Merkel under fire over phone bid to oust Berlusconi

 

Milan

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.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary