Italy austerity 'appreciated' by Merkel, ECB: Berlusconi

13th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Central Bank (ECB) head Jean-Claude Trichet "strongly appreciated" Italy's latest austerity budget, Silvio Berlusconi said Saturday.

The Italian prime minister told the news agency Ansa that he had spoken to both the German leader and Trichet.

"The theme of the discussion was not just Italy but also the euro and therefore Europe in general. Because of that everyone was closely watching what Italy would be able to accomplish", he said.

Italy's cabinet approved a 45.5 billion euro ($64.8 billion) austerity budget Friday that would see high earners taxed more and substantial cuts to local government in a bid to return Italy to a balanced budget in 2013 instead of 2014 as previously planned.

It is Italy's second austerity budget in as many months, after the government agreed a package worth 48 billion euros in July.

Berlusconi boasted Saturday: "I think I can say that it would have been difficult for any other government in Europe to do what we have done, producing a plan with such rich content in such a short time."

Asked if Italy's Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti, who the Italian press say is at odds with Berlusconi, would be keeping his job until the end of Berlusconi's term in 2013, the Italian prime minister said "yes".

The "differences of opinion" were not just with Tremonti, he said.

Berlusconi remained cagey however over his own plans to seek re-election, saying: "If it is necessary, I will not avoid it. I hope it will not be necessary", he said.

© 2011 AFP

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