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Monti: EU Must Tackle Backlash Against Euro


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Monti: EU Must Tackle Backlash Against Euro

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Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister, believes the time has come for EU leaders to address the political and psychological backlash against the euro. In an exclusive interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, Monti said the last thing EU leaders can allow is for the single currency to set Europe's citizens against each other.

"Why do we never have a discussion on, in particular, the increasing mutual resentments and comprehensions, backlashes psychologically and politically, that this euro crisis has been spreading around Europe -- between North and South, between old and new member states, between various segments in society," Monti said, ahead of a crucial week for the euro zone.

In a bid to get the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to address the big questions surrounding the euro, Monti has called a brainstorm meeting in Rome and suggested an end to a series of summits that have denied heads of state the breathing space to talk.

"Does it make sense that the 27 heads of governments of the European countries meet every two months, sometimes every month, to spend one day, one night to discuss very important details like whether there should be or not private sector involvement in the financing of Greece?" he asked. "Or what kind of conditionality should there exactly be in a given scheme? Aren't the finance ministers even better equipped than the heads of governments to deal with this?"

Monti said he believes it's incredibly difficult to discuss the euro zone's big issues with the world's media waiting outside summits in Brussels, and financial markets demanding agreement on the latest plan to deal with the crisis.

"The single currency (EUR), the monetary union was meant, after all, to be the final and most perfect stage of this long, historic process of European integration. The last thing we can allow is that precisely this final stage sets our countries and our citizens one against the other," said the technocrat prime minister, who is expected to stand down when Italy goes to the polls next year.


The divide between northern and southern Europe has made it very difficult to agree on measures that alleviate the debt crisis and that simultaneously keep creditor and debtor nations happy. American billionaire investor George Soros used an interview with the Financial Times over the weekend to call on Germany to either lead or leave the euro zone.


"Either throw in your fate with the rest of Europe, take the risk of sinking or swimming together, or leave the euro, because if you have left, the problems of the euro zone would get better," said the billionaire investor.

"It is entirely dependent on Germany's attitude," said Soros. "If they insist on a policy of austerity, of reinforcing the current deflationary stance, and they won't budge from that, then in fact it would even be better for them in the long run [to leave]."

EU policy makers have long said that no one will be allowed to leave the euro, with Mario Draghi last week calling the single currency irreversible and unveiling a new bond buying program aimed at lowering borrowing costs for Italy, Spain and others.


That decision has proved very controversial in Germany, where a court will on Wednesday decide whether to back or reject a motion aimed at blocking the creation of the new permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism. While backing the German position on fiscal austerity, Monti said politicians should leave monetary decisions to the ECB and its governing council.

"I fully respect the concerns of the German public opinion as regards the need for fiscal discipline to be widespread and observed in Europe," said Monti, who thinks Bundesbank Chief Jens Weidmann should end a very public disagreement with the rest of the ECB governing council.

"I do not think that it is productive at all for the overall functioning of the European policy-making if this or that member of the collegial decision-making body of the ECB speaks out in the public, externalizing internal disputes," he said. Monti backed Mario Draghi's decision to buy up short-term bonds and denied that the ECB has broken its mandate on price stability.


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