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Berlusconi says Merkel 'East German bureaucrat'

Tied to centralised economy, says ex-PM

18 February, 15:19
Berlusconi says Merkel 'East German bureaucrat' (ANSA) - Milan, February 18 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's experience in a centralized East German economy has made her too rigid, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi complained Monday.

In remarks to big business organization Confindustria, Berlusconi said Merkel, who was born in the former East Germany, is an "intelligent bureaucrat" who is too tied to the notion of a centralized economy.

Berlusconi, whose campaign for re-election has included numerous attacks on Germany as an overly controlling, rigid regime, also denounced the fiscal compact between European nations, designed to shore up the common currency.

Italy must balance its budget to meet its obligations under the compact, which is widely seen as key part of the EU's measures to solve the eurozone crisis.

By accepting the pact, Italy and the 24 other signatories agreed to insert a balanced-budget rule into their own national constitutions, committing themselves to "semi-automatic" sanctions to be triggered if the measures are violated.

Berlusconi mocked the fiscal compact as being so rigid that even would set standard shoe sizes for all Europeans.

"The deep culture of Merkel expects the economy to be organized in a strict (manner) and thinks that every state should arrive with an annual budget with a maximum deficit of 0.50%, but this is not possible for all members," he said.

He added that if it could, the fiscal compact would "impose on all European citizens that males should have a size 42 foot and 40 for women".

Berlusconi was forced out of office in November 2011 amid ruinously high Italian interest rates and a near-collapse of the entire economy.

He also jeered at the Tobin tax on financial transactions, approved last summer by the EU finance ministers. He said it was approved only because former French president Nicolas Sarkozy acted as Merkel's "butler" by supporting an idea that had been previous rejected "with general hilarity".

However, it should prove lucrative for the Italian government.

Italy's finance minister Vittorio Grilli said last month that the Tobin tax will raise about one billion euros for Italy.