Berlusconi in pensions fight

City A.M. Reporter
ITALIAN Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi presented European leaders with a hastily constructed package of economic reforms last night, in response to an ultimatum demanding action to boost growth and cut Italy’s huge public debt.

Employment laws could be reformed and state assets palmed off to raise cash, according to a letter sent by Berlusconi to European leaders.

The offer came after a chaotic day of politics in Italy, involving a fist-fight between opposition and government MPs in the country’s parliament.

It was not clear whether Europe’s leaders, who have been highly sceptical about Berlusconi’s ability to deliver, would be satisfied by a series of promises of future measures to get Italy out of the firing line.

Berlusconi, in political trouble at home, had been caught between the EU ultimatum and the refusal of his Northern League partners in a centre-right coalition to make more than slight concessions on pensions -- a key plank of the reform programme.

After tense coalition talks late into the night, Berlusconi carried a “letter of intent” to the summit, which promised a much delayed economic development plan by 15 November.