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Italy swears in Monti, his cabinet

Thu., Nov. 17, 2011

Greek parliament endorses new leader

ATHENS, Greece – Italy swore in a new Cabinet and Greece’s recently anointed prime minister won an important vote of confidence Wednesday as both countries scrambled to avoid an economic disaster that could torpedo the eurozone.

The two nations are pinning their hopes on unelected, technocratic leaders tasked with bringing down staggering levels of government debt and restoring investor confidence in their badly battered economies. Failure by either country could spell doom for the euro, the currency they share with 15 other European nations.

In a solemn ceremony in Rome, former European Union official Mario Monti, a trained economist, took the oath of office as prime minister, alongside the team he has assembled to help him rescue the eurozone’s third-largest economy. Italy’s new Cabinet includes financiers, diplomats and business leaders but not a single elected politician.

Monti, 68, is expected to set out his government’s agenda today before the Italian Senate, which will hold a vote of confidence. The lower house is to follow suit soon thereafter.

Monti said his action plan would stress economic growth. But it will also probably encompass difficult austerity measures apt to arouse popular ire.

Although critics have called Italy’s new political arrangement undemocratic, backers hope that a technocratic, nonpartisan government can help rally Italy’s fractious political establishment around the common good.

In Athens, another unelected leader, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, won a ringing endorsement from parliament Wednesday after being picked last week to head a government of national unity to tide Greece over for at least the next few months.

Papademos, 64, a former central bank governor who guided Greece’s entry into the eurozone, has committed himself to enacting a complex bailout plan crafted by European leaders last month that calls for yet more spending cuts as well as a 50 percent write-down of the value of privately held Greek debt.

He warned that there would be “no magical solutions” to Greece’s financial crisis and that “the road to fiscal recovery will be rough.”

Still, he won the support of 255 lawmakers in Greece’s 300-seat parliament.


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