It has wobbled many times, but now Silvio Berlusconi’s government looks perilously close to collapsing amid EU pressure, internal divisions and a race against the clock.
At Wednesday’s European summit, partners expect Italy to present firm debt reduction plans. Yet despite emergency cabinet talks, the prime minister’s coalition partner, the Northern League, won’t budge over one painful reform.
Rejecting modification to pensions, party leader Umberto Bossi says Italy’s existing system is better than that of the French and Germans. When asked whether the reform row could topple the government, his answer was “Sure.”
As the press reports his party’s opposition to raising the pension age to 67, Bossi has described the stalemate as difficult, dangerous and dramatic.
Some doubt that Berlusconi can come up with the reforms the EU is demanding. Rome resident Ferruccio Valletti said: “Europe is rightly saying it is not good enough.”
At a standstill amid the infighting, Italy is at the centre of Europe’s debt crisis. The fear is that unless it can get moving on reducing its massive debt, the entire euro zone’s days could be numbered.