Freitag, 25. November 2011

How Monti works on a changed ECB-role

Yesterday's summit in Strasbourg has proved, that the future architecture of European leadership will be different from the German-French "Directorate", that was in place since the Greek crises has begun. Under the highly respected Mario Monti Italy is returning on the stage. Both, German Chancellor Merkel as well as the French President Sarkozy have made that clear yesterday, with words but also with gestures. The dark days of Italy's international isolation caused by Berlusconi are definitively over. But what will Monti do with the renewed influence?

Be sure, that he has apart from his domestic an articulated European agenda. The Professor spent during his two mandates as EU-Commissioner so much time on Brussels that he is a truly European and remains an indiscussed expert on all communitarian matters.
During the trilateral meeting yesterday the leaders have talked also about the two hottest topics at the moment: Eurobonds and a changed role of the ECB as lender of last resort. Listening to them afterwards it became clear that the first topic remains unpalatable to Germany. The fact, that Sarkozy as a strong advocate for Eurobonds showed a super-cautious attitude during the press conference is a signal, that not only Merkel but also Monti has influenced him, to be more realistic.

Even more interesting than that is, what the three said and what they didn't say about the ECB: they underscore the total independence of the Central Bank from politics. After the criticsm, that Merkel didn't even try to hide in the last months, this is a new tonality. Also here: hard to believe that Monti has been ininfluential to this. Nobody talked about about a possible new role of the ECB, which in combination with the highlightig of the independence makes a lot of sense. Why? Because it means that the institution led by Mario Draghi could have in the future more options to interpret it's role with more freedom and without the current risk, that the governments, overall the German,  interfere too heavily. I can imagine that Bundesbank Governor Jens Weidmann, a former Merkel advisor, who is categorically against any enlargement of the role of the ECB, was not amused yesterday. Without the political rear cover he will feel on the future more and more alone in his fight, because most members of the governing council, including President Draghi, are more open to discuss about a new interpretation of the role for the ECB. By the way: it would be strange if Monti and Draghi, who know each other very well, have not talked recently exactly about that.

So I proved right yesterday in saying that Italy under Monti will start to influence in a critical manner the current discussions, but I proved wrong in saying, that this would be bad news for Angela Merkel. On the contrary, my impression is now, that she will one day use the new set-up of the European leadership to explain at home, because Germany has to accept, that the ECB becomes more Fed-like as lender of last resort. She knows perfectly that it's always better to digest controversial decisons with a convincing narrative.

Donnerstag, 24. November 2011

Will France and Italy build now an alliance against Germany?

When the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy meet today Mario Monti, the recently appointed Italian Prime Minister, the Frenchman will be more pleased than his German counterpart. The reason is obvious: the EU Co-founder Italy is returning after Berlusconi dynamically on the international stage and will under the former EU-competition Commissioner with his no-joke style play a much heavier role than it used to play under his completely discredited predeccesor.
While Sarkozy and Merkel formed a kind of European directorate since the Greek crises broke out, France could have in the future more options. With a more influential Italy, Sarkozy will have a potential ally that up to now was not at his disposal. Don't forget: France and Italy are after Germany  by far the biggest countries of the Eurozone. If they would pool their interestests, Germany would inevitabily drive in a weaker position than before.
Because one thing has to be clear: Germany with it's unreasonable only-austerity-ideology today  is isolated in Europe. Maybe the Finns have similar ideas, but not even the stability oriented Dutch agree on the orthodox attitude of the German government and - worse - the Bundesbank.
So new scenarios emerge if France opens up to Italy and stops treating exclusively with Germany about solutions for the crises and the future governance of the Eurozone. That could mean a new push for a changed role of the ECB as lender of last resort or in the mid term the creation of Eurobonds.

Montag, 21. November 2011

Monti: What a different, what a sobre style!

The political life in Italy used with few exeptions always to be a "teatrino", a little theater. Showbiz. Entertainment, not too serious. Sure, the differences are huge between say a Giulio Andreotti and a Silvio Berlusconi, but there are not so many western democracies, where even porno stars have been elected as member of the Parliament.

