Q&A: Monti's technocratic government for Italy

G20 leaders Defence minster (not pictured): Giampaolo Di Paola, head of Nato's military committee since June 2008.
Foreign minister (not pictured): Giulio Terzi Di Santagata, experienced diplomat, no clear political leanings.

A technocratic government, or government of experts, has been appointed in Italy after the resignation of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi under market pressure.

Led by a former EU competition commissioner, its aim is to restore the eurozone's third-biggest economy to good health in time for the next scheduled election in 2013.

Here we answer some key questions about Mario Monti's new team.

Image caption Corrado Passera has been given a triple portfolio

Just how expert are these experts?

In the words of the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, the new 16-strong cabinet is made up "only of experts, no politicians".

The technocrats in the team include Mr Monti himself, who takes on the economics and finance portfolios as well as the prime minister's post, and banker Corrado Passera. Mr Passera, CEO of the Intesa Sanpaolo banking group, heads a super-ministry bringing together development, infrastructure and transport. Other major appointments are

  • The Italian ambassador to Washington, Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, who becomes foreign minister
  • Anna Maria Cancellieri, a former special administrator and prefect, who becomes interior minister
  • Admiral Giampaolo di Paola, head of Nato's military committee and an experienced military coalition planner, who takes over defence
  • Well-known criminal lawyer and academic Paola Severino, who becomes justice minister
  • Antonio Catricala, head of the monopolies commission, who becomes cabinet under-secretary

"All these people are very high-calibre, and highly respected, independent," political science professor Roberto D'Alimonte told the Associated Press.

Image caption Andrea Riccardi is seen as a choice that will please the Vatican

Any other interesting new faces?

The new minister for tourism and sport, both lucrative sectors of the Italian economy, is Piero Gnudi, chairman of the Enel power company.

Andrea Riccardi, founder of the worldwide Catholic peace advocacy movement Community of Sant'Egidio, has been named minister of international and domestic co-operation.

The new European affairs minister is Enzo Moavero, Mario Monti's head of cabinet in Brussels when he was battling the US corporate world.

How can we measure the new cabinet's progress?

Mr Monti's immediate target is to enact his austerity programme. The country has to refinance about 200bn euros (£170bn; $273bn) of bonds by the end of April.

One good barometer of progress is the level of the country's borrowing costs which crept past the 7% danger point in the days before Mr Berlusconi resigned.

Image caption Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata (seen here shaking Barack Obama's hand) is Italy's new face abroad

Are Italy's politicians really going to stay out of the picture?

Mr Monti argues that by excluding politicians, he can avoid party political conflicts and govern in the national interest. "The absence of political personalities in the government will help rather than hinder a solid base of support," he said.

However, his policies must be put to parliament and there is always the threat of confidence votes. As leader of the largest party, Mr Berlusconi continues to wield considerable influence and he is reported as saying he may decide to "pull the plug" if he does not like what the new government does.

Some analysts believe the politicians intend to give Mr Monti only enough time to enact his reforms before precipitating early elections.

Any wild cards in Mr Monti's game?

The success of the new government will also depend on the fortunes of other eurozone states such as Spain, and there are real fears that much larger bailouts may be required than those for Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

Inside Italy there is the threat of a popular backlash against austerity. Rome saw some of its worst rioting in years at an anti-capitalist rally in October.