Italy’s prime minister Mario Monti says he believes the eurozone debt crisis is nearly over.
Speaking on a visit to Tokyo Monti was trying to sell the idea of an Italian economic recovery to Japanese investors who previously sold their Italian bonds.
But as he spoke, one of Italy’s biggest engineering unions called a four-hour national strike against Monti’s labour reforms, part of his attempts to reform a stagnant economy.
UILM, the engineering workers section of the UIL union federation, said it was calling the strike to protest against proposed changes to Article 18 of the labour laws which would ease restrictions on firing for business reasons.
During his speech in Japan, Monti also played down the risk that economic troubles in Spain would spread to the rest of Europe.
Only last weekend he had expressed concern about the state of finances in Spain and warned it would not take much to reignite the eurozone debt crisis and revive the risk of it spreading to Italy.
In recent days, however, he struck more optimistic tones.
“Spain, I’m sure, is on a steady course of budgetary consolidation,” Monti told reporters in Tokyo, where he arrived from a nuclear security summit in South Korea.
“And contagion as a whole, I hope, will soon belong to the past now that more discipline has been adhered to by most member states, and now that the firewalls are being in the process of being fortified,” he said.
On Tuesday, Monti met his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy on the sidelines of the nuclear summit in Seoul and after the meeting said he had “total confidence” in Madrid’s economic management.