AS ENDA Kenny delivered his prepared state of the nation address here, the Italian Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero broke down in tears as she announced an end to inflation indexing, a move that will mean an income cut for many pensioners.
Under the austerity plan unveiled yesterday, Italy will raise the minimum pension age for women and men to 66 by 2018, and will scrap annual inflation adjustments for many pensions.
"We had to... and it cost us a lot psychologically... ask for a..." Fornero said, but was unable to complete the sentence with the word "sacrifice" as she wiped tears from her eyes.
The measures come before one of the most crucial weeks since the creation of the single currency more than a decade ago, with European leaders due to meet on Thursday and Friday in Brussels to try to agree a broader rescue plan for the bloc.
Italy, with a public debt of around 120 percent of gross domestic product, has been at the centre of Europe's debt crisis since yields on its 10-year bonds shot up to around 7 percent, similar to levels seen when Ireland was forced to seek a bailout.
Adoption of the package is seen as vital for re-establishing Italy's shattered credibility with financial markets after a series of unfulfilled promises by the previous centre-right government of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
F Europe is on the brink of an economic catastrophe; it certainly did not feel like it among the revellers who flocked at the weekend to the Christmas market on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has issued dire warnings that the euro crisis poses an "existential" threat for peace and prosperity, tearing down the global economy and the Continent’s nation states with it. Now, ahead of this week’s make-or-break summit in Brussels, the rest of Europe is looking to the Germans to ride to the rescue.