Having said so, it is noteworthy, that in the long Berlusconi-years this already low level of political culture has even deteriorated. The "Cavaliere" has impressingly shown during the 17 years, that he spent in the political arena a scarce sense for the the democratic institutions and the rule of law. Avoiding taxes? An acceptable piccadillo, he once said. And his advice to the workers of Fiat in a sicilian plant, that risked the closure, he adviced: "Look for some clandestine work and than you can make it!" If a prime minister, who acts by definition as a role model for a country and it's people spreads such messages, no wonder that not only the polotical but also the civilian culture suffers.

When I saw last week the new government sitting in the aula of the Senate I thought spontaneously: Wow, what a difference! A totally new are sitting serious people, interested only in the tasks and the challenges that they have to tackle. Mario Monti, the new PM, stayed seated for the whole long session. With diligence he took notes of the questions of the Senators and responded one on one precisely and without any trace of arrogance. It was a demonstration of his seriousness and his respect for the parliament

Differently Berlusconi never stayed seated for more than half an hour. And even then he didn't listen to the speeches, but usually chatted with some of his ministers. He hardly could hide his disinterest in the debates. He never responded questions diligently. He was always full of arrogance in order to show that he is the boss of the government and the parliamentarians are nothing else than Yes-men servicing the executive power.

Also visually the differences between the last cabinet of Berlusconi and the one of Monti, that was sworn in Wednesday could not be bigger: from al 24 ministers of the last administration maybe five or six were really ministrable, Finance Minister Tremonti for example. The rest: unacceptable for an important country. Take Umberto Bossi, the Lega Nord leader and last Minister for Reforms, admittedly a ill man after a stroke three hears ago. He fell during the sessions regularly to sleep, wor dirty shirts and had not an appropriate level of personal hygiene. Too many, too nice, too model-like were the female ministers. And effectively, when you didn't look only at them but you listened to them, you uderstood suddenly that they were not chosen for their competencies but for different reasons by the Cavaliere.

The new cabinet under the PM Mario Monti may be is a little bit grey on it's public perception. All these professors, civil servants and people from the institutions are used to be very careful in their expressions. But this new, this sober style will help not only the government, but Italy, to regain the seriousness on front of the Italians as well as internationally, it has lost under the show-regime of the TV-entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi. 

Donnerstag, 17. November 2011

Meine Kommentare zu den Kommentaren über Montis Regierung auf Zeit-Online

Der Grad von Aggressivität und Frust übe die derzeitige Situation in Europa, die aus den Kommentaren atmet, hat mich betroffen gemacht. Ich denke, dass es Elemente gibt, die durchaus kritikwürdig sind, von der Verantwortung der Wall Street Banken bis hin zur Gefahr der Demokratie-Reduzierung, die diese Krise implizit in sich trägt. daraus aber eine grundsätzliche Kapitalismus- und Systemkrise abzuleiten halte ich für grundfalsch.
Kurz zu den wesentlichen Kritikpunkten an der Regierung Monti, die aus den Kommentaren hervorgeht:

1. Sein Kabinett enthalte nur Experten, keine gewählten Volksvertreter.Das sei der Beweis für eine Unterhöhlung der Demokratie:

Das ist eine Kritik, die einer Prüfung nicht standhält. Denn erstens war es der erklärte Wunsch aller Parteien und ihrer entsprechenden vom Volk gewählten Exponenten, dass Monti eine reine "technische Regierung" bilden solle. Zweitens kann die Regierung ja nichts tun ohne die Zustimmung des Parlaments, in dem ausschließlich gewählte Volksvertreter sitzen. Insofern ist es Unsinn aus einem Experten-Kabinett ein Demokratiedefizit abzuleiten.

2. Monti ist als ehemaliger Goldman Sachs Berater ein U-Boot der Wall Street

So ein Blödsinn, sorry. Monti hatte mit GS einen Beratervertrag, er war nie Mitarbeiter der Investmentbank. Im Rahmen dieser Beratung hat er in erster Linie Kontakte ermöglicht und Türen geöffnet. Professor Monti war nie ein Banker im eigentlichen Sinne.
Nebenbei: wer glaubt dass Monti mit Hilfe von Goldman Berlusconi, den reichsten Italiener, der als mehrfacher Milliardär wirklich die Macht des Geldes kennt,
aus dem Sattel heben konnte, leidet unter Halluzinazionen.
Monti hat, vor allem als EU-Wettbewerbskommissar ( Kampf gegen Microsoft) eindrucksvoll seine geistige Unabhängigkeit unter Beweis gestellt.
I publish here my piece about the new Italian government, that runs currently on Zeit-Online in German language:

Professor Monti sucht die Italien-Formel
Italiens neue Regierung unter Mario Monti steht. Sie muss einen schwierigen Spagat meistern: Das Wachstum stimulieren und gleichzeitig kräftig sparen.

