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Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Cautious welcome for Berlusconi victory
Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi's past - and his allies - are causing concern
The election victory of Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has prompted a cautious reaction from Italy's EU partners, nervous about the policies of his right-wing allies.


We will be watching closely what this government will be and what it will do

Hubert Vedrine
His victory came amid a barrage of criticism across the continent, where questions were raised about potential conflicts of interest, the criminal cases against him and his choice of allies.

But European politicians, who last year deplored the new influence of the far-right Freedom Party after Austria's election, made finer distinctions this time.

In Paris, the French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, said Europe would watch the actions of the new government closely.

'Close attention'

Mr Vedrine said he had confidence in the Italian people's democratic decision, but he added that Europe would pay close attention to the new government.

"We will be watching closely what this government will be and what it will do," he said.

Hubert Vedrine
Vedrine: Europe will be vigilant
In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a notably restrained statement that his government respected the Italian election results.

Mr Schroeder also said he hoped a new Italian government would continue the country's pro-European stance.

Austria's far-right leader Joerg Haider was quick to congratulate Silvio Berlusconi's conservative coalition.

Austria sanctions

"I expected this success from Berlusconi," Mr Haider said. "Italy needs some change."

Mr Haider said the EU had "burned its fingers" with its sanctions on Austria and as a result would accept the centre-right victory in Italy's election.

The EU imposed sanctions on Austria when Mr Haider's party entered government, but for the moment shows no signs of doing the same to Italy.

Joerg Haider
Austria's far-right leader was quick to congratulate Silvio Berlusconi
"I believe we learned a lesson from Austria," said Danish Foreign Minister Mogens Lykketoft.

"What we will look at in the future is how the governments in reality behave," he added.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the United States hoped to "enjoy a cooperative and fruitful relationship" with the Berlusconi government.

Others, especially on the left, were more circumspect.

In Germany, a spokesman for the ex-Communist Party of Democratic Socialism, Wolfgang Gehrcke, said Mr Berlusconi's victory "imposes a challenge and a serious burden on democracy and the progressive forces in Europe".

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See also:

14 May 01 | Europe
Temperatures rise in chaotic poll
10 May 01 | Europe
Italy gears up for close election
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