Italian PM sharply critical of Finland
After visiting Finland just last week, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Monti has lashed out exceptionally sharply at the Finnish government in a magazine interview published in Germany on Monday.
According to Monti, the Finnish government is causing serious harm by repeatedly questioning understandings reached at European Union summits soon after such meetings. He did not mention any specific cases.
According to Monti, dealing with the debt crisis would be easier if there were better communications after decisions are made.
“There are these mistakes with not completely identical information being distributed that leads to new turbulence on the markets. However, much more serious is the fact that there are a few countries -- and they lie to the north of Germany -- who every time we have reached a consensus at the European Council, then say things two days later that call into question this consensus”, Monti said in the interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel.
In response to the interviewer's next question - "You are now referring to the Finns, as well as others?" - Monti went on:
“I can understand that they must show consideration for their parliament. But at the end of the day, every country in the European Union has a parliament as well as a constitutional court. And of course each government must orient itself according to decisions made by parliament. But every government also has a duty to educate parliament.”
During Monti’s visit to Finland last week, he and Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen (Nat. Coalition Party) emphasised a high degree of mutual understanding.
However, in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat before the visit, Monti urged Finns to consider if a tough line on individual questions of the debt crisis would really be in the interests of Finnish taxpayers.
The interview raised a storm in Germany, and sparked criticism from the European Commission. The greatest shock came from his notion that governments should not commit themselves excessively to decisions of their parliaments.
“If governments let themselves be fully bound by the decisions of their parliaments without protecting their own freedom to act, a breakup of Europe would be a more probable outcome than deeper integration.”
Responding to Monti’s comments, Alexander Dobrindt denounced Monti for what he saw as an assault on democracy. “Greed for German taxpayers’ money leads Mr. Monti to make undemocratic statements”, Dobrindt said to the newspaper Die Welt.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a message through her press spokesman that weakening the status of national parliaments in decisions on the debt crisis is out of the question. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the Free Democratic Party, called for a strengthening of democracy.
The European Commission said that it respects the skills of national parliaments in connection with decisions concerning the debt crisis. The comments were made in Brussels by a European Commission spokesperson to the German Stern magazine.
Joachim Poss, a leading figure in the opposition Social Democratic Party, told the Rheinische Post newspaper that the image of parliament and its importance suffered in Italy during the term in office of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Monti later clarified his statements concerning parliamentary power, saying in an interview with the German news agency DPA that it was not is intention to suggest that parliamentary oversight over governments should be restricted.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland and Italy emphasise common ground during Monti visit (2.8.2012)
Market reactions to Italian austerity measures frustrate Mario Monti (1.8.2012)
Interview with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (Der Spiegel English)