Mario Monti wins key backing from EU leaders

Mario Monti, the new prime minister of Italy, won important backing for his new cabinet from the ECB, from his former colleagues at the European Commission and from the head of the European Council Herman von Rompuy.

After two days of intensive consultations, Monti presented a team of 16 technocrats, with not a single politician among them. The new executive awaits approval from the Senate later today, where he will also be delivering a speech on the strategy to bring Italy, and the Eurozone, back from the brink of ruin.

The ECB welcomed Monti’s government as one able to meet requirements and enact severe reforms in order to calm widespread concerns on the financial state of the country. Analysts drew comfort from the fact that Monti’s track record at the European Commission sets him in stark contrast to his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi.

First proposed as European Commissioner by Berlusconi in 1994 and confirmed by the following left-wing government in 1999, Monti has been European Commissioner for ten years. In that time, he earned the nickname of “SuperMario” for his tenacity and competence.

He started as head of Internal Market, Financial Services and Financial Integration, Customs and Taxation. In his second term, Monti was responsible for competition policies, during which he carried out key anti-monopoly investigations against Microsoft, General Electric and Honeywell.

In the mean time, he established his academic profile at the Bocconi University in Milan, of which he has been president since 1994.

The exclusion of all political figures from the executive, in favour of two bankers from Intesa Sanpaolo, has divided public opinion. Critics have dubbed the new government a “white-collar coup”, representing the vested interests of the financial and economic sectors, with the potential to adversely affect social spending, education and households. The fear is that such a scenario could repeat the social unrest that affected Greece, when the then prime minister George Papandreou opted for hefty austerity measures.

But labour unions and employers’ representatives have praised Monti’s new executive, for the seriousness and competence of its members. Leaders of the three main national unions (the CGIL, CISL and UIL) strongly backed Monti’s government as “one that marks the end of a destructive bipartisan system”, ensuring a pragmatic focus on economic growth, social equity and fiscal redistribution.

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