As talks between Italy’s government and the European Commission stall over the launch of planned Alitalia (AZ, Rome Fiumicino) successor ITA - Italia Trasporto Aereo, the country’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, has reiterated his hopes that the new state-owned carrier will launch before the summer.

He told journalists on April 8 that it was important ITA should survive without state subsidies. But, echoing comments that have been expressed in the local media, he also expressed his frustration at how Brussels and European Union executive vice president Margrethe Vestager had recently green-lit additional French state aid for Air France (AF, Paris CDG) while still playing hardball with Rome.

“It is clear that we cannot accept any differences in treatment by the commission compared to Air France or Lufthansa, even though we know that the conditions of the three companies are very different,” he said according to the newspaper Il Messaggero. “If there are reasons to treat Alitalia worse than Air France, we will look into it, and we will not accept arbitrary discrimination.”

Claudio Tarlazzi, general secretary of the transport union Uiltrasporti, and its national secretary Ivan Viglietti built on earlier comments condemning the European Commission’s stance by releasing a statement on April 7 warning of an impending “social and economic tragedy of national significance” if Alitalia collapses.

“The government has the obligation and the duty to intervene, must summon social partners and reject the blackmailing diktats of [...] Vestager and ensure that impartial measures are adopted with respect to what is established for France and Germany,” the union leaders said. “ITA must leave immediately with an initial fleet that is at least double what is provided for in the industrial plan, along with the ground handling, maintenance, Milan Linate slots, and brands. This must happen now before it is too late.”

As previously reported, the European Commission has insisted that if Alitalia is to morph into the leaner, nationalised ITA, then it must yield many of its assets and slots, in particular those at Linate. The Italian government considers these slots a vital part of the newco’s future strategy.

The Linate slots are 70% in the flag carrier's hands, and Brussels would like to see this cut to 35% by selling them to competitors, La Repubblica reported. A compromise may emerge in which ITA takes on about 40% of the total, sources told the newspaper.