ELISABETTA POVOLEDO; DAVE ITZKOFF- April 5, 2012- NYTimes - NAPLES — After years of criticism that Italy was not sufficiently caring for one of its most famous, and fragile, archeological sites, the Italian government came out on Thursday with a long-term plan for the protection of Pompeii.
A team of government ministers presented the plan at a news conference in Naples that came on the heels of the approval last week of a €105 million, or US$137 million, contribution for the site from the European Commission.
The commission was alarmed by a series of structural collapses at the ruins over the past 18 months that drew the attention of news media worldwide and raised worries about the fragility of the ancient city buried by Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
Almost as concerning, however, is the longtime influence of the Camorra, the Neapolitan organized crime network, in the region. In announcing their plan, government officials made clear the new measures were intended to ensure that the funds reached their destination, pledging that not one euro would make its way into illicit hands.
Most of the funds — €85 million — will be spent on the restoration and conservation of the site. The Great Pompeii Project, as the program has been named, “will show the European Union that Italy can spend for the future,” said Antonia Pasqua Recchia, general secretary of the Culture Ministry.
The officials also said the influx of European Union money should also help stimulate the economy in an economically depressed area where the unemployment rate is nearly 17 percent, well above the national rate of more than 9 percent. Youth unemployment in 2011 was 37 percent, the highest in Italy.
“We hope to trigger a process that will assist the local youth who don’t have jobs, but before that happens, Pompeii must remain standing, that is the point of this project,” said Prime Minister Mario Monti at a press conference in Naples on Thursday. Four cabinet ministers also attended, a sign that the government was taking the initiative seriously.
“Moments of economic crisis can also be moments of opportunity, if we show that there is a South that wants to redeem itself from accusations of wastefulness and demonstrate that it can use public resources well,” said the Naples mayor, Luigi de Magistris.
Italy’s southern regions have had a hard time shaking off a widely held reputation of corruption and misspending of public funds that has mired it in negative economic growth for years.
Concerns that the Camorra could infiltrate the companies that win the bids for the public works at Pompeii led to the establishment of protocol announced Thursday.
Fernando Guida, the Interior Ministry official appointed as an anti-Camorra watchdog said, “experience has taught us” that subcontracts and construction works in particular “are areas that attract the interest of organized crime.”
Not everyone is convinced that the project will have the desired effect. Antonio Irlando, an architect whose organization monitors Pompeii said he was concerned that it did not sufficiently guarantee the day-to-day maintenance of the site. “This is a strange country, to do normal things you have to resort to extraordinary measures,” he said.