Europe

Italy crisis: Mario Monti appointed new PM-designate

  • 13 November 2011
  • From the section Europe
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Mario Monti has been asked to form a new Italian government to tackle an acute debt crisis which prompted the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr Monti, an ex-EU commissioner, said he was starting urgent talks on his cabinet, aiming to restore finances.

Most parties, including Mr Berlusconi's, approved his nomination.

Italy's borrowing costs have spiked, threatening the eurozone. Hailing Mr Monti's appointment, EU leaders vowed to monitor Italy's austerity measures.

Mr Monti's candidature was announced after President Giorgio Napolitano spent the day in 17 meetings with senior politicians.

Speaking to reporters shortly afterwards, Mr Monti said Italy should be an "element of strength and not weakness" within the EU.

"We will aim at solving the financial situation, resume the path of growth. [We want to build] a future of dignity and hope for our children."

Mr Monti said he would respect the country's parliament and hold urgent consultations with its political forces.

He refused to set a timetable for the formation of a new government, and would not say who he planned to nominate as ministers. But he said consultations would start on Monday.

Mr Napolitano said the nomination was not about overturning the result of the elections of 2008 - but Italy needed a government that "could unite the diverse political forces in an extraordinary effort warranted by the current financial and economic emergency".

Asked about the lifespan of a Monti government, Mr Napolitano said this depended on "the actions of the government, the reaction of the economy, of the markets, investors, of the European and international institutions".

'Encouraging signal'

Speaking in a recorded TV address, Mr Berlusconi said he would support a technocrat government and redouble his own efforts in parliament to modernise Italy.

Most centrists and centre-left parties in the opposition have already pledged their support.

However, Mr Berlusconi's main coalition ally, the Northern League, has withheld its support until Mr Monti's policies have become clear.

Mr Berlusconi, who had lost his parliamentary majority, resigned on Saturday after new austerity measures were passed by both houses of parliament.

In Brussels, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy issued a joint statement welcoming Mr Monti's appointment.

It sent "a further encouraging signal... of the Italian authorities' determination to overcome the current crisis", they said.

The Commission, they added, would continue monitoring "the implementation of measures taken by Italy with the aim of pursuing policies that foster growth and employment".

Mr Monti's appointment comes two days after Greece, under even greater pressure from Brussels, inaugurated a technocrat government to cope with its debt problems.

Popular opposition

Mr Monti, a well respected economist, is exactly the sort of man that the markets would like to see take charge at this time of crisis, says the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome, and he has support in many quarters.

But there is significant opposition to him within the country, and a feeling that Italy's troubles are just too deep for a mere change of government to make any rapid, significant difference.

The austerity package foresees 59.8bn euros in savings from a mixture of spending cuts and tax rises, with the aim of balancing the budget by 2014. Measures include:

  • An increase in VAT, from 20% to 21%
  • An increase in fuel prices
  • Sales of state property
  • A freeze on public-sector salaries until 2014
  • The retirement age for women in the private sector will gradually rise, from 60 in 2014 until it reaches 65 in 2026, the same age as for men
  • Measures to fight tax evasion will be strengthened, including a limit of 2,500 euros on cash transactions
  • There will be a special tax on the energy sector

On Wednesday, the interest rate on 10-year Italian government bonds briefly passed 7%, the rate at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal were forced to seek bailouts from the EU.

An EU team has begun work in Rome, monitoring how Italy plans to cut its debt burden, 120% of annual economic output (GDP).

The Italian economy has grown at an average of 0.75% a year over the past 15 years.