independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Monti may run for office as EU urges Italy to stick with austerity

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti and France's President Francois Hollande talk during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at City Hall in Oslo yesterday

Mario Monti is in talks with centrist groups urging him to stand in Italy's elections early next year it has emerged as pressure mounted on the technocrat prime minister from the financial markets, fellow European leaders and the Catholic Church to stay in politics to safeguard his reforms.

Italy's government borrowing costs rose and its stock market fell sharply after his surprise decision over the weekend to stand down earlier than expected rekindled uncertainty over one of the eurozone's more vulnerable economies.

Steered

Mr Monti, whose economic reforms have steered Italy out of the centre of the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis in the past year, said he would step down when the budget is passed, possibly as early as this month, triggering an election in February.

Amid revived concern in Brussels and among investors that Italy could forsake its recent reforms, centrist politicians were in talks with him encouraging him to stand as a candidate.

He was said to be in discussions with Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the head of Ferrari who launched a political movement last month, and Pier Ferdinando Casini, leader of the centrist Catholic UDC party.

Centrist politicians said they expected Mr Monti to give his answer within a week. If he decided to run as their candidate he would make a formal declaration after parliament approves the 2013 budget law, possibly in the week before Christmas.

Meanwhile European partners urged the next Italian government yesterday to stick to Mr Monti's reform agenda.

Mr Monti's surprise weekend announcement pushed up Italy's borrowing costs and prompted a stock market sell-off.

The campaign for an election expected in February is likely to be fought over Monti's reform agenda which Mr Berlusconi, his predecessor as prime minister, said had condemned Italy to recession and forced him reluctantly to run for a fifth term.

"Monti was a great prime minister of Italy and I hope that the policies he put in place will continue after the elections," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in Oslo, where he was part of a European Union delegation receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

The comments echoed remarks from policymakers ranging from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to the head of the European bailout fund Klaus Regling and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos warned that instability in Italy could spill over and put Spain's fragile public finances at risk of further turmoil. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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