News / Europe

Italian, Greek Leaders Face Crucial Tests

Economist Mario Monti announced Wednesday he has formed a new Italian government, opting to put technocrats instead of bickering politicians in his cabinet to enact reforms that can save the country from financial disaster, November 16, 2011.
Economist Mario Monti announced Wednesday he has formed a new Italian government, opting to put technocrats instead of bickering politicians in his cabinet to enact reforms that can save the country from financial disaster, November 16, 2011.

The newly-elected leaders of Italy and Greece are facing crucial tests as they try to help pull the eurozone back from the brink of economic disaster.

Italian Prime Minister-designate Mario Monti is set to present his new government Wednesday before being sworn into office.  

Monti refused to comment on the make-up of his new Cabinet or share details of his economic plan ahead of a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.  But he said he is absolutely convinced Italy can make the sacrifices needed to overcome its debt crisis.  The prime minister-designate also assured Italians he has the backing of political, business, and union leaders.

Italy is the eurozone's third largest economy.  Fears that Italy might default on its debt or be forced to ask for a bailout has shaken financial markets around the globe.

European Central Bank Vice President Lucas Papademos listens during a economical conference in Vienna, Austria, May 14, 2009 (file photo).
European Central Bank Vice President Lucas Papademos listens during a economical conference in Vienna, Austria, May 14, 2009 (file photo).

The caretaker government in debt-ridden Greece, meanwhile, faces a confidence vote Wednesday.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos is expected to survive, but Papademos still faces a daunting task of avoiding a financial collapse that could force Athens to abandon the euro.

Tensions surfaced early Wednesday when the country's electricity workers' union briefly cut off power to the health ministry building.  Union officials said the shut down was part of their protest of a tax on property owners - a tax the government is trying to collect through household electricity bills.

The government of Prime Minister Papademos is specifically tasked with getting parliament to approve a new bailout deal with the European Union. Greek officials warn the country faces bankruptcy without the new funding and an $11 billion installment of last year's bailout.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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