Berlusconi: Life was cheaper before the euro

04.11.11 @ 17:15

  1. By Philip Ebels

BRUSSELS - Italians are poorer today than before the introduction of the euro, Prime Minister Berlusconi said Friday (4 November) after failing to gain the trust of world leaders and markets about the reforms his government still has to implement.

  • Eurozone break-up rumours are driving up Italy's borrowing costs (Photo: Brett Jordan)

"A family used to be able to live easily with two million lire per month, but today that is difficult with one thousand euro," he told press in Cannes after the G20 summit on Friday (4 November). "I don’t blame the euro, I blame the exchange rate."

The comment is remarkable amid widespread speculation of a potential break up of the eurozone, as several member-states, including Italy, struggle to convince investors of their ability to repay their enormous debts.

Only minutes earlier, it had been confirmed that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will monitor progress on the implementation of planned reforms in Italy. It had even offered to throw the country a lifeline, but that was duly refused.

"Our request to the IMF was never a financial request, but rather one of know-how and experience, to make our commitments even more clear," said Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s finance minister, sitting next to Berlusconi in the press briefing.

The IMF will work alongside the European Commission, who will travel to Rome as early as next week for "a detailed assessment and monitoring" of the reform package, which is still to be approved in parliament.

Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, was quick to attack press questions suggesting the EU had put Italy under a "diktat."

"We haven't put Italy in a corner, not at all. They proposed themselves to invite the IMF," he said.

Berlusconi further said he is not planning to step down and denied rumours of a possible new government of national unity, saying: "I don’t think that is necessary."

He also denied accusations that he himself is to blame for the country’s current lack of credibility. Instead, he said, “It is the result of Italy’s behaviour in the past, of prejudice."