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09 December 2012

WSJ: Italy's Bersani: We will respect EU commitments

Pier Luigi Bersani is head of Italy's Democratic Party and recently won the primaries to be the party's official prime ministerial candidate in Italy's coming elections.

Some of your closest allies, including your economic adviser Stefano Fassina, have suggested Italy's commitments to the fiscal compact should be revised.

Fassina doesn't at all believe that Italy should leave the fiscal compact. He's highlighting a problem, and I agree with him, that the European Union's economic policy cannot be focused exclusively on austerity. We will respect our commitments to the European Union…and will take them on as our own. I believe it will be possible to balance the budget next year in structural terms, within the reasonable margin agreed with the rest of Europe. But I am quite sure that next year, the situation in Europe will foster a discussion and a revisiting of economic and fiscal policies, not to overhaul them but to inject them with corrections aimed at greater flexibility. This will be Italy's position…but we won't necessarily be the first ones to raise our hands.

What else would you do on the fiscal front?

We have to encourage fiscal loyalty, which works better than fighting tax evasion. I would like to gradually lower the maximum amount that can be used for cash transactions to €300 ($388). In general, on tax issues, I think fiscal pressure in this country has already reached unsustainable levels.

If elections don't result in a clear majority, would you be favorable to a second mandate by Mr Monti?

I don't think we will find ourselves in that situation. But should it be the case, the solution would neither be Monti nor Bersani, it would be new elections.

Should you find yourself in the position of having to ask for aid from Europe's bailout funds, what would you do?

I don't think Monti is keen on troikas (International Monetary Fund/European Commission/European Central Bank) and neither am I. I'm not even thinking about it at the moment, and I don't think there's any need. But on a theoretical level, it would be strange to say that a tool Italy has asked for be unusable.

Your message to foreign observers?

Just look at the rest of the Italian landscape. If we didn't exist you would have to come find us. Without us, Italy would really be a problem for Europe and the world.

Full interview (WSJ subscription required)

© Wall Street Journal

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