Monti calls for EU summit to confront populism

Associated Press
Italian Premier Mario Monti, foreground, flanked by Italian Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli, attends a meeting on World Economy in Cernobbio, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. Grilli says Italy has no plans to apply for the European Central Bank's bond purchase program. Italian Finance Minister said on the sidelines of the annual Ambrosetti Forum on Lake Como on Saturday that Italy "at this moment absolutely does not need" to request help. (AP Photo/Roberto Monaldo, Lapresse)
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CERNOBBIO, Italy (AP) — Italian Premier Mario Monti on Saturday proposed a special European summit to confront growing populism in the face of the continent's financial crisis.

"We are in a dangerous phase," Monti said on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti Forum on Lake Como after meeting with European Union Council President Herman van Rompuy.

He said a divisive populism is present in nearly all eurozone countries, and that it aims to divide nations at a moment when the impetus is for greater integration to help safeguard the euro currency and restore health to the EU's economy.

"It is paradoxical and sad that in a phase in which one was hoping to complete the integration instead there is forming a dangerous counter-phenomenon that aims at the disintegration," Monti said, according to the LaPresse news agency.

The premier offered Rome as a venue for a summit confronting the tendency. Van Rompuy said he supported the proposal.

Earlier, Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli said Italy has no plans to apply for the European Central Bank's bond purchase program, saying Italy "at this moment absolutely does not need" to request help.

The ECB has pledged to buy unlimited amounts of bonds to help bring down borrowing costs in countries struggling to keep up with high debts. But that plan comes with the caveat that nations who want to apply for the program must first ask for existing bailout funds and submit their economic policies to international scrutiny.

After the plan was announced on Thursday, Monti said his country "could need" the help but that the government needed to closely examine the details.

Also Saturday, the EU's competition commissioner added his voice to those arguing for greater integration among the bloc's members.

"This means more economic union," Joaquin Almunia told The Associated Press at the Ambrosetti Forum. "Economic union needs to be built based on a common political will (so) it means more political union also."

Some at the conference have proposed an EU-wide finance minister with the power to veto budgets.

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