- Associated Press - Thursday, November 17, 2011

ROME — As protests erupted in Rome and other cities, Italy’s new premier unveiled his economic plan Thursday, vowing to spur growth yet fairly spread the sacrifices Italians must accept to save their country from bankruptcy and the eurozone from a disastrous collapse.

As Mario Monti spoke, riot police clashed with anti-austerity protesters in Milan, signaling the depths of resistance the economist-turned-premier will have to overcome if his plan is to succeed.

“The end of the euro would cause the disintegration of the united market,” the former European Union competition commissioner told the Senate ahead of a confidence vote on his one-day-old government. “The future of the euro also depends on what Italy will do in the next weeks. Also, not only.”

Monti formed his new government Wednesday, shunning politicians and turning to fellow professors, bankers and business executives to fill key cabinet posts.

A day later he revealed plans to fight tax evasion, lower costs for companies so they can hire more and possibly lower taxes rates for women, to encourage their increased participation in the work place. Hee warned Italians they must brace for more “sacrifices,” including the probable return of a property tax on primary residences.

Students clash with police during a demonstration in Milan, Italy, on Nov. 17, 2011. University students protested in Milan and Rome against budget cuts and a lack of jobs, hours before new Italian Premier Mario Monti reveals his anti-crisis strategy in Parliament. (Associated Press)
Students clash with police during a demonstration in Milan, Italy, on Nov. ... more >

“We must convince the markets we have started going down the road of a lasting reduction in the ratio of public debt to GDP. And to reach this objective we have three priorities: budgetary rigor, growth and fairness,” Monti said.

He said he would quickly work on lowering Italy’s staggering public debt, which now stands euro1.9 trillion ($2.6 trillion), about 120 percent of its GDP.

“But we won’t be credible if we don’t start to grow,” Monti said.

His administration must restore confidence in the country’s financial future and avoid contagion that would worsen the eurozone’s debt crisis. Italy’s spiraling financial crisis helped bring down media mogul Silvio Berlusconi’s 3 1/2 year-old government last week, after months of squabbling over how to save Italy from financial ruin.

Monti’s choice of unelected experts for his Cabinet and the prospect of tough reforms have fueled unrest. In cities from north to south, students clashed with police in protests against feared budget cuts Thursday, while previously planned transport strikes idled buses and trains.

Police in riot gear scuffled with students in Milan, as they tried to march to Bocconi University, which educates Italy’s business elite. Monti is Bocconi’s president.

“The government of the banks,” read one placard held by a youth in Milan.

In Palermo, Sicily, demonstrators hurled eggs and smoke bombs at a bank, and protesters threw rocks at police who battled back with pepper spray, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. One protester was injured in the head in Palermo, where police charged demonstrators who were trying to occupy another bank.

In Rome, hundreds of students gathered outside Sapienza University, while others assembled near the main train station. They marched toward the Senate, where lawmakers were holding a confidence vote in the evening on the new government.

Riot police in Turin reported several police injuries as they held back protesters trying to break through barriers in three locations.

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