EU centre-right detaches itself from Berlusconi
The centre-right European People's Party on Tuesday (11 December) sought to detach itself from "populist" Silvio Berlusconi after he brought down the Italian government.
"Europe is very concerned about the recent political developments in Italy. All EPP member parties think it was a serious mistake to have toppled the government of Mario Monti," Joseph Daul, chairman of the EPP group in the European Parliament said in a press conference in Strasbourg.
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Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, a long-standing embarrassment for the EPP with his sex- and tax-dodging scandals last week announced his intention to stand again in elections. His party - the People of Freedom (PDL) - last week withdrew its parliamentary support to the government, which prompted Monti to announce his resignation.
"The EPP is against populism, be it Italian, anti-German, anti-French or any other. We are against all populists, it is a necessity to tell the truth to our citizens," Daul said.
Berlusconi in recent weeks has denounced German Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity drive and suggested Italy may be better off outside the euro. On Tuesday, he said Italy's rising borrowing costs are a "scam and an invention used to destroy our majority that was elected by Italians."
Daul added that the EPP is in favour of a "broad pooling of the centre and centre-right." This may suggest that the party would back a splinter party without Berlusconi.
Mario Mauro, the chairman of the PDL delegation within the EPP, spoke alongside Daul and gave vague answers about a potential split.
"I want my party and all those who want a balanced position to lend support to the EPP," he said.
One part of the PDL could follow Berlusconi and his allies in the anti-immigrant, anti-EU Lega Nord party, while another wing would stay in the pro-EU centre and continue to be supported by the EPP.
"It was a great moment of madness to let Monti fall," Mauro said. He saw an "even more important role in the future" for Monti, as "all parties will have to rally behind this."
An EPP decision regarding the PDL and Berlusconi may be taken at a party gathering in Brussels on Thursday, hours before EU leaders - including Monti - are meeting for their last summit this year.