Open Europe Blog

Responses to the extraordinary results of the Italian elections have started to come in from around the rest of Europe, the most interesting of which we include below. Predictably, an instant raft of warnings has come out  from Northern Europe and Brussels.

Kicking off is German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle who argued that:

“It is necessary for Italy – but also because Italy is so important – for the whole of Europe for a new strong and capable government to be formed as quickly as possible. The politically responsible people in Rome recognise that Italy needs a continuation of a policy of reform, of consolidation, one which is able to secure the confidence of the citizens and the markets.” 

If only the the “responsible people in Rome” were in charge of selecting a new PM. German Economy Minister Philipp Rösler also emphasised the need to stay the course, irrespective of government:

“I could have imagined a better outcome for the reformers in Italy. There is however no alternative to the previously adopted path of structural reforms.” 

As did the CDU/CSU’s parliamentary faction leader Michael Grosse-Brömer:

“The reform path of Monti has to be continued consequently.”

Not everyone in Germany agrees though, with SPD MP Klaus Barthel (very much on the left of the party) telling Handelsblatt that:

“Mrs Merkel delivered enough substance to Berlusconi’s nationalist slogans. Her advances to the teutons [i.e. traditional Germanic values] bring perhaps one or two votes [at home] but come back negatively a million times over from the neighbours.” 

Dutch Finance Minister and eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem told television broadcaster RTL-Z that:

“Having a stable government in Italy is important for Europe. In that respect, the outcome does not make us cheerful… I assume that, no matter what a new government in Italy looks like, it will live up to the agreements that have been made”.

Over in Austria, Chancellor Werner Faymann gave a pretty cautious response:

“The euro remains stable even when in some countries it is not clear yet who will build the government.”

Meanwhile, over in France Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said that while the result “creates problems”, it would not undermine the single currency, while the Minister for Industrial Renewal, Arnaud Montebourg, claimed the result showed that “Italians do not agree with market imposed policies”.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders reacted as saying that:

“I fear for a deadlock during a certain period… If it now comes to a standstill this can be very dangerous, also for financial markets”.

He should know a thing or two about political deadlocks…

Meanwhile, the European Commission (whose favoured candidate got a bit of a drubbing), also issued a hilariously contradictory response, claiming that “We clearly hear the message of concern expressed by Italian citizens”, while also arguing that Monti’s reform and fiscal-consolidation agenda were necessary to “underpin everybody’s confidence” in the Italian economy, and the Commission “expects compliance”.


Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn was clearly unhappy, arguing that:

“This is a scenario that no one had wished for… This is not just bad for Italy, but also a nightmare for Europe.” 

Spanish Finance Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo was also alarmist, warning that there was “extreme concern” about the financial consequences, adding that “This is a jump to nowhere with positive consequences for nobody”.

Finally, the most forthright response has to go to Hans van Baalen, leader of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD party in the European Parliament, who argued that:

“Italians must elect who they want to elect and must bear the consequences when they elect clowns.”

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