Italy’s government intends to honor its commitment to let the U.S. Army expand the base in Vicenza, Italy’s prime minister said this weekend while in Japan for the annual Group of Eight summit.
"Let’s respect our pledge to the United States," Silvio Berlusconi said, according to Naples’ daily newspaper Il Napoli.
In June, a Veneto regional administrative court suspended the expansion project for the U.S. Army base in Vicenza, supporting a lawsuit filed by the Codacons, a group of citizens and business leaders opposed to the expansion.
"The government has decided to fulfill its pledge with regards to the United States," Berlusconi is quoted, "irrespective of attempts of false expectations to revisit discussions on decisions already taken, and therefore, irreversible."
Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States are in Japan this week for the annual G-8 summit.
Italian officials have said the government will appeal the court’s June decision.
U.S. Army officials declined to comment Monday, saying it was inappropriate for the U.S. government to weigh in on such a delicate matter. "We’re pleased the process is working, but this is in the hands of the Italian government right now, and the decision is up to the Italian government," said Sgt. Maj. Kimberly Williams, a spokeswoman for Southern European Task Force (Airborne), headquartered in Vicenza.
The planned expansion of the base, to include the Dal Molin airfield, would consolidate in Italy the six battalions of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, now split between Italy and Germany.
The Veneto court cited several reasons for the suspension, including the lack of a formal, written agreement between the Italian and U.S. government, formal public input, and documentation of adequate environmental impact studies, according to the 13-page ruling.
Berlusconi favored the expansion plans during a previous stint as Italy’s prime minister between 2001 and 2006. His successor, Romano Prodi, also supported the expansion. Berlusconi was elected for a third time as prime minister in April.
In March, the U.S. awarded a 245 million euro contract to two Italian companies to build offices, work spaces and recreational areas for elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. Work was supposed to start this summer and is expected to be completed sometime in 2012.