World Bulletin / News Desk
Italy should leave the euro unless the European Central Bank agrees to pump more cash into the economy and guarantee government debts, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday.
"We have to go to Europe and say forcefully that the ECB should start printing money," Berlusconi said in an entry on his Facebook page.
"Otherwise, if it doesn't, we should have the strength to say 'ciao, ciao' and leave the euro, while remaining in the EU, or to say to Germany that it should leave the euro if it doesn't agree," he said.
Berlusconi, still facing trial on charges of paying for sex with an underaged prostitute, has had little involvement in day-to-day political life since resigning last year after Italy came close to a Greek-style debt crisis.
"My 'crazy idea' is that the Bank of Italy should print euros or print our own currency," he said.
His comments come as Italy's fractious political parties begin manoeuvering ahead of elections in 2013 with his own centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party in disarray after heavy losses in local polls last month.
The May local elections underscored growing rejection of the mainstream parties with big gains for the Five Star Movement led by Beppe Grillo, a rough-tongued comic who calls politicians "diarrhoea" and also wants to see Italy pull out of the euro.
The latest opinion poll by the Ipsos polling institute this week showed the PDL trailing both the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the Five Star movement with just 16.8 percent support.
But he has given indications recently that he is preparing to take a more active role as next year's elections approach, proposing last month to change Italy's government system into a French-style elected Presidency.
"I don't remember a more difficult moment than this in my life. People have really lost confidence," he said on Facebook. "What move can change the recessionary spiral?"
With support for the technocrat government of Prime Minister Mario Monti falling as the austerity measures imposed to combat the crisis begin to bite deeply, support for the euro has also begun to weaken.
A poll this week by the Washington-based Pew research centre showed 44 percent of Italians thought the euro had been damaging for Italy.
Berlusconi has a record of making provocative suggestions which are subsequently quietly dropped but his comments on the euro correspond with an increasingly critical tone against the euro by other parties.
His comments on the euro were immediately welcomed by his estranged former allies in the Northern League, who oppose the Monti government and have long been sceptical of the single currency.
"As the crisis worsens it is right to prepare for the collapse of the system, which would take our country out of the euro," the League's deputy parliamentary head Maurizio Fugatti said in a statement.