Rome: Against the backdrop of anti-austerity
protesters clashing with riot police, Italy`s new premier
appealed to Italians to accept sacrifices to save their
country from bankruptcy, but pledged economic growth and
greater social cohesion in return.
Mario Monti is under enormous pressure to boost growth
and bring down Italy`s high debt, not only to save Italy from
succumbing to the debt crisis but to prevent a catastrophic
disintegration of the common euro currency.
"Europe is experiencing the most difficult days since the
end of the Second World War," Monti told parliament yesterday
in his debut address. "Let`s not fool ourselves, honored
senators, that the European project can survive if the
monetary union fails."
Monti pledged to reform the pension system, re-impose a
tax on first homes annulled by Silvio Berlusconi`s government,
fight tax evasion, cut the costs of politics, streamline civil
court proceedings and get more women and youth into the work
"This government recognizes that it was born to confront
a serious emergency in a constructive and united spirit,"
Monti said, calling it "a government of national
commitment." The 68-year-old economist and university
president described three pillars of his strategy: Budgetary
rigor, economic growth and social fairness.
He was interrupted 17 times by applause. But outside,
Rome`s historic center was paralyzed by student protests and
in the financial capital of Milan, riot police struggled to
stop protesters trying to reach the Bocconi University over
which he presides, signaling the depth of the resistance the
new leader will have to confront.
Monti`s one-day-old government won vote of confidence
281-25 in the Senate later yesterday, ahead of a vote in the
lower house today, on his government of experts, including
fellow professors, bankers and business executives.
He was chosen to lead after Italy`s spiralling financial
crisis brought down media mogul Berlusconi`s 3 1/2 year-old