VON Marcello Berni
DATUM 16.11.2011 - 17:38 Uhr

An den Finanzmärkten hat die Nervosität auch am Mittwoch nicht nachgelassen. Die Renditen auf zehnjährige italienische Anleihen stiegen erneut auf über sieben Prozent. Offenbar hat sich bei den italienischen Gläubigern noch nicht die Überzeugung durchgesetzt, dass sich Italien unter einer Regierung Monti deutlich unterscheiden wird von jenem Italien des "Cavaliere" Berlusconi, an das wir uns seit fast zwei Jahrzehnten gewöhnt hatten.

Dabei hat es der ehemalige EU-Wettbewerbskommissar Mario Monti geschafft, binnen zwei Tagen und nach intensiven Beratungen mit Vertretern aller Parteien eine valide Regierung auf die Beine zu stellen. Um 11:00 Uhr stellte der künftige Premier im Quirinalspalast dem Staatspräsidenten Giorgio Napolitano seine Kabinettsliste vor. Sie enthält eine starke Mannschaft von Technikern, also Experten ihres jeweiligen Faches: Universitätsprofessoren, Richtern, Hohen Militärs und auch dem prominentesten Bankier des Landes, Corrado Passera, Vorstandschef der Großbank Intesa San Paolo. Er wird das Ressort "Wirtschaftliche Entwicklung" übernehmen.

Der neue italienische Ministerpräsident Mario Monti hat als erster des neuen Kabinetts seinen Amtseid vor Staatspräsident Giorgio Napolitano abgelegt. [Video kommentieren]
Die nächsten Etappen sind bereits klar definiert: Bis zum Freitag wird die Regierung in beiden Kammern des Parlaments die Vertrauensfrage stellen und mit an Sicherheit grenzender Wahrscheinlichkeit auch eine solide Mehrheit erhalten. Dann kann es losgehen. Auf Monti und seine Mitstreiter wartet nach jahrelangem Missmanagement, ja Nichtstun, ein Berg von Arbeit. 

Die grundsätzliche Stoßrichtung seines Wirtschaftsprogramms hatte Monti bereits vorgestern verkündet: Opfer ja, aber keine Tränen und Blut. Sparen ja, noch wichtiger sind aber Strukturreformen, die das Wachstum stimulieren. Monti ist ein liberaler Reformer. Sein Programm wird geprägt sein von mehr Markt, weniger Staat. Gleichzeitig wird es einen Akzent setzen auf soziale Gerechtigkeit. Denn der von Jesuiten erzogene ehemalige EU-Kommissar ist ein Anhänger der christlichen Soziallehre. Das macht ihn ideologisch nicht zu einem Sozialdemokraten, wohl aber zu einem Politiker, der auf eine faire Verteilung der Lasten achten wird.

Die wohl größte Herausforderung am Anfang seiner Regierungszeit wird sein, sich den dramatisch verschlechterten Rahmenbedingungen für die öffentlichen Finanzen entgegen zu stemmen. Die Wachstumsaussichten für dieses und das kommende Jahr haben erheblich eingetrübt: Ging die alte Regierung noch von einem Wachstum von 0,7 Prozent in diesem und 0,6 Prozent im kommenden Jahr aus, so glaubt die EU-Kommission nun, dass mehr als 0,5 Prozent in 2011 und 0,1 Prozent in 2012 nicht drin sein werden. Das schwache Wachstum wird zu Steuermindereinnahmen in Höhe von 20 Milliarden Euro führen. 

