Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Italy's crisis: All You Need Is Faith

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Italy is now in the midst of the eurozone storm. Over the last few days, Italy's borrowing costs on ten-year bonds have been consistently over 6%, moving dangerously closer to the 7% threshold which proved lethal for Greece, Ireland and Portugal. In all fairness, the Italian government is finally showing some sense of urgency. Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti has flown to Luxembourg this morning to discuss the crisis with Eurogroup Chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Even Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has decided to break his silence over his country's fast-deteriorating economic situation. This afternoon, once the markets have closed, Il Cavaliere will address both houses of the Italian parliament. For those familiar with Italian politics, Berlusconi's speeches will probably sound sadly unsurprising. He will call on everyone in the Italian parliament to show a sense of responsibility, and will insist that his resignation is off the table at this stage, because opening a political crisis now "would be a gift to speculators."

So, will Berlusconi's words mark the start of a new era of national cohesion among Italian political parties, paving the way for Italy's recovery? Well, for the moment the only thing they will mark is the start of Italian MPs' holidays. In fact, even if the eurozone crisis doesn't seem to take a summer break, Italian lawmakers do - and they'll go for a long one, with the Camera dei Deputati (the lower house) shut until 12 September, except for a couple of committee meetings.

The opposition has repeatedly asked for the parliament to resume a week earlier, and the speaker of the lower house, Gianfranco Fini, has convened an emergency meeting of the leaders of all political groups for this afternoon, in a last-ditch attempt to shorten the recess. However, the request is likely to be met with resistance.

Why? Well, apparently a cross-party group of 170 MPs is very busy that week, as they'll go on a six-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

At this rate we reckon financial markets will have given them plenty to pray for by that point...

Update 14.55: The leaders of political groups in the lower house of the Italian parliament have eventually agreed to come back from holidays one week earlier. We'll keep you posted on whether the pilgrimage has been called off or just brought forward...

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