'4.2 bn euros, 50k jobs lost if high-speed train link to France ditched'

Brussels (IANS/AKI) A total 4.2 billion euros and 50,000 jobs will "go up in smoke" if Italy's populist government pulls a planned high-speed rail link to France, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said on Friday.

"The villainous pact on which the Conte government is based is now apparent," Tajani said.

He was referring to the populist coalition between the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the far-right League party, lead by premier Giuseppe Conte.

"It (the government) is clinging onto power at all costs, at the expense of workers, companies, public health and the environment," Tajani went on.

If construction of the stalled Turin-Lyon train link through the Alps were to be permanently abandoned, 4.2 billion euros and 50,000 jobs will "go up in smoke", Tajani said.

Italy's far-right deputy premier Matteo Salvini is in favour of completing the 8.6 billion euro high-speed rail link, known as the TAV, which the bloc is co-financing, but the project has split the populist government.

While Salvini and his League party wants the TAV to be built, its coalition partner the grassroots 5-Star Movement's leader Luigi Di Maio and transport minister Danilo Toninelli have long opposed it on cost and environmental grounds.

On Thursday the Italian parliament passed a motion committing the government to "totally rediscuss" the TAV project, a move seen as an attempt to delay any definitive decision until after European parliamentary elections in May.

The project has been delayed for months due to 5-Star's opposition to it. France and the EU - which is paying for 40 percent of the tunnel -- could seek damages from Italy if the project is binned.

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