President says Italy not adrift, but Monti gives warning

Germany, United States, EU confident impasse will be overcome

President says Italy not adrift, but Monti gives warning

Rome, February 28 - Germany, the United States and the European Union on Thursday joined Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in expressing confidence that Italy would overcome the impasse caused by no clear winner emerging from the country's general election. But outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti warned that there is a danger political populism could derail the European Union. Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left alliance came first in the Sunday-Monday vote. But it failed to win a working majority in the Senate because of the votes pulled by three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre right and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo. Both Berlusconi and Grillo were accused of using populist rhetoric in the election campaign. Monti travelled to Brussels Thursday to meet European Commission President Jose' Manuel Barroso and other officials amid fears that political deadlock in Rome could reignite the eurozone crisis. The former European commissioner, whose reform ticket backed by centrist parties did less well than expected in the election, said EU policies should be revised to help curtail populism. "There has to be a strategy... if we don't want to allow the more simplistic forces, some would say populist ones but I don't want to express a judgement, to try to derail European policies," he said. Monti took the helm of an emergency administration of unelected technocrats after Berlusconi was forced to resign as premier in November 2011 when Italy's debt crisis was threatening to spiral out of control. Napolitano said during a visit to Berlin that Italy was not "adrift" and that he did not see any danger of the situation in Rome reigniting the eurozone crisis. "Italy is not adrift and I don't see any risk of contagion because to be contagious you have to get an illness and we don't have an illness," Napolitano told a press conference after meeting his German counterpart Joachim Gauck. The Italian head of state pointed out that Monti's government would stay in power until a new administration was sworn in. He also said Italy would respect its commitments to the European Union, including deficit and debt pledges, whoever heads the next Rome administration. "Italy cannot fail to pursue the great European road and so it must take its responsibilities and do its part in terms of sacrifices," Napolitano said. Glauck shared Napolitano's assessment. "Germans can't say we fear the risk of a contagion in Europe," he said. "We don't at all think that Europe is at the end of its days. Of course there is a debate and we have to understand and see what Italy will express". German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Napolitano that she had faith in the sense of responsibility of the political parties that will seek to form a new government in Rome, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said after a meeting. US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Rome, meanwhile, that he was "personally very confident in Italy's ability and desire" to find a solution after the election produced no clear majority. "Because Italy has a strong democracy," Kerry added. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said after meeting Monti that he had "full confidence that Italy would continue to be a stable and strong member of the European Union and the eurozone".

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