto, facing the end of his term in autumn 2025 after being re-elected for a third consecutive term in 2020. The controversy extends to other regional leaders like Vincenzo De Luca and Michele Emiliano, whose terms also conclude in 2025. Attempts to amend the term limit in Parliament faced setbacks, indicating the political complexities surrounding the issue.

Chiara Appendino Elected New Vice President of M5S

In a recent vote, the M5S base confirmed Chiara Appendino as the new vice president, replacing Alessandra Todde. The election marked the return of internal voting for the M5S after a six-month hiatus. Speculation suggests that Appendino, the former mayor of Turin, could pose a challenge to the leadership of Giuseppe Conte. Notably, all the vice presidents, including Appendino, are on their second term and approaching term limits, leading to considerations about the future direction of the party. Additionally, Giuseppe Conte has restructured the committees up for election, excluding figures like Fabio Massimo Castaldo, who clashed openly with Conte, leading to claims of “purge” and internal tensions within the party.

Defense Budget 2024: Overview and Challenges

The 2024 Defense Budget is poised for an increase, though achieving the 2% NATO target remains elusive. Scrutinizing the Draft Budget Law (DdL) spanning 2014-2026 unveils noteworthy insights. However, the consideration of the Defense Programmatic Document (DPP) 2023-2025 introduces an additional layer of complexity. A decision to extend the “Safe Roads” and “Safe Stations” operations in 2024 raises concerns, as it involves a bolstered contingent of 6,800 military personnel and a total expenditure of €225.1 mln, contradicting the stance in the DPP. European Peace Facility (EPF) witnesses an increase (exceeding €1 bln) in contributions for the years 2024-2027, emphasizing support for military aid to Ukraine.

Examining the Defense Function reveals a seventh consecutive annual increase, with expenditure reaching approximately €20.84 bln in 2024—a growth of about 6.6% from the previous year. However, concerns persist regarding imbalances in personnel costs, which continue to rise despite a reduction in the actual personnel count.  The Investment chapter experiences a noteworthy boost, with resources allocated for national defense investment programs reaching around €7.515 bln in 2024, marking a 23% increase from the current year. Considering contributions from the Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy (MIMIT), the total investment funds for 2024 are at €9.3 bln.

Italy Joins U.S.-Led Combined Space Operations

Italy takes a significant step in enhancing its military space capabilities and reinforcing collaboration with the United States and key allies by joining the Combined Space Operations (CSpO). Italian Undersecretary of Defense Isabella Rauti signed the agreement, highlighting Italy’s ambition to play a leading role alongside major players in military space endeavors. 

CSpO, launched in 2014 by the then-commander of the U.S. Space Command, General John “Jay” Raymond, aims to bolster interoperability among allies in capacities such as space awareness, orbital support, maritime, and aerial forces, launch and reentry management, and space operations. 

Originally comprising English-speaking nations—the U.S., the UK, Canada, and Australia—the initiative expanded in 2020 to include France and Germany, with Italy and Japan formally joining the alliance recently.

Giorgia Meloni in Croatia Calls for EU Reform

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni advocates for a new phase in the European Union during her visit to Croatia, emphasizing the need for tangible signals in response to evolving challenges. Discussions with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and other European leaders centered on crucial issues such as immigration, liquefied natural gas facilities, and the upcoming European elections. Meloni underscores the importance of the EU reevaluating its governance and fostering innovative initiatives, such as the Italian-Albanian agreement on migrants and the Italian-German action plan

The visit aims to strengthen EU policies on pressing matters and advance cooperation with Balkan countries, notably Bosnia and Herzegovina, reflecting Meloni’s commitment to the enlargement process and the region’s strategic importance. In addition, Meloni emphasizes the necessity of adapting governance rules to enhance competitiveness and strategic roles, highlighting the ongoing efforts required for comprehensive reforms. The visit signifies the deepening of relations between Italy and Croatia.

Minister Urso Strengthens Indo-Mediterranean Corridor during Gulf Tour

Minister of Enterprises and Made in Italy, Adolfo Urso, concludes a three-day mission across the Gulf, visiting Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Highlighting the renewed bilateral relationship with the UAE, Urso emphasizes the potential for increased synergies and investments in political, industrial, and commercial domains. The Minister recognizes the strategic importance of global connectivity, aligning with the US-led India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor launched during the G20 in New Delhi.

