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Europeans bickering over financial crisis

world Updated: Oct 28, 2011 01:16 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

Divided over what to do about the spreading financial contagion from Greece, European leaders are breaking into unseemly squabbles, each telling the other to back off. Alarmingly, there are fissures opening up within governments and parties too.

From seemingly paralysed Greece to hot-headed Italy at the centre of Europe's debt-crisis to Britain, on the periphery as it were, everyone's bickering.

On Wednesday, a fist-fight erupted in the Italian parliament over pension reforms - a country with debts of more than €1.6 trillion. The brawl followed opposition leader Gianfranco Fini's attack on Umberto Bossi, the leader of the right-wing Northern League party that supports Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. "Everyone knows his wife retired at 39," Fini said.

Fini is one-time Berlusconi supporter who parted ways over his numerous sex scandals. How's sex linked to the financial scandal? Well, Bossi has apparently secured a deal for Berlusconi to step down in January, according to the anti-Berlusconi La Repubblica newspaper. The virile 75-year-old, Europe's longest-serving leader, denies any such deal. In fact, Berlusconi is said to suspect that German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy want to use the Eurozone crisis to force him to step down.

Meanwhile, in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a rebellion not only from Eurosceptics within his Tory party but also his pro-European deputy Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats. His troubles only worsen when he steps into mainland Europe. There he was derided for demanding that all of the EU - not just the 17-member Eurozone members - be involved in crisis talks. Last week Sarkozy went public: "You have lost a good opportunity to shut up. We are sick of you criticising us and telling us what to do. You say you hate the euro and now you want to interfere in our meetings."

Again, Cameron had his way - but only after a stormy session with Sarkozy. Europe accounts for 40% of Britain's exports and the turmoil in Eurozone also has wider global implications.

The EU was created to end European wars. But Merkel warned on Wednesday, "Nobody should believe that another half a century of peace and prosperity in Europe can be taken for granted."