Merkel under fire over phone bid to oust Berlusconi
The German chancellor Angela Merkel pressed for the removal of the former premier Silvio Berlusconi “in order to save the Euro”, according to a report that has caused a political storm in Italy.
Resentment was already been building among Italy’s mainstream political parties at having to kowtow to an unelected, technocrat government charged with forcing tough austerity measures through parliament. But claims in a US newspaper that Ms Merkel phoned Italy’s supposedly neutral head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, in order to speed up Mr Berlusconi’s departure, will fuel suspicion of a Franco-German putsch. It will also enrage members of the medial mogul’s People of Freedom (PDL) party.
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal suggested that Ms Merkel had “intervened” on 20 October and telephoned Mr Napolitano in Rome, urging him to “nudge Berlusconi off the stage”. Germany, it said, was alarmed by the Berlusconi government’s inability to fight the debt crisis and introduce the reforms demanded by the European Central Bank.
Ms Merkel called on Mr Napolitano to do what was “within your powers”. The report adds that within days the president “quietly began sounding out Italy's political parties to test the support for a new government if Mr Berlusconi couldn't satisfy Europe and the markets”.
It could be argued that such activities were in line with the president’s job description, and that he might have taken such a course anyway, given the economic crisis and the weakness of the Berlusconi administration.
But the WSJ said its claims, which were based on interviews with more than two dozen policy makers – none of whom is named – as well as key documents, reveal “how Germany responded to the dangers in Italy by imposing its power on a divided euro zone”.
Daniele Capezzone, a PDL spokesman, said the phone call appeared “authoritative and invasive”. Another PDL MP, Melania de Nichilo Rizzoli, said: “We are not a German colony. The European treaties do not allow the interference of one state in the political affairs of another European state.”
A statement released by Napolitano's office did not deny that the call took place. But it said there was no discussion ”of any issue of internal Italian politics, nor any request to replace the premier“. ”The reason for the conversation was only about the measures taken and to be taken to reduce the deficit, in defence of the euro and in relation to structural reforms,“ it said.
However, suspicions that Mr Napolitano was keen to speed Mr Berlusconi’s departure may have been heightened by comments made in the week before Christmas — virtually unprecedented for an Italian head of state — in which he said the media mogul’s administration had become internationally “untenable”.
Mr Berlusconi lost his parliamentary majority on 8 November. That evening he announced his would resign as soon as an emergency-budget had been passed. Later that week, as doubts mounted regarding Mr Berlusconi’s intention to step down, the president made an unusually forceful declaration saying that the 75-year-old tycoon was indeed about to quit, leaving him with no choice but to go within days.
Mr Napolitano, with broad support in parliament, then named the respected economist Mario Monti as Italy's new premier. However, yesterday’s claims will do little to help Mr Monti, as resistance starts to build to the tough reforms and cuts he must pass in order to turn around Italy’s finances.
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
The City of the Monkey God: Archaeologists claim to have found city lost for 1,000 years in remote Honduran jungle
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
Bubonic plague-carrying fleas found on New York City rats
London property boom built on dirty money
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading electro...
£38000 - £44000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manag...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...