Berlusconi tells Letta not to let EU push Italy around

Says 'civil war' with left is over, coalition govt strong

Berlusconi tells Letta not to let EU push Italy around

Rome, June 5 - Silvio Berlusconi told Premier Enrico Letta not to let Italy get pushed around by the European Union on Wednesday, while reaffirming the support of his People of Freedom (PdL) party for the left-right coalition government. "What we need is for this government to go to Brussels and I say 'I'm doing things this way'. We can no longer accept certain diktats," former premier Berlusconi told T9, a Rome-based local TV channel. "We are the ones who have to decide what is necessary to put our economy back on its feet". In the campaign for February's general election, Berlusconi blasted Letta's predecessor Mario Monti for allegedly being too compliant to the EU in pushing through austerity policies that eased investor concerns about Italy's debt crisis, but also deepened the long recession the country is currently enduring. Letta's government, which is backed by a seemingly unnatural alliance of the centre-right PdL and the centre-left Democratic Party, was formed in April to end two months of deadlock after February's vote produced no clear winner. The administration looks unsteady and may be short-lived as PdL and PD politicians, bitter rivals since media magnate Berlusconi moved into politics 20 years ago, continuously bicker over a range of issues. But three-time head of government Berlusconi said Letta's administration was "strong" as the PD-PdL agreement sealed the end of two decades of a "long cold war, a civil war". He added that the government must focus on reforms to make Italy easier to govern, including changes to the much-criticised electoral law and a new set-up in which getting laws through parliament would be less arduous. He said these reforms should include changes that would make the Italian president directly elected by the people, rather than voted in by regional representatives and lawmakers of the Lower House and the Senate. "It's important that both sides support the government and that it can pass a reform of the Constitution that can bring direct elections to the head of state," said Berlusconi, who is thought to hold ambitions of becoming president. Letta's PD is divided over whether having a president elected by the people is a good idea.

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