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In Italy, Bid to Revive the Lira Gains Currency

With anti-EU sentiment rising and the national economy faltering, the euro is losing its luster -- and value. Rightist politicians say dump it.

June 09, 2005|Tracy Wilkinson | Times Staff Writer

Still, Pavoncello said, the rhetoric gets a hearing because many Italians, like other Europeans, have been angered by how their leaders have handled continental integration. They resent EU regulatory bodies, such as one that this week ruled that Italy violated budget deficit limits and could face monetary sanctions.

Some analysts believe the euro is overvalued against the dollar, making European exports to U.S. markets very expensive. For the euro to fall could help exporters. But it's unlikely to drop enough to give a substantial boost to weak economies such as Italy's, which has slumped into recession for the second time in two years and has been branded the weakest in the 12-nation bloc that uses the euro.

Berlusconi has not joined the call for a return to the lira, but in the past he has been quick to blame the EU for many of Italy's economic troubles.

Such rhetoric "is exactly the kind of scapegoating that led to the results" in the French and Dutch votes, said Rampini, the economics commentator.

"Italy for a long time has been very pro-European, but I think even Italians would vote against the constitution now," he said. "I'm worried, not because I think the EU will dissolve but because I think we're headed into a period of prolonged paralysis."

Italian comic actor Roberto Benigni, an Oscar winner, may have had the best idea: Instead of bringing back the lira, why not return to sesterces, the silver and bronze coins of ancient Rome?

"That would be even better," he said, according to the Ansa news agency, "so we could return to conquer Gaul and resolve the economic crisis."

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