Napolitano rebuts Berlusconi comments on Fiscal Compact

President says new rules compatible with growth

Napolitano rebuts Berlusconi comments on Fiscal Compact

(ANSA) - Rome, September 18 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Tuesday rebutted former premier Silvio Berlusconi's comments that the European Union's Fiscal Compact is bad for economic growth. At the weekend, Berlusconi described the Fiscal Compact for tighter budget discipline and union that 25 of the EU's 27 member States signed earlier this year as "a package of regulations that impede growth". Napolitano, however, does not agree. "It is necessary to continue on the necessary road of strictness and accompany austerity with measures for growth, without violating commitments taken commonly, such as the Fiscal Compact," said the head of state after a meeting in Rome with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus. "There is no contradiction between austerity and growth," added Napolitano, who was influential in paving the way for Premier Mario Monti to take over the helm of an emergency government when Berlusconi was forced to quit as premier in November because Italy looked in danger of being overwhelmed by the eurozone crisis. The Fiscal Compact is seen as a key part of the EU's measures to solve the debt long-term problems that led to 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. Furthermore, countries with a public debt of over 60% of gross domestic product must bring it under that threshold within 20 years. Napolitano added that Berlusconi's 2008-2011 government undertook commitments with the EU that in part led to the Fiscal Compact treaty. "No European country could avoid making choices that in technical terms called for austerity," said Napolitano. "In this spirit, Italy signed a series of commitments with full awareness of what it was doing; commitments, which were signed first by the Berlusconi government and then by Monti's, that subsequently contributed to the approval of the Fiscal Compact". Berlusconi's controversial comments at the weekend ended a long silence. The 75-year-old media magnate said he has not yet decided whether he will run for a fourth term as Italian premier at elections next year but leading members of his People of Freedom (PdL) party have said he will be their candidate. Berlusconi had said he would not stand for another term after he resigned in November to end his third term as Italian premier.

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