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The BBC's Bill Hayton
"Some have compared them to Austria's far-right Freedom party"
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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Analysis: Berlusconi's balancing act
Italy┐s new premier Silvio Berlusconi (right) toasts with some of his government's new ministers after the swearing-in ceremony in Rome
Mr Berlusconi has cleverly tied in Mr Bossi's Northern League
By David Willey in Rome

Silvio Berlusconi's new Italian cabinet includes the former head of the World Trade Organisation, Renato Ruggiero, who becomes foreign minister, and the leaders of two far-right political parties, Gianfranco Fini and Umberto Bossi.

Northern League leader and new Minister of Reform and Devolution Umberto Bossi during his swearing-in in Rome
Mr Bossi's claim for a fair share of jobs in the new government seems to have been met
By giving three cabinet posts - including the newly named Ministry of Devolution - to his election ally, the Northern League, Mr Berlusconi appears to have skilfully met Mr Bossi's claim for a fair share of jobs in the new government, without actually promising him anything as radical as unlinking Milan, Turin and Venice from the rest of the country.

Mr Berlusconi cannot have forgotten that it was Mr Bossi who brought down his last coalition government in December 1994 by withdrawing his support over pension reform plans.

Calculated

Instead, he appears to have calculated that a resized Bossi is less dangerous inside his government with an intriguing new title, rather than as a political ally holding him to ransom from the outside as in his last short-lived administration.

Gianfranco Fini
The post-fascist Gianfranco Fini becomes deputy prime minister
Mr Berlusconi, given that Italy has already devolved considerable powers to the regions, and provided special political autonomy for the islands of Sardinia and Sicily and the frontier areas of Val d'Aosta and South Tyrol, is not planning any further major shifting of powers from Rome to the provinces.

Mr Bossi's new ministry will continue the development of the "devolution" already largely implemented under key provisions of Italy's post-war constitution, but never before using that precise descriptive term.

The Italian cabinet contains more Northern Italians than any recent administration, and only two women.

New Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero at the end of the swearing-in ceremony
Mr Ruggiero is a former head of the World Trade Organisation
Many key jobs went to stalwarts of Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, which won 30% of the vote in the 13 May elections.

Some ministers - including Defence Minister Antonio Martino and Economics Minister Giulio Tremonti - were old faces from his first tenure as premier in 1994.

Mr Berlusconi, Mr Ruggiero and their senior colleagues will dive straight into international affairs this week, attending first the Nato summit in Brussels and then the EU summit in Gothenborg.


Italy's new government strongly supports the expansion of the European Union

European Union Affairs Minister Rocco Buttiglione

Mr Ruggiero was at pains to stress in his first public statement the continuity of Italian foreign policy under the new Italian Government.

"This is also understood by the Italian public, by our European partners and also by the developing countries," he said.

Bush meeting

Mr Berlusconi will be meeting Mr Bush at both summits and hopes to establish cordial relations with the new American president.

Mr Berlusconi is likely to look more favourably on Mr Bush's energy and environmental policies than did his predecessor.

"Italy's new government strongly supports the expansion of the European Union", said Rocco Buttiglione, minister for European Union Affairs.

He added: "The eastward expansion of the EU must take place without drawing attention away from the need to help the Mezzogiorno, Italy's economically depressed south."

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See also:

15 May 01 | Europe
Berlusconi lays out big plans
14 May 01 | Europe
Temperatures rise in chaotic poll
11 May 01 | Media reports
'Life is not beautiful' if Berlusconi wins
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