Saturday 25 February 2017

Final countdown? Berlusconi denies he’s about to quit

Independent.ie reporters and Damien McElroy

ITALIAN premier Silvio Berlusconi today scotched rumours that he is about to step down with a Facebook posting.

“The rumours of my resignation are groundless,” he wrote to his 327,594 followers.

However, former minister Giuliano Ferrara wrote in the online edition of Il Foglio that his resignation could come within hours.

The Wall Street journal reported that he was meeting with his children and Fedele Confalonieri, chairman of Mediaset, Italy's largest television broadcaster, which is controlled by the Berlusconi family, in Rome.

He is considering going to Parliament for a critical budget vote tomorrow, which could confirm he no longer commands a majority, the newspaper said today.

Franco Bechis, deputy editor-in-chief of the Libero newspaper tweeted that he will resign tonight or tomorrow morning following a summit of the ruling Il Popolo della Liberta party.

However this afternoon Italian news agencies poured cold water on the reports of an impending resignation.

The Italian FTSE Mib, which was up 2.18pc on the rumours Berlusconi is to quit, began to lose gains.

Channel 4 News’s economics editor Faisal Islam tweeted: “I said it a fortnight ago. EFSF = End For Silvio's Fiefdom. Germany will not create Italy sized bazooka for use by Berlusconi.”

Bookmakers William Hill are now offering odds of 7/2 that the Euro will cease to be a currency by the end of 2012. It's 9/4 that Greece will no longer be in the Euro (meaning a €50 stake will give a payout of €162.50).

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank has bought "limited amounts" of 3 to 10 year sovereign bonds, two traders have told Reuters.

Italy’s 10-year borrowing rates rose this morning to a record 6.66pc on the bond market as fears grew that the country was heading into deep recession.

Eurozone ministers are meeting in Brussels this afternoon and Italy’s growing problems are likely to dominate the agenda.

Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti will have to explain how Rome plans to implement a list of reforms including public asset sales, changes to unemployment laws and pension reform.

Bloomberg reported today that the European Central Bank had said financial institutions in the eurozone increased their overnight deposits with it to the highest level in more than 16 months.

Meanwhile, the Greek stock market opened more than 2pc up today after Greek political leaders sealed a pact to form a national unity government on Sunday night.

Prime minister George Papandreou announced his imminent resignation under pressure from a European ultimatum.

European leaders forced Mr Papandreou to act under the threat of national bankruptcy.

An agreement in principle was reached between Mr Papandreou and Antonis Samaras, the conservative opposition, leader after an hour and a half meeting with the president on Sunday night.

The two men will meet today to decide on the composition of the new government, which will take office after Mr Papandreou formally tenders his resignation. A presidency statement said they will discuss who would head the coalition government, but that Papandreou would not lead the new administration.

"Tomorrow there will be new communication between the prime minister and the opposition leader on who will be the leader of the new government," the statement said.

The interim government will lead the country until elections, which could be held on Feb 19, the finance ministry said.

The European Union gave Greece 24 hours on Sunday to explain how it will form a unity government to enact a bailout agreement.

Mr Papandreou and his opponents have been scrambling to hammer out a deal ahead of a meeting by finance ministers of euro countries on Monday, to show that Greece is serious about taking steps needed to stave off bankruptcy.

The interim government is expected to be in place for about three to four months in order to ensure a new European debt deal and secure a vital installment of bailout loans that Greece needs to avoid default.

The initial agreement came after a week of intense political drama sparked by Mr Papandreou's announcement he was taking the debt deal to a referendum.

He withdrew the plan on Thursday after intense opposition from European leaders and MPs.

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