Italy hit by protests as PM unveils economic plan

Mario Monti
Rome, Nov 17: As riot police clashed with protesters in the streets, Italy's new premier unveiled his economic plan, vowing to spur growth yet spread out the sacrifices Italians must accept to save their country from bankruptcy and the eurozone from a disastrous collapse.

Mario Monti spoke to lawmakers on Friday as anti-austerity protesters turned violent in Milan, Turin and in Sicily, signaling the depths of resistance the economist-turned- premier will have to overcome if his plan is to succeed.

He framed the situation in dire terms -- if Italy cannot save itself, the 17-nation eurozone of which it is a founding member would be in catastrophic danger.

"The end of the euro would cause the disintegration of the united market, its rules, its institutions," the former European Union competition commissioner told the Senate ahead of a confidence vote on his one-day-old government.

"The future of the euro also depends on what Italy will do in the next weeks. Also, not only."

Europe has already bailed out three small countries -- Greece, Ireland and Portugal -- but the Italian economy, the third-largest in the eurozone is too big for Europe to rescue. Yet borrowing rates for Italy rose briefly over 7 per cent today, a level that forced the other countries into bailouts.

Italy's role in the eurozone is considered crucial for economic and political reasons, but it's not clear how much sacrifices already stressed Italians are willing or able to make.

Monti assembled his new government yesterday, shunning politicians and turning to fellow professors, bankers and business executives to fill key cabinet posts. But while he appealed in a calm, professorial tone today for the country to pull together, protesters chanted anti-Monti slogans in the streets of Rome, Milan and Turin.


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