Friday 22 September 2017

Merkel 'sought Silvio's removal as leader'

Michael Day in Milan

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 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 media mogul's People of Freedom (PDL) party.

Yesterday's 'Wall Street Journal' suggested that Ms Merkel had "intervened" on October 20, telephoning Mr Napolitano in Rome and 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.

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Ms Merkel called on Mr Napolitano to do what was "within your powers". The report added 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 newspaper said its claims, based on interviews with more than two dozen policy makers -- none of whom is named -- as well as key documents, revealed "how Germany responded to the dangers in Italy by imposing its power on a divided eurozone".

Daniele Capezzone, a PDL spokesman, said the phone call appeared "authoritative and invasive". Another PDL politician said: "We are not a German colony. (© Independent News Service)

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