During his UAE visit, Urso engages in meetings with national investment funds and political authorities, focusing on strategic investments between Italy and the UAE. Key sectors include energy, infrastructure, logistics, connectivity, and innovative technologies, with an emphasis on green and digital initiatives. Meetings with influential figures such as Sultan bin Ahmad Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of ADQ and ADIA funds, delve into cooperative efforts on artificial intelligence, digital infrastructure, and space exploration.

Italy's Credit Rating Gets a Boost as Moody's Revises Outlook to Stable

Moody’s has upheld Italy’s Baa3 rating while upgrading its outlook from negative to stable, attributing the positive shift to improved debt prospects and the robust health of the banking sector. The decision follows favorable assessments from other rating agencies and financial markets. This verdict concludes a month of Italian credit rating evaluations, with the Government optimistic about responsible fiscal policies receiving parliamentary support.

In August 2022, Moody’s had downgraded Italy’s outlook to negative, heightening concerns about a potential downgrade to junk status. The recent stability in the country’s economic indicators and prudent fiscal policies aligns with the decisions of other conservative rating agencies, fostering positivity in financial markets. Italy’s Baa3 rating remains crucial, as any further downgrade could push it into the speculative bond territory, impacting the cost of borrowing for the country.

EU Commission Grants Approval for NRPP Revision

After months of negotiations and interventions on 144 objectives, the European Commission has given the green light to Italy’s substantial restructuring of the Recovery Plan, marking the end of a complex chapter in Italy-EU relations for 2023, along with the go-ahead for the fourth installment, amounting to €16.5 bln. 

The new Italian plan, initially valued at €191.5 bln, now proposes an additional €2.76 bln in loans, specifically allocated to Repower. The energy sector, totaling €19.2 bln in projects, underwent adjustments, including revisions to energy efficiency targets, urban regeneration projects, integrated plans, and anti-hydrogeological disaster initiatives.

Chiara Scotti Appointed as Vice Director General of Bank of Italy

In a unanimous decision by the Council of Bank of Italy, Chiara Scotti has been appointed as the Vice Director General, succeeding Piero Cipollone, who has transitioned to the European Central Bank (ECB). Scotti, currently serving as the Senior Vice President and Director of Research at the Federal Reserve in Dallas, brings a wealth of international experience.

Before her role at the Federal Reserve in Dallas, Scotti held various positions at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve in Washington D.C., serving as an advisor to the Vice President of the Federal Reserve and other board members. She has contributed significantly to the areas of financial stability and international finance. Scotti is a prolific researcher with numerous publications in international journals and presentations at seminars and conferences. She holds a degree from Bocconi University in Milan and earned a Master’s and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Government Blocks Safran's Acquisition of Microtecnica

The Italian Government has intervened through its Golden Power authority to oppose the sale of Collins Aerospace’s Actuation Systems to the French company Safran. The deal, part of Safran’s acquisition of Collins Aerospace’s flight control and actuation division, included Microtecnica S.r.l., based in Turin, Italy. The Italian Government’s decision, driven by concerns for job security and contracts related to the Eurofighter program, deems the agreement an “exceptional threat to essential defense and national security interests.” Microtecnica, a key player in aerospace equipment, with ties to Leonardo, Airbus, and Boeing, specializes in hydraulic and electromechanical actuation and thermal control systems.

Enel Unveils Ambitious 2024-2026 Strategic Plan

Enel’s CEO, Flavio Cattaneo, presented a strategic plan for 2024-2026, outlining key financial objectives. The plan aims for a net profit between €6.6 bln and €6.8 bln, an ordinary EBITDA of €22.1 bln to €22.8 bln, and a minimum fixed dividend of €0.43 per share. Cattaneo emphasizes the transformation of Enel into a leaner, more flexible, and resilient organization, prioritizing financial discipline to enhance cash generation and efficiency, with sustainability guiding business decisions. Enel’s gross investments for 2024-2026 are set at approximately €35.8 bln, focusing primarily on networks and renewables. 

Enel’s core investments over the next years will concentrate on six “core” countries—Italy, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and the United States—accounting for 49% of gross investments. The strategic plan underscores Enel’s commitment to an integrated presence across the energy value chain, from generation to distribution and market participation. Enel aims to increase ordinary EBITDA to €23.6 bln to €24.3 bln and achieve a group net profit of €7.1 bln to €7.3 bln by 2026. Key priorities include selective capital allocation for risk-return optimization and operational efficiency through process simplification, organizational streamlining, and cost rationalization.

