Incoming Prime Minister, Mario Monti, has told Italy it must accept radical plans by his "government of national engagement" to slash waste, corruption and privilege – or see its economy fail.
The technocrat premier, whose government is expected to be confirmed by the lower house today, said he would prioritise growth and fairness to revive Italy's finances but warned of sacrifices to come – and told parliamentarians they could also expect to feel the force of his austerity measures.
His government won a confidence vote 281-25 in the Senate as protests raged in Rome, Palermo and Milan. In an earlier speech to the Senate, he said his first priority in the coming week would be to spell out to the EU the cuts and reforms beyond those already pledged by the outgoing government of Silvio Berlusconi. He planned to contain the raging debt-confidence crisis.
The need for such action has been underlined by market nervousness, with borrowing rates at dangerously high levels. Defending his government from accusations that it was merely doing the EU's bidding, Mr Monti said: "We shouldn't see the reforms as European impositions. They are things we need to do for our own benefit." But underlining his strong pro-European beliefs, he added: "We are Europe."
Without providing details, he pledged to overhaul employment law that he said offered excessive privileges to regular workers in larger firms, while denying rights to those on temporary contracts.
He also promised to "gradually" lower tax rates while cracking down on Italy's ruinous levels of tax evasion and to consider the reintroduction of property tax, which was abolished by Mr Berlusconi.
Mr Monti stressed the need to get women and young people back to work. Trimming pensions, fighting organised crime and deregulating professional services were also on the agenda.