The German government has warned Silvio Berlusconi not to target Berlin in the run-up to elections early next year after the former Italian prime minister attacked the “German-centric” economic policies of his successor Mario Monti.
Mr Berlusconi, preparing for his sixth election battle since 1994, demonstrated on Tuesday that his campaign would not hesitate to take on Mr Monti’s reform legacy while whipping up populist sentiments against Germany’s perceived domination of the euro zone.
“The Monti government has followed the German-centric policieswhich Europe has tried to impose on other states, and it has created a crisis situation that is much worse than when we were in government,” Mr Berlusconi said in a phone-in to a breakfast show on Canale 5, one of his own television channels.
He also attacked the spread between Italian and German bonds as a “trick” and an “invention” used by Germany to bring down his elected government 13 months ago while unfairly raising the borrowing costs of Italy, its industrial rival.
Clearly irritated, Berlin was quick to respond. Guido Westerwelle, foreign minister, said the government would not interfere in Italy’s elections, adding: “But one thing we will not accept – that Germany should be made the target of a populist election campaign. Neither Germany nor Europe are the cause of the current difficulties in Italy.”