Hinzu kommen höhere Zinskosten durch die seit diesem Sommer stark steigenden Risikozuschläge für die italienischen Staatsanleihen. Kostenpunkt: bislang vier bis fünf Milliarden Euro, schätzt das Schatzamt in Rom. Im Klartext bedeutet dies, dass Monti einen Nachtragshaushalt im Volumen von mindestens 25 Milliarden Euro verabschieden muss, um Berlusconis Versprechen eines ausgeglichenen Haushaltes im Jahr 2013 zu halten. Dies wird nicht einfach, zumal dies nicht vorwiegend durch Mehreinnahmen finanziert werden sollte, sondern durch echte Sparanstrengungen.

Schon heute sind Staatsquote und Steuerbelastung erdrückend hoch und strangulieren das Wachstum. In keinem Land der OECD, außer in Schweden und Dänemark, ist der Staatsanteil am Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) so hoch wie in Italien. Das Ergebnis: Zwischen 2003 und heute ist die Wirtschaft in Italien (real und pro Kopf) nach Angaben des Internationalen Währungsfonds (IWF) im Jahresdurchschnitt um 0,5 Prozent geschrumpft. Zum Vergleich: In Deutschland ist es um 1,3 Prozent gestiegen, in der EU um durchschnittlich 0,7 Prozent. Montis zentrale Mission lautet also, das langfristige Wachstumspotenzial der Wirtschaft zu steigern.

In den ersten 100 Tagen stehen indes andere Themen an. Kurzfristig könnte die Regierung einen Teil der Staatsbeteiligungen in Höhe von 120 Milliarden Euro verkaufen. Das sind immerhin 7,5 Prozent des BIP. Allein die Beteiligungen an dem Mineralölkonzern ENI und dem Stromversorger ENEL – beide sind börsennotiert – sind aktuell über 30 Milliarden Euro wert. Kurzfristig könnte Monti auch die Immobiliensteuer ICI wiedereinführen, was vier Milliarden Euro in die Kassen der Kommunen spülen würde. Eine Vermögenssteuer erscheint hingegen nach dem Veto der Berlusconi-Partei PDL eher unwahrscheinlich.

Die wichtigsten Strukturreformen, die Monti im Laufe seines Mandats anpacken dürfte, sind hingegen: eine Rentenreform, die sowohl auf die Verlängerung der Lebensarbeitszeit auf 67 Jahre bereits ab 2020 statt 2026 setzt, als auch auf Abschaffung der sogenannten Altersrente, die heute all jenen volle Bezüge bereits mit 60 garantiert, sofern sie 36 Jahre lang Beiträge geleistet haben. Ein zweites Großprojekt wird die Liberalisierung der freien Berufe betreffen, die heute in ein extrem enges Korsett eingeschnürt sind und keinerlei Logiken des Marktes folgen. Es ist ein gewaltiges Programm, das auf Professor Monti und seine Mannschaft wartet.

