PARIS (Reuters) – European leaders are caught between former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s injunction “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker’s admission that “We all know what to do. We just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.”
Signs of reform fatigue are growing in euro zone countries as bond market pressure for a radical budget and economic overhaul has eased slightly. While several governments have pushed through changes in pension, employment and welfare systems that would have been unthinkable before the currency area’s debt crisis, the reform push is losing momentum in the face of political resistance.
Italy’s unelected prime minister, Mario Monti, made a veiled threat to quit this week for the first time in an attempt to force through a shake-up of labour laws intended to make it easier for companies to fire workers. Monti warned Italians that his team of reforming technocrats might not stay in office until a 2013 election if trade unions and politicians picked his plan apart.
“If the country, through its labour organisations and political parties, does not feel ready for what we consider a good job, we would certainly not seek to keep going just to reach a particular date,” he said.
An opinion poll by the ISPO agency published on Sunday showed two-thirds of Italians have a negative view of the reform agreed by the cabinet last week, and Monti’s own approval rating fell sharply as a result.