Italy vows to be ready in time to host G-7 in Sicilian town
GINO MACELI, Associated Press
TAORMINA, Sicily (AP) — Italy still needs to build two helicopter landing pads and repave miles of road, but a top government official promised Friday that everything will be ready for the May 26-27 G-7 summit being held in a stunning Sicilian town overlooking the sea.
The annual summit will see U.S. President Donald Trump and the leaders of six other major industrial democracies confer on world issues in Taormina, a hilltop resort town with an ancient Greek theater.
Concern has been growing that logistics could be a disaster, since no major construction work has yet begun.
But Government Undersecretary Maria Elena Boschi, who toured the site Friday, said the helipad work will begin Monday and promised it will go "rapidly, and we'll be ready for May."
The government has earmarked 15 million euros ($16 million) for summit preparations in Taormina. But the risk of corruption tainting public works contracts is a chronic problem throughout Italy. Before winning contracts in Italy, private companies must be certified that they have no ties with organized crime.
"We have a tight timetable, but for the contracts, we'll have ample attention to the procedures to be followed and to transparency," Boschi said, noting that the government's anti-corruption agency will be scrutinizing the works.
Taormina Mayor Eligio Giardina echoed officials' sentiments that all must get to work quickly.
"We are at a point when we need to do things, no more worries and no more negativity," the mayor said. "Now we established our priorities."
The special commissioner in charge of the summit's infrastructure and security said there will be talks Saturday about asphalting more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) of roads around Taormina.
"I hope that it can be wrapped up right on time," Riccardo Carpino told journalists.
Carpino did cite one concern: Taormina's conference center needs "much restructuring" because it lacks a fire safety certification.
Summit security preparations will be reviewed weekly at the premier's office in Rome, Boschi said. Plans call for the deployment of 6,000 security forces for the summit.
Besides the United States, the G-7 involves Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Italy has a history of pulling off ambitious works at the last minute despite doubts from outsiders. The venue of the 2009 G-8 Italy hosted was switched, after months of work, from a tiny island off Sardinia to the earthquake-stricken central town of L'Aquila in a show of solidarity for the suffering there.
Frances D'Emilio contributed from Rome.
Photo: Italian Government Undersecretary Maria Elena Boschi, center, visits the ancient Greek theater of Taormina, Italy, the host town of the upcoming May 26-27 G-7 summit, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Italy still needs to build two helicopter landing pads and repave miles of road, but Boschi promised Friday that everything will be ready for the summit being held in the stunning Sicilian town overlooking the sea. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)