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Italian minister defends German role in euro crisis

06 February 2014, 11:36 CET
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(BERLIN) - Italy's Foreign Minister Emma Bonino on Thursday defended Germany against charges its austerity demands were the cause of suffering in the crisis-hit eurozone.

"Those who hold Germany responsible for everything are not only telling an untruth but also behaving unfairly," Bonino told Munich daily the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"I find this criticism of Berlin quite petty and only partially appropriate," said Bonino, a former European Union commissioner.

"Take Italy: a major problem is our enormous public debt. Servicing the debt costs 90 billion euros ($120 billion) a year. Not Europe or Germany are responsible for that, but we Italians are."

She was speaking a day before Germany's new Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was due to visit Rome.

Asked whether Italy and Germany were slowly drifting apart, she said "yes, in that some political leaders are playing with the scapegoat motif, which is proving effective. We must correct this.

"Italy's economy hasn't been growing for 10 years. That's not the fault of someone malicious on the outside."

At the height of the eurozone debt crisis, bankrupt Greece and other countries were forced to implement painful spending cuts in return for billions of euros in bailout aid from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Germany was seen as the champion of efforts to impose the austerity, making Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wofgang Schaeuble figures of hate for some in Greece.

Bonino in the interview also spoke in favour of building a federal Europe in which the 28 member-states work more closely together on foreign, economic and defence policy.

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