German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said that the euro crisis poses no danger to Italy under Mario Monti

Wednesday 13 June 2012 15.38
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

The debt crisis poses no danger to Italy if it continues to implement structural reforms and growth measures, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said.

"If Italy continues on the path Prime Minister Mario Monti has set out on it will not be in danger," Schaeuble said in an interview in La Stampa newspaper on Wednesday.

"Italy has progressed greatly under Monti's government. That is acknowledged throughout Europe and on the markets," he said.

He added that he hoped Italian parliamentarians and public opinion would continue to support the premier.

Monti's "road to sustainable growth through structural reforms, greater competitiveness and reduction of the deficit is the right one," he said.

Monti took over from media magnate Silvio Berlusconi at the end of last year as the euro zone crisis took a turn for the worse and managed to regain market confidence with austerity measures and a series of structural reforms.

Investor concerns, however, have increased steadily in recent weeks, with Spain's request for EU help to rescue its stricken banking system and a crucial upcoming vote on Greece's future in the euro zone sparking fresh market turmoil.

Schaeuble's comments came ahead of a series of talks aimed at battling the crisis. French President Francois Hollande will meet Monti in Rome on Thursday, a week before a key 4-way summit with Italy, France, Germany and Spain.

Hollande's visit marks a move beyond the usual Franco-German alliance, and Schaeuble said he hoped the new and "particularly close" collaboration between Italy and France would give Monti the chance to act as a mediator.

He took a swipe at Paris, complaining that France was not measuring up to crisis-busting structural reforms, by allowing some workers to retire at 60 rather than increasing the retirement age in line with other EU countries.

"In Europe, we have decided to adapt our social protection systems to match demographic evolution. Our societies are all getting older. But President Hollande's decision does not correspond to that," he said.

The finance minister also fiercely defended Germany's part in responding to the crisis, complaining that Berlin was being unfairly attacked.

He said there was some "ill-feeling for the sometime unjust criticisms of Germany. Germany respects all its commitments. I am surprised when I read articles which want to place all the responsibility on Germany," he said.

With regard to The Economist magazine's headline calling on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to "start the engines" to save the world economy from sinking, Schaeuble said Britain and the United States should tend to their own back yards.

"There's an old principle in Germany: 'If everyone swept their own front paths the neighbourhood would be clean,'" he said.

Keywords: wolfgang schaeuble