Italy parties discuss 2024 deadline to open up beach concessions - draft

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: People sunbathe on the beach in the Italian town of Stintino

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's parties are negotiating a deadline of end-2024 to complete tenders for lucrative contracts to manage bars and other facilities on the country's beaches, a draft amendment seen by Reuters showed, amid tensions within the ruling coalition.

Licences to rent out sun loungers and beach umbrellas are traditionally family-controlled and passed down from one generation to another in Italy, and rival entrepreneurs say they have been shut out unfairly from a major business.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi early this year tried to clinch a deal within his national unity coalition to launch the tenders as of Jan. 1, 2024, but centre-right Forza Italia and League parties held approval in parliament.

They say keeping it in the family maintains low costs for beachgoers and prevents Italy's 7,500 kilometres of coastline from falling into the hands of big chains that might not respect local traditions.

The licence system is part of a bill Italy needs to approve by this year to fulfil commitments with the European Union and unlock billions of euros in post-COVID recovery funds.

The amendment lays out a regime under which current concessions will be effective until tenders are concluded but must end by Dec. 31, 2024.

The licences are officially state owned but rarely come up for public bidding.

In 2019, the government raised just 115 million euros ($123.22 million) from the sale of beach licences, while the business itself is estimated to be worth some 15 billion euros annually, according to a study by the Nomisma consultancy.

The amendment also envisages a scheme to compensate the outgoing concessionaires if they lose the tenders.

($1 = 0.9333 euros)

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, editing by Angelo Amante and Bernadette Baum)