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Monti defends record after Berlusconi says Italy near abyss

Govt steered country to 'safety', argues premier

06 December, 15:29
Monti defends record after Berlusconi says Italy near abyss (ANSA) - Rome, December 6 - Premier Mario Monti defended his emergency government's record on Thursday after his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi said Italy had moved to the "verge of the abyss" in the year since the media magnate left office.

Berlusconi was forced to resign as premier in November 2011 when Italy's debt crisis risked spiralling out of control.

Pressure has eased on Italy's borrowing costs since Monti came to power, but his austerity policies have deepened the recession Italy slipped into last year.

Nevertheless, the former European commissioner believes his administration of unelected technocrats has done a good job.

"The contribution Italy has tried to give, and which I believe it has given, to taking forward the construction of Europe positively was to work hard so that Italy and other countries measured up to all the criteria, especially those requested to put Italy in a position of safety and to stop a new flashpoint lighting up in the eurozone," Monti said.

"And I think that, to a good degree, we achieved this". Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party has backed Monti government's since he stepped down, although there is speculation it may be about to pull its support to provoke snap elections. The 76-year-old ex-premier blasted the Monti government's economic record on Wednesday, when he suggested he would stand at the upcoming elections. "Today the situation is worse than it was a year ago when I left the government out of a sense of responsibility and love for my country," said Berlusconi, who had announced he would quit front-line politics after leaving the helm of government last year.

"The economy is in dire straits. There are a million more people unemployed, the national debt is increasing, spending power is collapsing and the tax burden is at intolerable levels.

"I cannot let the country fall into an endless recessive spiral".