Dienstag, 15. November 2011

UBS: Ermotti erobert den Chefposten und Weber kommt schon 2012

Schneller als gedacht hat die krisengeschüttelte UBS sich auf ein definitives Personaltableau verständigt:  nach dem Skandal um einen Londoner "rogue trader", der mit ungenehmigten Deals über 2 Milliarden Euro versenkt hatte und damit CEO Ossi Grübel im September zum Rücktritt gezwungen hatte, schien alles recht vage und undefiniert. Zwar wurde noch am selben Tag Sergio Ermotti an die Spitze berufen. Allerdings mit Schönheitsfehler: nur als CEO "ad Interim". Man wolle mit Hilfe von Personalberatern(Egon Zehnder) den Markt sondieren, um wirklich den besten Kadidaten zum neuen CEO zu berufen. Das Board sprach damals von einer Zeitspanne von 6 Monaten, die ich damals bereits als unsinnig lange angesehen habe. Denn was die UBS nach der langen Krise am wenigsten gebrauchen kann, ist Unsicherheit. Zudem eine halbjährige Hängepartie für Ermotti die Garantie dafür gewesen wäre, als "lame duck" jegliche Autorität zu verlieren.
Ähnlich umständlich hatte die Bank den Wechsel an den Spitze des Verwaltungsrates geplant: zwar konnte sie mit dem ehemaligen Bundesbankpräsidenten Axel Weber einen dicken Fisch an Land ziehen. Weber sollte aber ursprünglich erst 2013 das Ruder vom ehemaligen Politiker Caspar Villiger übernehmen. Auch hier: Schweizer Langsamkeit statt der für ein globales Haus notwendigen Dynamik. Nun, die Herren im Board  scheinen in sich gegangen zu sein, denn heute morgen überraschten sie mit der Pressemitteilung, dass Weber nun doch bereits 2012 die Präsidentschaft antreten werde. Villiger werde sich bei der kommensen Hauptversmmlung im Frühling nicht mehr zur Wiederwahl stellen. Noch wichtiger aber: Sergio Ermotti werde mit sofortiger Wirkung zum definitiven Group CEO benannt.
Damit hat die UBS in meinen Augen einen respektablen Bedreiungsschlag geschafft, der Stabilität und Perspektive gibt. Nun verfügt die Großbank über ein exzellentes Team, das die Strategie neu justieren und in den kommenden Jahren exekutieren wird. Denn eines steht fest: die UBS wird sich ändern. In wenigen Tagen wird Ermotti den neuen Strategieplan vorlegen. Die Stoßrichtung ist klar: weniger Risiko, weniger Zockerei, Fokus aufs traditionnelle "Swiss Banking". Im Klartext: die Investmentbank wird sicherlich schrumpfen, vor allen jene Business Lines, die nicht den Kundenbeziehungen der Bank dienen, wie Teile des Handel mit Festverzinslichen Wertpapieren, Rohstoffen und Devisen (FICC); das Private Banking wird sicherlich wachsen, vor allen in den dynamischen Geographien Asiens. Sicherlich wird die UBS ihre beneidenswerte internationale Präsenz in 50 Ländern nutzen, um künftig noch bessere Geschäfte dank der Globalisierung zu machen. Ermotti dürfte zudem versuchen, das "glocal"-Attribut der "Global Swiss Bank" zu prägen. Denn trotz der tiefen Krise, in die vor allen die UBS als größtes Institut des Alpenlandes gerutscht war, hat das Schweizer Banking wenig von seiner Strahlkraft verloren. Dies natürlich auch deshalb, weil die vornehmen Privatinstitute wie Julius Bär oder Pictet sich weiterhin in der ganzen Welt einer herausraenden Reputation erfreuen.
Der neue CEO hat also eine gewaltige Aufgabe vor sich. Sergio Ermotti ist aber bestens dafür gerüstet. Schon als Deputy CEO der UniCredit hat er große Herausforderungen gemeistert und gewaltige Veränderungen in dessen Investmentbank in die Wege geleitet: weg vom unpersönlichen Geschäft, hin zum kundenorientierten Flow-Geschäft, beispielsweise.
Er hat umstrukturiert, reorganisiert, das Corporate Banking synergisch an die Seite des Investmentbankings gestellt und nebenbei zwischen 2009 und 2011 den größten Gewinn aller Divisionen der italienisch-europäischen Großbank geliefert. Das Private Banking/wealth Management ist unter seiner Führung internationalisiert worden und hat sich glänzend entwickelt.
Wäre es nach dem Willen des im letzten Jahr gefeuerten langjährigen UniCredit-CEO's Alessandro Profumo gegangen, wäre Ermotti wohl zu seinem Nachfolger gekürt worden. Vermutlich war genau das der Grund, warum es anders kam: Osteuropachef Federico Ghizzoni wurde an die Spitze berufen.
Nun hat Ermotti seine Revanche.

Montag, 14. November 2011

No pick nick for Monti

Every start is difficult. Also "Super-Mario" had today to make this experience. It was quite clear, that after the euphoria in the last days more sober moments would come.
Today the incoming Prime Minister held talks with different political forces in order to assure the broadest possible majority in the two Houses of the Italian Parliament. And it emerged chrystal clear, that the formation of the new government will not be a pick nick. The political parties are reluctant to provide Monti "carte blanche". And Berlusconi has already started to threaten, that he could in any moment put an end to the new government. Unfortunately this is in theory possible, because the center-right coalition has in one of the two Houses, the Senate, still a very robust majority. Add a more cautious feeling in the markets, where the spreads between Italian T-bills and German Bunds today returned to 500 basispoints and ready is a soup, that tastes not so good than the one of the last days.
Monti has in the next couple of days to solve overall one key question: will the cabinet be a purely "technical" staffed with ministers without any political link or will the government include also some politicians from the parties, which promised to support Monti? That latter solition would create more stability. But Berlusconi as well as the leader of the major opposition party PD, Pierluigi Bersani don't like that. They prefer to have nobody of "their" people in the government to maintain more freedom on their decisions.
Monti should press them hard, because of the superiority of the solution. On the other hand he has to be flexible enough to understand realistically, what in this Italian circus is feasable and what is not feasable. He cannot lose much time. The new governement has absolutely to be formed in two, maximum three days. It would send a desastrous signal to the European partners as well as the markets if it would take longer.