Generali's Performance: Balancing Growth

Generali reports positive trends in premiums and profits for the first nine months of 2023, despite increased losses from natural disasters. The insurance giant’s gross premiums rose to €60.5 bln (up 4.7%), primarily driven by a robust performance in the Property and Casualty segment, which saw an 11.4% growth. Operating profit increased to €5.1 bln (up 16.7%), contributing to a net profit of €2.979 bln (up 29.6%). Generali attributes this success to its diversified business model and strong capital position, expressing confidence in achieving the goals outlined in the ‘Lifetime Partner 24: Driving Growth’ strategy.

While the Life segment experienced a decline in collections, offset by improvements in the third quarter, the Property and Casualty segment demonstrated robust growth with an operating profit of €2.155 bln (up 50.3%) and premiums reaching €23.444 bln (up 11.4%). The Combined Ratio for the sector improved to 94.3%, driven by lower claims despite the significant impact of natural disasters. Generali acknowledges losses of €875 mln from natural disasters, notably floods and hailstorms in Italy, Central and Eastern Europe, and Greece in the third quarter.

Turmoil Surrounds Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation Leadership

Torino’s mayor, Stefano Lo Russo, seeks to impose the scientific advisor to the Italian Embassy in Washington as the next president of the Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation, causing disruptions at both the Farnesina and in the Piedmont Region. The candidate, Marco Gilli, decides to step back amidst controversy, as the Farnesina and the Piedmont Governor, Alberto Cirio, express concerns about a leader residing in the U.S. for the past seven years. The upcoming leadership change in the foundation, a major shareholder in Intesa Sanpaolo, becomes a point of contention between Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti.

Giovanni Sorrentino Takes Helm at Orizzonte Sistemi Navali

Giovanni Sorrentino has been appointed as the new CEO of Orizzonte Sistemi Navali (OSN), a joint venture between Fincantieri (51%) and Leonardo (49%). The announcement signifies continuity in the alliance’s consolidation between Fincantieri and Leonardo, aimed at strengthening Italy’s defense capabilities at sea. Sorrentino, succeeding Dario Deste, brings extensive defense sector experience to his role. Having served as Programme Manager for the Fremm project within the Joint Organization for Armament Cooperation, Sorrentino’s background includes institutional roles within the Italian Navy and Ministry of Defense. His recent positions include Chief of Staff at MBDA Italia and Programme Manager Naval Strategy at Fincantieri.

The strategic appointment aligns with the renewed industrial agreements between Leonardo and Fincantieri. In late October, the naval group and aerospace and defense company signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the submarine domain, emphasizing collaboration to leverage their respective expertise. Sorrentino’s leadership coincides with the recent appointment of Barbara Gaione as the new President of OSN’s Board of Directors. The Board also includes Renzo Tosini, Marco De Fazio, Sabrina Sanguineti, Wanda Costa, and the outgoing CEO, Dario Deste.

Vivendi Contest Tim's Network Restructuring

Tim faces a legal challenge as Vivendi contests the board’s decision approving the sale of Netco to KKR. Despite the legal action, Tim reassures that the divestment process will proceed as planned. The legal recourse initiated by Vivendi does not include any requests for a provisional suspension. In response to Vivendi’s legal action, Tim notes that Vivendi’s legal move was preannounced to the market months ago. 

As the majority shareholder in Tim with nearly 24% of shares, Vivendi has consistently expressed reservations about Tim’s negotiations with the American fund. The primary concerns raised by Vivendi include the perceived low sale price and doubts about the sustainability of the service company post-restructuring. Vivendi had requested Tim’s board to present KKR’s offer for approval at an extraordinary shareholder meeting; it was rejected.

Tim Extends Deadline for Sparkle Bid

Tim’s Board of Directors unanimously decided to extend the deadline for Optics Bidco, a company controlled by KKR., to finalize due diligence activities and submit a final offer for Sparkle. The new deadline is set for the end of January 2024. During the meeting, the Board also engaged in a preliminary discussion regarding the potential submission of a candidate list for the new Board of Directors. President Salvatore Rossi announced that he will not be a candidate, considering his four-year tenure at Tim concluding naturally with the end of his mandate.

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© 2022 Created by ABCPRODUCTION.digital