Monti sworn in as Italy's PM to wave of domestic and external approval


MUCH AS expected, former EU commissioner Mario Monti was last night sworn in as Italy’s new prime minister, just eight days after his predecessor, media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, had announced his resignation.

Significantly, economist Mr Monti named himself as the new finance minister in an obvious attempt to reassure both international investors and Italy’s EU partners.

After an Italian government crisis of unprecedented brevity and urgency, 68-year-old Mr Monti formally consigned the composition of his 18-person, non-party political cabinet to President Giorgio Napolitano yesterday at lunchtime. He then returned to the presidential palace for the swearing-in ceremony last night.

Mr Napolitano was just one of many to favourably greet the formation of the new government, saying that it had started in a “positive climate”. French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker and Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone were others who reacted positively. German chancellor Angela Merkel and president of the European Council Herman van Rompuy both said they hoped to meet Mr Monti as soon as possible.

The widespread positive reaction seemed to testify to the reservations many had entertained about the ability of his predecessor, Mr Berlusconi, to steer Italy through the global crisis.

Mr Sarkozy said that he was convinced that, with the implementation of “new measures”, Italy would refind “the path of stability and growth”. The new Monti government is expected to introduce a series of hard-hitting measures, intended to combat Italy’s €1.9 trillion national debt and stimulate growth in the euro zone’s third-largest economy.

Cardinal Bertone wished the government well, calling the new cabinet “a great team” while Mr Juncker said that the formation of the Monti government was “good news for both Italy and the euro zone”. For the time being, however, market reaction was less than positive with Italian 10-year bonds again yielding over 7.0 per cent yesterday, even if Milan’s Ftse Mib benchmark index closed yesterday at plus 0.79 per cent.

As expected, Mr Monti’s cabinet contains no elected politicians but is entirely made up of people from business and academic life and from the civil service. In the best/worst Italian tradition, there are just three women in the cabinet, which has an average age of 62.1. By way of compensation, however, two of the heavyweight ministries, that of the interior and of justice, have gone to women – Anna Maria Cancelleri and Paola Severino.

Perhaps even more importantly, though, some of Italy’s finest academics, diplomats and professionals have been recruited to government. The current Italian ambassador to the USA, Giulio Terzi, takes over at the foreign ministry, and the chief executive of the Intesa Sanpaolo bank, Corrado Passero, will head the growth and development ministry.

Another intriguing appointment is that of Andrea Riccardi, founder and head of the Catholic lay movement, the Community of Sant’Egidio, who will head the ministry of international co-operation. The Sant’Egidio community, founded on the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church, has long been an important behind-the-scenes influence in Italian public life and a vibrant charitable organisation.

Mr Monti will present his government formation and programme to both houses of parliament, in the senate today and the lower house tomorrow, prior to a vote of confidence in each.

Government by experts: the Monti cabinet in full

Name, ministry, prior occupation:Mario Monti: prime minister and finance minister; former EU commissioner.

Corrado Passera:minister for growth and development; banker.

Giampaolo Di Paola:defence; admiral.

Anna Maria Cancellieri:interior; former prefect of Italian cities.

Paola Severino:justice; lawyer.

Giulio Terzi: foreign;diplomat.

Elsa Fornero:equal opportunity and welfare; professor of economics, University of Turin.

Francesco Profumo:education; head, national council of research.

Lorenzo Ornaghi:arts; rector, Cattolica University, Milan.

Renato Balduzzi:health; head of National Agency For Regional Health Services.

Mario Catania:agriculture; senior civil servant.

Corrado Clini:environment; senior civil servant.

Antonio Catricalà:cabinet undersecretary; chief of Market and Competitiveness Authority.

Enzo Moavero Milanesi:European affairs; judge at European Court of Justice, Luxembourg.

Piero Gnudi:tourism and sport; accountant.

Fabrizio Barca:territorial integration; senior civil servant.

Piero Giarda:parliament relations; head of monetary analysis, Cattolica University, Milan.

Andrea Riccardi:international co-operation; head of Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio.