Letta says his govt has been on 'roller coaster'

But premier argues his administration has big ambitions

(see related story) (ANSA) - Rome, December 18 - Premier Enrico Letta said Wednesday that his left-right coalition government has been on a roller coaster since it took power earlier this year. But the premier, a member of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), said his administration has big ambitions for the future. Letta's government was sworn in in April after a long deadlock followed February's inconclusive general election. Based on an unnatural alliance between the PD and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's now defunct centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party, it veered from one crisis to another for much of the year. Berlusconi's party, which he has revamped under its former name Forza Italia, pulled its support for the government last month after the PD supported the drive to have the media magnate ejected from parliament following the supreme court's decision to uphold a tax-fraud conviction against him. Letta has said his government is now in a stronger position, even though it has a smaller majority in parliament. The executive survived with the support of the New Centre Right (NCD) party, a group of pro-government moderates led by Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who split from Berlusconi loyalists. "The government has been on a roller coaster for eight months but it intends to tackle the coming months with determination and commitment," Letta told a meeting of Italian ambassadors at the foreign ministry in Rome. "Despite the difficulties, we want this country to start thinking big again and we'll do it". Unemployment in Italy has reached record levels of over 12%, with more than four in 10 under-25s out of work, as the country struggles to emerge from its longest post-war recession. The recession was made deeper by EU-mandated austerity measures adopted by the emergency technocrat government of Letta's predecessor, Mario Monti, to avert a Greek-style financial meltdown. Protesters from disparate groups are set to hold a big protest in Rome on Wednesday in the culmination of over a week of demonstrations nationwide by the so-called Pitchfork Movement that have caused disruption and in some cases degenerated into violence. Letta is leading calls for Europe to focus increasingly on promoting growth and jobs, while maintaining budget discipline, and has vowed that Italy's duty presidency of the EU will take this forward in the second half of 2014. "Italy won't get bogged down in its role as president (of the EU). It will do more so that Europe takes steps forward," he said, adding the watchwords of Italy's presidency will be growth and jobs. He stressed that it is "not our intention to create more growth by ruining the public accounts".