Sonntag, 13. November 2011

Expect a Lean and Efficient Management by Monti

A long and ardous day is waiting for Italy's President, Giorgio Napolitano: he will meet with all political forces, which are represented in the parliament - from the Südtiroler Volkspartei to Berlusconi's People of Freedom party. The objective is clear: the President has to organize a broad majority for the new government and strap commitments from the political parties. No doubt, that he will succeed. At the end Monti will have the broadest majority, that in the Italian history any government has had. Certainly this refers only to this crucial moment of deep national crises. The picture could and will will change in the future. Personally I do expect that latest in te next Spring, that the support will diminish notably. So speed matters now.
How will the new government look like? It seems - from the perspective of this morning- that it will be a purely "technical" cabinet with highly qualified ministers, who are not linked to any political force. Even if I don't like this idea hundred percent, it can have an important advantage: independence and dynamism. Monti has to get things done. Fast. With such a cabinet the efficiency would be higher than in the case of a mixed technical-political government. But wait and see, the decisions in these regards are not yet taken.
On thing however is sure: The cabinet will be lean and mean. Monti plans only with 12 ministers or so, no deputies, no secretaries of state. What a difference to the government Berlusconi, where some 40 or 50 people had a function (and often nothing to do).
Expect from Monti a highly efficient management style. Good for Italy, good for Europe.

Samstag, 12. November 2011

It's done - Berlusconi is out, but...

My, and not only my fears yesterday evening luckily proved exagerated. Silvio Berlusconi has behaved as promised. No poker game. Simply resignation. Halleluja!
A new spin has emerged however today: many politicians are talking now about a "technical government", which would mean a cabinet without the presence of leading political figures from the Parties.
This would clearly weaken the position of Mario Monti, the incoming Prime Minister. It would be much easier for the political forces in the parliament to act swiftly in a destructive way, don't running the risk to damage their rappresentatives in the Monti-team. I really hope that this will not happen. Because a governement full of experts and professors has for sure a high intellectual level, but it wants a bit more than smartness to govern really this huge and complex country. Attenzione Mario: the first traps will emerge from tomorrow on. This is Rome, not Brussels. Take care!

Freitag, 11. November 2011

Shaky Italy: Berlusconi creates difficulties for the formation of a Monti-government

This was not forseeable this morning, when I wrote my last blogpost. But as far as the support of the Berlusconi-movement (PDL) for a Monti-led government is concerned, have emerged today major difficulties. The outgoing prime minister seems to be oriented to influence directly the names of the new cabinet. If not, he would withdraw his support, sources of the PDL, said this evening. Berlusconi could also propone to President Napolitano a different name than Monti.
The "cavaliere" once again shows with this unacceptable Poker game no sense for the country. He is a power drunken irresponsible. What happens im the markets on Monday, if the new government under the leadership of the highly reaoected Monti will not be formed? For sure a desastrous bloodbath! But this does not interest the crazy man, who behaves like Emperor Nero, who burned Rome and dropped afterwards a tear.
Italy will only be on the safe side, when Berlusconi will be definitely out of politics. The man is pure poison for Italy.     

Don't worry: Monti will save Italy!

As I explained this morning, in Italy the road seems 95% cleared for the formation of a new government under the leadership of Mario Monti, a highly respected academic and economist, who held in two different administrations in Brussels the post of a European commsissioner, first for the Internal Market than for Competition. I see three main reasons, why Monti will save Italy in the next couple of months.
1. Monti is the right man at the right time.
2. He will create a very broad majority in the parliament - a kind of "Great Coalition" - which will provide to the Prime Minister an incredible amount of power, maybe more than any of his ca. 60  predecessors. 
3. He will form a cabinet, that will include the best people. They will come from the two main political sides but there will be also tecnocrats, academics and leaders from respected institutions like the Bank of Italy on board.

