President Barack Obama has praised Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Monti for his efforts to pull his country out of financial distress. After replacing Silvio Berlusconi the past November, Monit has implemented tough austerity measures designed to cut Italy’s massive deficit and restore its economic health.
After meeting in the Oval Office, President Obama expressed his support for Monti’s bold action.
“I just want to say how much we appreciate the strong start that he has embarked on, and the very effective measures that he is promoting inside of Italy,” Obama said.
Monti is in the United States to promote his economic plan and to attract investors to Italy, which remains $2.5 trillion in debt.
The president said his visitor has made progress toward restoring confidence in Italy's economy inside and outside the country.
“Not only has he boosted confidence within Italy about a reform agenda, but he has also been able to generate confidence throughout Europe and in the marketplace that Italy has a plan that takes seriously its fiscal responsibilities, but also emphasizes the need for structural reforms that can promote growth,” Obama added.
The prime minister has said all Italians must make sacrifices, and he has given up his own salary as prime minister and economy minister.
He thanked Obama for his support, and said his countrymen are getting the message.
“The lines towards budgetary consolidation and structural reforms, however painful they may be in the short term, seem to be widely understood by the Italian public opinion,” said Monti.
The president welcomed Italy’s support for U.S.-led sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities. Obama also thanked the prime minister for supporting Washington’s policy condemning what he called the “outrageous bloodshed” in Syria.
In addition, the president expressed gratitude to Monti for Italy’s partnership in last year’s NATO campaign to remove Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Obama said he intends to work closely with Italy - Libya’s one-time colonial ruler - to help strengthen Libya’s transitional government.
The president said relations between the U.S. and Italy have “never been stronger,” and he said Americans have “a deep and special connection with the Italian people.”