Senior Brothers of Italy figure Tremonti blames EU for high inflation

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Italy's Finance Minister Tremonti arrives at an euro zone finance ministers' meeting in Brussels

By Giulio Piovaccari

MILAN (Reuters) - A senior figure in the far-right Brothers of Italy party, which is tipped to win national elections at the weekend, on Thursday blamed 10 years of European Union monetary and fiscal policies for skyrocketing inflation.

Consumer prices in the euro zone rose by a record 9.1% in August, prompting a 75-basis-point interest rate increase by the European Central Bank in early September.

Giulio Tremonti, Italy's finance minister in a number of governments until 2011, said the roots of high inflation went beyond the war in Ukraine and an associated surge in energy prices.

Inflation is a "wider and more general phenomenon" and a consequence of the excessive amount of money printed in the euro currency zone over the last 10 years, Tremonti said before a closed-door meeting with the Milan region's business community.

"We're now paying for the mistakes made 10 years ago, when a fanatical doctrine of austerity was dominant. It proved it was not working so we swiftly switched to liquidity, with a go-ahead from Germany," he said.

Tremonti is running for parliament for the Brothers of Italy and has been mentioned as a candidate for a top economic role in the next government.

"Liquidity means 'whatever it takes', and actually it could have been right for six months...But after 10 years, 'whatever it takes' has turned into 'whatever mistakes'," Tremonti said.

The phrase "whatever it takes" refers to the wording used by Mario Draghi in 2012 when as European Central Bank president he pledged to save the euro. Draghi is Italy's outgoing prime minister.

Brothers of Italy are widely expected to emerge as Italy's largest single party at the Sept. 25 election, leading an alliance of right-wing parties to victory.

Tremonti, a tax lawyer by profession, on Thursday declined to comment on a possible return to the ministerial ranks.

Alberto Meomartini, a former top executive at gas grid operator Snam and ex-president of regional lobby group Assolombarda, said he was not making any public endorsement but that Tremonti was "very good".

"He's one who reassures me a lot, he's one who thinks with his own head and who is sharp-minded," he said after joining the meeting attended by Tremonti and organised by Assolombarda.

(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Keith Weir and Mark Heinrich)