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Germany calls on Italy's 'sense of responsibility'

Published: 03 Mar 2013 09:18 GMT+01:00

After meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed confidence in Italian politicians' "sense of responsibility," her spokesman said.

Echoing this, Germany's Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Philipp Rösler on Saturday urged Italians to stay the course laid out by the outgoing government under Mario Monti.

"Italy, as a major European economy, has a great responsibility. There is no alternative to the policy of structural reforms," he told German weekly Focus. "I'm confident that those responsible in Italy recognize the importance of (preserving) stability."

Italian-German relations took a nose-dive earlier in the week when Merkel's gaffe-prone challenger from the opposition centre-left, Peer Steinbrück, said he was “downright appalled that two clowns won” Italy's election.

Meanwhile, former comedian Beppe Grillo, whose anti-establishment Five Star Movement unexpectedly captured a quarter of the Italian vote, told the magazine he wants to renegotiate his crisis-hit country's debt.

Official figures this week showed Italy's economy shrank by 2.4 percent last year and public debt rose to 127 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 120.8 percent in 2011 - the highest level in the eurozone after Greece.

"We are being crushed - not by the euro but by our debt," Grillo told Focus. "When (public debt) interest payments reach €100 billion a year, we're dead. There are no alternatives" to debt renegotiation, he added.

Grillo's party has spooked Europe with its promise to hold a referendum on the euro and cancel Italy's debts, prompting European leaders to urge Italy to stick to its fiscal commitments and form a government as soon as possible.

The comedian-turned-populist firebrand said he gave his country's political system "only six months" before it collapsed and the state could no longer "pay pensions and public sector salaries."

If the debt obligations didn't change, Grillo said he would want his recession-struck country to leave the euro and return to the lira, the magazine said.

Klaus-Peter Willsch, a deputy from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), echoed Grillo's sentiments on Friday and called for Italy to leave the euro if it could not stick to EU rules.

With Italy still scrambling to find a way out of the political impasse following last weekend's elections, Grillo could become kingmaker after his rogue party drew many austerity-weary Italians to its ranks.

He has refused to form a coalition with Pier Luigi Bersani, whose centre-left party came out on top in the elections, nor with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservatives, until his demands for changes to the political system are met.

AFP/The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

10:58 March 3, 2013 by smart2012
3 years of Verkel driving eu agenda and here we are. Well done Verkel
11:00 March 3, 2013 by blackboot11
How about Germany calling on Germany's 'sense of responsibilty' for a while here.... The rediculious new Berlin airport debacle, the 400 € mini job joke, the destruction of the Berlin wall for luxury condominiums and on and on.

Please practice what you preach, OK?
12:58 March 3, 2013 by jg.
The Italian election was conclusive in that a majority of Italians voted for something other than the status quo of punitive austerity measures. The responsible path for Italian politicians would probably be to look after the best interests of their people, instead of kowtowing to foreign bankers and politicians, who are prepared to sacrifice the lives and livelihoods of anyone for the sake of their dream of a federal EU.
13:30 March 3, 2013 by raandy
Italy is too big to fall. Bersani and Berlusconi are both experienced politicians and at the end of the day they know they will have to cooperate to form a government.

They campaigned on an anti austerity and as it stands now there will be no European Stability Mechanism as that requires a stable government. If they can not form a government and call for elections now 5 star will gain momentum and they surely will throw out austerity.

Napolitano term ends in April and those elected must find a successor if they can not agree then this will deepen the crisis.

This is really about Germanys insistance on austerity, Bersani and Berlusconi will have no choice but to agree to it, 5 star full of homemakers, students, unemployed will not.
16:35 March 3, 2013 by schneebeck
OK, OK, so no austerity.

Do they just sit back and wait for the Euro crisis to go away by itself? Could it work like that?

If you think austerity is a bad idea or contrary to popular will, what exactly is the plan then?
17:07 March 3, 2013 by Steve1949
@ schneebeck............There are other choices that could be made such as disbanding this whole mess (better know as the EU) or go back to each country having there own currency and lt the markets decide on the value of each currency. This way there is no need to keep throwing good money after bad bailing out all these countries. I think the only reason Germany hasn't left the EU is because they already have thrown too much money away and are hoping to keep this mess together at any cost to try to recover some of their losses.
00:36 March 4, 2013 by schneebeck
@#6

Yes, you could:

1) disband the EU

2) revert to former currencies

Both options, seem reasonable, I would favor either one myself. But these options are hardly on the table. If one waits for these options I think that would be an automatic default to the "no other action" option.

No austerity, AND "no other action" might lead to what kinds of consequences? None?

More debt. This is called "kicking the can down the road". We've been doing it for over a decade now. It is the "do nothing, no action" option. Has that led to this severe "Eurocrisis"? Wouldn't it have been better to endure the suffering when the problems were smaller? Won't avoiding austerity measures and "doing nothing else" lead to more severe consequences of the same sort? Making people suffer even more in the future? Or no?

An alternative option to austerity, ought not to just pass the suffering on in a more severe form to the future. So, what is a feasible, do-able, acceptable alternative option to austerity that will lead Europe away from the fiscal problems and suffering it is experiencing?

Or should we just do nothing and require that people don't yell and scream and criticize us like they are doing towards the "austerity, do something" people?
01:53 March 4, 2013 by Eric1
Italy and responsibility are two words that don't go together. Italy and fun but responsibility?
08:38 March 4, 2013 by IchBinKönig
What we need is to dump some more money into Italy... up the stakes a bit more.
20:26 March 4, 2013 by Englishted
They just don't like democracy ,oh correction they only like it if they win ,hence the reason there are no elections on the issues that affect us in the E.U. expansion ,the introduction of the €uro ,new treaties ,in fact on what subject have we ever been given a vote?

Democracy don't make me laugh.
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