Friday, December 30, 2011

Angie and the Berlusconi regime in Italy

Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is reporting that German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressured the Italian President to get former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi out of office: Marcus Walker et al, Deepening Crisis Over Euro Pits Leader Against Leader 12/30/2011 (most of the story is behind subscription). Big Pond news has a summary, Merkel wanted Berlusconi out - reports 12/31/2011, along with the Italian President's office's denial, which the German Chancellor's office apparently endorses, as well:

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano's office issued a statement on Friday denying the account, which had appeared in the US daily Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

'With reference to some press rumours - international and Italian - it is stated that in the phone call, not at all secret, of October 20, 2011, to the president of the republic, Giorgio Napolitano, the chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, did not pose any questions on Italian domestic politics,' the statement said.

'Even less so, did she (Merkel) advance any request to 'change the prime minister,'' the statement added.

'The conversation (between Merkel and Napolitano) - it is stressed - had as its objective only the measures taken to reduce the deficit, in defence of the euro and on structural reforms,' the statement said.

'Nothing more can be added to the accurate account of the conversation by the office of the Italian president,' a government spokeswoman in Berlin said when contacted by telephone for comment.
Now, it's understandable that Angie didn't appreciate Berlusconi's less chivalrous comments about her.

But this is something that should be clarified. EU members do have an interest in each other internal politics, whatever polite diplomatic formulas they use to describe those concerns. And whatever Angie said to the Italian President in the phone call in question, it was painfully obvious in any case that Germany with France's backing forced out the governments of both Italy and Greece and replaced them with bankers' collection agents.

Still, it does seem odd to me if Merkel, the head of government, called the Italian head of state to express such policy and/or personnel concerns. It seems that it should be the German head of state, President Christian Wulff, who should be making such a call.

This week brought mixed news for the eurozone. Spain's new conservative government is increased its projections of next year budget deficit, and cutting government spending (but also raising taxes on the wealthy), which virtually insures a worsening of Spain's debt position in the next year.

Italy was mostly successful in its bond sales this week, though it couldn't sell all it offered. Rates on short-term debt up to three years went down, which is a helpful sign. But longer-term (10 yr) rates were almost at 7%, the rate at which Italy would expect to be forced into default early in 2012.

Greece's collector-agency government is struggling to meet its EU-imposed austerity targets, which will further damage the Greek economy and worsen their debt position. But it's Italy that receiving the closest scrutiny now, because of the size of its economy and its precarious financial position.

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