Italy’s ex-foreign minister rules out Berlusconi comeback

Italy will never again be ruled by Silvio Berlusconi
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By Alvise Armellini, Dpa

Rome (dpa) – Italy will never again be ruled by Silvio Berlusconi, says Franco Frattini, who served as foreign minister under the scandal-tainted three-time prime minister.

“I categorically rule it out,” Frattini said in an interview with dpa.

Frattini, a candidate for the post of NATO chief, was Italy’s top diplomat from 2002-2004 and 2008-2011, before breaking ranks with Berlusconi and his People of Freedom (PDL) party in December.

He spoke as lawmakers from the party threatened to topple the grand coalition led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, raising the spectre of fresh elections and a comeback for Berlusconi.

But Frattini suggested that he was tired of politics after nearly 20 years at the top.

The former premier, who turns 77 on Sunday, faces expulsion from parliament and one year of community service or house arrest for tax fraud.

One of the things he often says in public – ‘If I could, I would go and live my life in peace’ – he would also tell me in private,” Frattini said.

“When I could still talk to him frankly (…) I sensed a feeling of deep frustration and weariness.”
Frattini was due to travel to Berlin to take part in think-tank meetings on Friday and discuss his bid to replace Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark as NATO secretary general. The appointment is to be decided by mid-2014.

The former European Union commissioner broke away from Berlusconi in protest at the anti-euro and anti-German rhetoric he adopted in campaigning for votes in elections in February
Frattini recalled his last months in office, when markets had turned against Italy, pushing its borrowing costs to unsustainable levels and leading Berlusconi to resign in November 2011.
He dismissed suggestions – popular in PDL circles – that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy conspired, along with EU officials, to bring down the Italian government.

“There was no plot whatsoever, absolutely,” Frattini said.
However, he admitted he had been “very annoyed” by a Merkel-Sarkozy press conference after an EU summit in October 2011, where the two looked at each other and smirked when asked if they trusted Berlusconi.

“The strong antipathy between Sarkozy and Berlusconi was a key factor, it inspired those remarks, those gestures, that exchange of glances,” Frattini said.

He suggested that Berlusconi stoked anti-euro and anti-German sentiment
, much like the satirist and protest Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo had, to cover up his own failings.

“Objectively speaking, the governments in which I served with absolute loyalty made some mistakes,” Frattini said. “Former economy minister (Giulio) Tremonti certainly made a mistake by constantly pointing his finger at Euro-German diktats.”

Three months before he resigned, Berlusconi was sent a letter by the European Central Bank with a list of economic reforms and austerity measures his government had to take in return for the bank defending it from market speculation.

Frattini insisted that it simply spelled out commitments that Berlusconi had himself taken on, including the pledge to achieve a balanced budget by 2013, rather than 2014, which forced his successors to push through extremely unpopular austerity measures.

“We have to recall this, so we cannot say afterwards it is someone else’s fault,” Italy’s former top diplomat said.

Frattini now chairs the Italian Society for International Organizations (SIOI), a training school for diplomats and think tank controlled by the Italian Foreign Ministry. He is not aligned to a political party.

Expressing his admiration for President Giorgio Napolitano
 – who imposed a grand coalition on squabbling politicians after an inconclusive election result – Frattini said a government crisis “would be an absolute curse for Italy.”
He said he was sure Berlusconi also got the message – regardless of the threats coming from his side. “Even in the PDL (…) they understand that it cannot be in the interest of the Italian centre-right to send the country to the dogs.”

Italiens Ex-Außenminister: Kritik an deutschem Diktat war Fehler =
Rom (dpa) – Der ehemalige italienische Außenminister Franco Frattini hat sich von Kritik am deutschen Verhalten in der Euro-Krise distanziert. «Der frühere Wirtschaftsminister Tremonti hat sicherlich einen Fehler gemacht, indem er immer wieder mit dem Finger auf das euro-deutsche Diktat gezeigt hat», sagte Frattini der Nachrichtenagentur dpa. Auch den Anti-Euro- und Anti-Deutschland-Kurs der Partei Volk der Freiheit (PdL) Silvio Berlusconis, der er früher selbst angehörte, kritisierte er. Berlusconi habe die Stimmung angeheizt, um von seinen eigenen Verfehlungen abzulenken.

Eine neue Regierungskrise «wäre ein absoluter Fluch für Italien», betonte Frattini, der für den Posten des Nato-Generalsekretärs kandidiert. Er sei sicher, dass auch Berlusconi das verstanden habe. Die PdL ist wichtigster Koalitionspartner von Ministerpräsident Enrico Letta. Nach der Verurteilung ihrer Leitfigur Berlusconi und seinem drohenden Ausschluss aus der Politik haben PdL-Abgeordnete immer wieder mit dem Ende der Regierung gedroht.

«Auch in der PdL verstehen sie, dass es nicht im Interesse des Mitte-Rechts-Bündnisses in Italien sein kann, das Land vor die Hunde gehen zu lassen», sagte der 56-jährige Frattini. Dass Italien jemals wieder von Berlusconi regiert werden könnte, schloss er aus.

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