News / Europe

Italian Senate Vote Marks Beginning of End for Berlusconi

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (File)
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (File)
Henry Ridgwell

The euro debt crisis looks set to claim its biggest scalp after the Italian senate approved a broad range of austerity measures Friday, paving the way for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to resign. A 68-year-old adviser for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Mario Monti is a leading candidate to take over - but  the newcomer has already provoked some critics before he’s even confirmed in the job.

The Italian senate passed the package of austerity measures by 156 votes in favour to just 12 against. The lower house is due to vote on the same bill Saturday. If it passes there, Prime Minister Berlusconi has vowed to step down - perhaps as soon as the weekend.

Italy’s longest-serving post-World War II leader has indicated he would back a unity government, likely to be led by former European Union commissioner Mario Monti.

James Walston of the American University of Rome says investors desperately want to see such sweeping changes.

“I think that Mario Monti is the person that the markets are waiting for. The former EU commissioner, he’s been dealing with competition policy, he’s internationally respected, he’s a very good economist. I think it will bring stability. He will have to face a lot of challenges and it’s not going to be easy,” Walston said.

The current austerity measures are aimed at saving almost 60 billion euros from spending cuts and tax rises.
Public sector salaries would be frozen until 2014.

The retirement age for women would gradually be raised towards 65.  Sales taxes would increase to 21%. And cash transactions would be limited to 2,500 euros in a bid to target tax evaders.

Economist Nicola Borri says only a unity government run by a non-political figure could hope to implement such austerity on the Italian people.

“Even in parliament, there are quite large groups of people on both sides that believe these reforms are important, that they should be implemented, but these people do not have enough political power to put them forward. And so the hope is that this person who’s not going to run in the future might be able to do the dirty job. He is going to pass these reforms, maybe people are going to hate him for a little bit but he doesn’t care too much and so these reforms will be in place, ” Borri said.

Markets may approve - but there are many dissenting voices. Newspaper columns and blogs are buzzing with claims that Mario Monti is being imposed on Italy by the European Union.

“There is a serious concern about democracy because people feel that some measures are imposed from above coming from the euro. In Italy, still they remember the euro problem when the prices doubled in the changeover [from the lira] so the euro does not have an exceptional reputation here,” said. Claudio Borghi, a columnist with the Milan-based ‘Il Giornale’ newspaper.

The accusations that the EU is undermining Italy’s sovereignty echo those made in Greece, where a new so-called technocrat Prime Minister, Lucas Papedemos has been sworn in to usher through further rounds of spending cuts.

But such is the gravity of the debt crisis, the European Union insists economic stability must come first.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs