Brussels - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, under sharp pressure
from his EU partners over Italy's finances, was called in for pre-summit
tete-a-tetes Sunday as European leaders headed into crunch talks on the
Berlusconi arrived at the summit venue well ahead of
his 26 counterparts for talks with European Union president Herman Van
Rompuy and was to join a three-way meeting, also ahead of the crunch
summit, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President
"The idea is to pressure Berlusconi," a diplomat said
amid fears Italy is being sucked into contagion from the eurozone
crisis, but is failing to take tough action.
The Italian leader held a face-to-face meeting late
Saturday with Merkel and, when asked whether he thought he had convinced
her of his determination to announce new cuts and reforms, said "I
The EU executive last week pressed Italy to move on cuts in public spending and structural reforms "as a matter of urgency."
European officials believe Italy has softened on its
vows to implement cuts and reforms since August, when the European
Central Bank (ECB) moved to support Rome by buying up its debt on
Irritation is all the stronger at a time Europe is
battling to protect Italy and Spain, its third and fourth largest
economies, against contagion from the debt crisis.
At talks with his conservative partners, Berlusconi
outlined an austerity plan adopted by the Italian parliament, said a
party to the talks who could not be named. But he appeared "very
reluctant" on the need to do more, a diplomat said.
Budget cuts adopted by its parliament in July and
September aim to bring the country back into balance from 2013 and
reduce its colossal 1.9 trillion euro debt, amounting to 120 percent of
its Gross National Product.