Ad 1. Monti is the right man, because he is very smart. He has highest tecnical and ethical standards. He has an incredibly strong and courageous personality - remember his storical fight against Microsoft, that ended with the record fine of 497 Mill Euro and a real victory for the EU. He is visionary and bold. But he is also a affable person, listens very well and is a very good team player. Last but not least he is in the international elite one of the most respected men. He is the best face that Italy has at it's disposal to improve very quickly the terribly damaged image of the country, that has reached in the last weeks scary levels. Nobody here would have ever imagined that Italy would be one day compared to Greece and therefore with the weakest member of the European Union. A shame and a slap in the face for this proud country - founding member of the European Community - that is not only incredibly rich in terms of culture and natural beauties, but also in terms of entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, inventiveness and sense for quality - think about the excellent food and the unicque wines, think of the luxury companies like Armani, Zegna, Versace, Loro Piana...
So Monti will be very quickly very visible on the international stage and I'm sure that he will faster, than many think today, let forget the disastrous past for the country, that Berlusconi with his unacceptable behaviors has been responsible for. In a certain sense is Mario Monti the perfect contrary to Silvio Berlusconi. The world will understand that Berlusconi was not the norm. He didn't represent the Italian-way to be and to do, but he was the exception. And the world will understand that Italy luckily has at it's disposal a broad group of classy people, internationally educated and open minded.

Ad 2. Monday Monti will start working. He will explore the situation on both sides of the political spectrum, in the People of Freedom (PDL) - the Berlusconi movement and the Democratic Party (PD), the left-of the-center party led by the reasonable Pier Luigi Bersani, a former communist, who has turned to a Social Democrat.
The mainstream of the parliamentarians in the Berlusconi party will happily support Monti, because of the alternative scenario, that would prove desastrous: early elections before Christmas. Be sure, that in the aftermath of the utterly flawed crises-management the PDL would suffer a storical defeat. So, the longer Monti stays, the better he can make forget the past, which is in the interest of the PDL leaders. At least today. Elections should be however hold when Monti will have done the bulk of work, expect in March, maybe April.
On the other side of the political arena dominates the word "responsibility for the country". Even if early elections could lead with a high probability to a relative majority of the PD, which could then form a coalition government together with some smaller parties - some on the left side of the spectrum as well as the catholic UDC of the handsome and smart Pier Ferdinando Casini. To be clear: PD-boss Bersani would have a good chance to become Prime Minister in only a few weeks, a dream for every homo politicus. But he shows an admirable attitude, that Berlusconi never had, to put the countries interests before his one. Chapeau! That means: the mainstream of the PD under Bersani will support Monti.
The only party with a significant size, which will not follow the new government will be the regionalist, sometimes secessionist Lega Nord of Umberto Bossi. The long-time ally of Silvio Berlusconi will go happily in the opposition to sharp the profile of his party for the elections 2012 after the desastrous months passed on the benches of the government.

