Italy's Berlusconi launches anti-euro broadsides
(ROME) - Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi launched a series of broadsides on Thursday against Germany, the euro and the new single currency bailout fund as Italy's election season heats up.
"The big swindle is the euro," Berlusconi, who has not yet said whether he plans to run for another term as prime minister in elections set for next year, said at a book presentation in Rome.
He said a German exit from the eurozone "would not be a tragedy" and repeated an accusation that Germany showed "hegemony, not solidarity".
Berlusconi, 75, also criticised the conditions for receiving money from the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund which comes into force next month.
"To receive aid you have to sign a memorandum with austerity measures, which bring the economy to collapse and into a recessionary spiral," he said.
Austerity measures around Europe were creating "a climate of uncertainty and fear that will make us poorer and poorer with an endless crisis," he said.
Berlusconi attacked Italy's tax collection agency Equitalia, which has stepped up a crackdown against evasion, accusing it of "extortion".
The former prime minister had retreated from the political frontlines after handing over power in November 2011 to former European competition commissioner Mario Monti amid a parliamentary revolt and a wave of financial market panic.
While his People of Freedom party has suffered a series of local election setbacks and is riven by infighting, many supporters are now urging the former premier to return to lead the party in the upcoming elections, set for the spring of next year.
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