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Italy minister says should study leaving euro-paper

Reuters | June 3, 2005

ROME (Reuters) - Italy should consider leaving the single currency and reintroducing the lira, Welfare Minister Roberto Maroni said in a newspaper interview on Friday.

Maroni, a member of the euro-skeptical Northern League party, told the Repubblica daily Italy should hold a referendum to decide whether to return to the lira, at least temporarily.

He also said European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet was one of those chiefly responsible for the "disaster of the euro."

The euro "has proved inadequate in the face of the economic slowdown, the loss of competitiveness and the job crisis," Maroni said.

In this situation, the answer is to give the government greater power to defend national industry from foreign competition and "to give control over the exchange rate back to the government."

Maroni is a front-line government minister but his views are not believed to be shared by those with far greater sway over economic policy, such as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi or Economy Minister Domenico Siniscalco.

Maroni cited Britain as a virtuous example of a country whose economy "grows and develops, maintaining control over its currency."

When it was put to Maroni that Trichet on Thursday dismissed the idea that monetary union could break up, the minister replied: "Sure, he is one of those chiefly responsible for the disaster of the euro."

He added Trichet should try to convince hard-pressed small Italian businessmen that the euro was a success.

Maroni also dismissed the idea that Italy's struggling economy could face an Argentina-style financial disaster if it abandoned the single currency.

"We're already heading toward Argentina, that's why we have to change direction," he said.

Three years ago Argentina defaulted on its public debt.


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