Ad 3. The first rumors of the names for the new governments are very encouraging: 
(a) Gianni Letta, who was crucial during the long tenure of Berlusconi, that the Prime Minister behaved in a constitutional way avoiding even more desasters, should stay as Deputy Prime Minister, covering de facto the role of Chief-of-Staff for Monti. He is a first class civil servant with enormous experience (he is 76)  and he is also a feel-good-factor for Berlusconi, who apparently linked the future of Letta with his dispomibility to resign in reasonable terms. 
(b) The current minister of justice, Nitto Palma, more a legal technician than a real politician should stay as well or should be at least be substituted by a "neutral tecnician". This is also crucial for Berlusconi, because he is obsessed to be persecuted by the justice system. Berlusconi wants to sleep well. And - frankly speaking - I can understand that. 
(c) As successor of Giulio Tremonti at the finance-ministery could arrive Fabrizio Saccomanni, currently General Director of Banca d'Italia, who seemed for some weeks as most likely successor of Mario Draghi as Central Bank Governor. This government department will however change quite strongly his character, because much of the power for economic and financial will be executed in the future by Prime Minister Monti himself. It seemed sometimes in the cabinet of Berlusconi, that Tremonti had more power than his boss.
(d) At the foreign ministery should arrive with Giuliano Amato another member of the meritocratic elite Italy's. He is as former prime minister and multiple minister in different functions; very strong connected internationally. He knows everybody, who counts, and he has the characteristic, that I would call "gravitas" - i.e. seriousness, a natural authority and competence. I was lucky to interview him at the very beginning of my mandate for Handelsblatt, when I arrived 11 years ago as correspondent for Italy.. He was in these times caretaker Prime Minister and he impressed me due to his affable personality and his sharp intelligence.
(e) From the PD side could play a leading roles the expert for social affairs Pietro Ichino as Minister for Welfare and 
(f) Enrico Letta, who was once with 33 the youngest ever Minister in Italy. At the beginning of his 40ies he is still young and could become Deputy Prime Minister in the more political role.
(g) From the catholic UDC will be also included someone, most likely Rocco Buttoglione.

Bottom line: Monti will form a lean and diversified cabinet, which has the perfect mix of politicians of the different parties, that support the government in the Parliament - younger and more experienced -  and technocrats. This government will be highly operative and active. It will move Italy on. If the world doesn't give credit to such a project I do not understand anymore anything! 
Two words to the financial impact: I'm sure that the spread between German Bunds and Italian T-bills should quickly go down from than 500 basis points to 350 maybe. Later this year they could even come down further, if the reforms are well designed. It will be for sure a much more sustainable level than today. The country will be able to refinance itself over the markets in 2012 and will not anymore be forced to be helped out by the bond purchases of the ECB. Italy will prove, that it is not Greece.
Although I'm half Italian, although I live for a long time here, one thing is totally unclear to me: why needs this crazy country always (as in 1992) terrifying crises to move on finally? Crazy country, really!

The miracle of Rome

In the last three days something miracolous has happen in Rome: Italian politics has followed a path of reasonableness and appropriatness. The behaviour of the main political actors has become increasingly rational and smart. Sure: Berlusconi went into parliament Tuesday with fully wrong expectations, that his majority would still be there. But his next steps, to go to the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and to offer him his resignation was exactly that, what he had to do in democratic and constitutional terms.
Frankly speaking: I didn't expected such an orderly procedure, because of my doubts, that Berlusconi suffered increasingly the "Emperor Nero Syndrom", that means: a lost sense for reality. Well, I was wrong, and I'm more than happy about this misjudgement.
I think however, that such a reasonable handling of the crises was only possible for two reasons:
1. The impeccable political management of the real hero in today's Italy, President Napolitano. With the perfect mix of pressure, moral suasion and concessions he convinced Berlusconi to do the right thing and to free Italy from his legacy
2. The psycological shock for Berlusconi, when he sat on the government-bench in parliament seeing that even his eldest allies were leaving him alone. It can be compared only to the surprise of Julius Caesar, when he asked to his murder Brutus at 15 March of 44 BC, "tu quoque fili?". Berlusconi had been one of most optimistic men on earth. He was used to win, in politics as well as in business and in his private life. Don't forget, that he created with creativity, also ability, a bit of luck and a lots of corruption out of nothing  one of the most precious media-conglomerate in Europe. For many years Berlusconi was not only the most powerful but also the wealthiest man of the country. He had never expected such an end.
So what's next: After the latest developments I do expect, that this weekend the two chambers of the parliament will have passed the Stability Law, which is more or less the transcript into law of Berlusconis letter to Brussels with a series of commitments, like the increase of the pension age and the liberalization of certain professions. The law is not bad, but it has substantially only the function, to be the very last action of this government. The approval is not in doubt and suddenly after Berkusconi will go to the President to resign officially from the post of Prime Minister. After that, Napolitano will meet with Mario Monti and mandate him to form a new government of National Unity.
 I will explain in my next Blog post, that I will post in the next couple of hours, why Mario Monti will succeed in  forming a very good governement, how he will assure a very solid majority on the parliament and what will be the next steps. With other words: how Monti will save Italy. Stay tuned!