Berlusconi moves to stem talk of rift with economy minister

8 Luglio 2011, di Redazione Wall Street Italia

(ANSA) – Rome, July 8 – Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday moved to stem talk that a rift has developed with Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti, issuing a statement backing the minister’s tough stance on Italy’s public finances after a meeting.

Berlusconi had been quoted by an Italian daily on Friday as saying that Tremonti was not ”a team player” and accused him of ”just talking to the markets”.

He also suggested Tremonti’s close-to-50-billion-euro austerity package, which is designed to eliminate Italy’s budget deficit by 2014, would be changed in parliament, sparking alarm on the money markets.

The markets’ faith in Tremonti has been a big factor in Italy so far not getting sucked into the turmoil sparked by the Greek debt crisis, even though it has one of the biggest national debts in the world at around 120% of GDP.

The premier’s office issued a statement saying that during a long, cordial working breakfast with Tremonti, Berlusconi reiterated the government’s determination ”to balance the budget by 2014 in line with the commitments taken at the European level”.

The statement added that the austerity package, which has prompted howls of protest from the local authorities that will be required to make a big chunk of the cuts, will be approved before parliament’s summer recess.

Bank of Italy Governor Mario Draghi, who will take over the helm of the European Central Bank later this year, backed the austerity measures Friday, calling them an ”important step for the consolidation of the public finances”.

Berlusconi was quoted by left-leaning daily La Repubblica as saying that Tremonti ”thinks he’s a genius and thinks everyone else is a cretin” after the minister was caught on film this week describing a fellow minister as a cretin.

”I put up with him because I’ve known him for a long time and you have to take him as he is, but he’s the only one who doesn’t play with the team,” the premier was reported to have said.