Italy's Berlusconi

Whatever may be said of the potential vices and conflict of interest of Italy's new leader, Silvio Berlusconi, the days when an Italian government could be an isolated disaster are over.

Yes, Mr. Berlusconi's rule could be just another here-today-gone-tomorrow government (59 since 1945). But the restraints of living within a more closely knit European Union may help shave the rough edges off this media magnate, potential defendant, and richest man in Italy.

The EU has placed more political and financial bookends on its 15 members, such as the risk of being ostracized for such radical views as xenophobia or penalties for excessive spending that would hurt the euro.

His victory shows Italians are fed up with the failures of the left, and want bold leadership within the EU's limits. In much of Europe, the end of the cold war has provided more freedom for nations to shift left and right.

More restraint, and yet more freedom for Italy - just the kind of result a more-united and democratic Europe was expected to produce.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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