The reaction to the news from Italy — that Prime Minister Mario Monti will soon step down to make way for early elections featuring the possible return of Silvio Berlusconi — has been nearly unanimously negative and, in some quarters, uncharacteristically vocal. “Worried about the resignation of Italian PM Mario Monti,” wrote Finland’s Minster for European Affairs, Alexander Stubb, in a tweet on Sunday morning. “I think he is one of the best European leaders we have.”
Martin Schulz, a German politician whom Berlusconi once likened to a concentration-camp guard, was more direct. “Europe needs stability,” he said, in an interview with the Italian news agency ANSA. “And Mr. Berlusconi is the opposite of stability.” Even Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, expressed his worries. “We can’t allow a year of sacrifices to be ruined,” he said, referring to painful austerity measures Monti has introduced in order regain the confidence of the markets. “What’s stunning is the irresponsibility of those who think of their own interests while the house is still burning.” By Monday evening, the markets had weighed in as well, with the Milan Stock Exchange down 2.2% at the close of trading.