Merkel and Monti show unity at summit

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IF THERE was a keynote word to yesterday’s Italo-German summit in Rome between German chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian prime minister Mario Monti, it was perhaps “togetherness”. Germany, Italy and all the EU partners, we’re all in this together for better or for worse.

At their post-summit news conference in Villa Madama yesterday evening it was all sweetness and light, with both leaders going out of their way to stress their common vision of the way forward in this difficult moment of euro zone crisis – namely encouraging EU-wide economic growth.

There was no mention of questions on which the two leaders almost certainly do not agree, such as the issuing of eurobonds.

When one Italian reporter suggested to the chancellor that many EU citizens see her as something of a big black witch wielding a big austerity stick, Dr Merkel became more than a little animated.

“Look, if our European neighbours are not doing well, then we Germans cannot be doing well. It is obviously in our interests that all the other (European) countries do well economically, otherwise Germany’s prosperity will be undermined,” she said.

If last week’s EU summit in Brussels highlighted tensions between Italy and Germany there was no sign of it yesterday. On the contrary, Mr Monti was keen to underline how Italy and Germany were among the EU countries best placed to accept “a sharing of sovereignty”.

“A sharing of sovereignty which means the creation of more efficient economic and political instruments which can inspire the entire European Union to a level of competitiveness of which Germany itself is an illustrious example,” he went on.

“We need to keep working together to reject prejudices and stereotypes in our public opinions which can prove to be seriously negative and become a major block on the road to fuller European integration.”

For her part, Dr Merkel emphasised just how much the German government appreciated the “multiplicity of reforms” undertaken by Mr Monti’s government since it took office last November.

“I want to continue working very well with Mario Monti and with his government. At this particular moment, we need a very intense and daily government co-operation . . . we need to support one another all the way,” she said.

“The fact is that no country lives in a vacuum but rather we all live in a globalised world . . . Until now, however, I have always managed to reach an agreement, where necessary, with Mario Monti.”

The common vision was underlined by Mr Monti. “We work together well because we both believe, she a German, myself an Italian, in a thing that is called social economy, based on a highly competitive marketplace,” he said.

Speaking of Italy, Mr Monti was, not for the first time, keen to decline any long-term honorary membership of the infamous PIIGS club. “Italy does not need special aid and will not be looking to use the existing EU aid mechanisms because, fortunately, we’re not in the position that Greece, Ireland and Portugal found themselves in,” he said.

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