Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti received a standing ovation from MEPs when he spoke to them about the economic reforms in his country at the plenary meeting in Strasbourg. Most MEPs welcomed his speech and his work so far to put the Mediterranean country's economy back on tracks. Other speakers emphasised the need to promote growth alongside cuts and insisted on a European response to the crisis.
Mr Monti talked in his speech about the necessity of reforms and the need for Europe to play a role. "Italy is making important sacrifices, which are not imposed by EU, but because they are necessary for the future of this country, for our sons and daughters," he said. "Today's fiscal discipline has to be followed by a strengthened single market leading to a stronger economic union, which is the basis of the European project itself. Italy wants to get out of the crisis and to be, again, a key driving force in the EU project."
French Christian Democrat Joseph Daul praised the Italian prime minister for the reforms in his country and his support for the European project. "I'm grateful to you for having done your utmost to oppose intergovernmentalism. You have the majority of this house in your debt. This Parliament would like to make another voice heard, that of a Europe based on solidarity, a responsible Europe, a Europe that is politically integrated. You can count on an ally in the European Parliament."
Austrian Social Democrat Hannes Swoboda said fiscal discipline would be more palatable to citizens if there was growth and employment while tax evasion was being tackled effectively. "There are many declarations but actions are still missing. The EIB should be able to have more credit possibilities and the ECB should do its utmost to promote growth."
Belgian Liberal Guy Verhofstadt also praised the Italian prime minister: "In a few weeks you did a great job and you put Italy back on track." But he continued: "Dear Mario, you need more than compliments. We need to reduce interest rates for European countries and for Italy, which is paying three times more than Germany."
Green MEP Rebecca Harms, from Germany, questioned Mr Monti about the emphasis on cuts in Greece. "You talked a lot about budgetary discipline and discipline in general, do you think; as the person giving the task to clean things up in Italy, that it's intelligent budgetary discipline only to make cuts? Because what's happening in Greece right now is just cuts and cuts alone. And despite all of the cuts, the majority of citizens in the country, in particular poorer people, are finding things worse and worse. Is that the way out of the crisis for a country in crisis? Is that sustainable?"
British Conservative Martin Callanan said: "Markets have responded positively to the proposed reform plans in Italy. Fiscal consolidation and economic reform could work in Italy, but not in Greece. There is no shortage of statements about growth but so far they have failed. Europe and the single market doesn't need more rules but liberalisation and competition."
Far left French MEP Patrick Le Hyaric said he thought that the discipline we are talking about is only for the people and not for the financial actors. "What kind of democracy is a democracy where there's only austerity, security and control?"
Italian eurosceptic Francesco Enrico Speroni criticised the prime minister for not having a democratic mandate for what he was doing. "You were appointed prime minister without having won democratic elections and you are excelling in the capacity as the enforcer for international finance, making people pay up."
Maroš Šefčovič, who attended on behalf of the European Commission, said: "Italy entered the crisis in a vulnerable position. Monti's government has adopted a broad range of measures on taxation, pensions and public administration that have helped stabilise her position. The European Commission welcomes the decisive actions and stands ready to assist Italy, for example in combating youth unemployment."