Germany urges Italy to press on with economic reforms

Italy must press on with efforts to consolidate its budget and achieve long-term growth, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday, expressing her "respect" for Giorgio Napolitano ahead of his swearing-in as Italy's president.

The 87-year-old, who is due to be sworn in for an unprecedented second term later Monday, is a "highly respected" figure internationally and across party lines at home, Steffen Seibert told a regular government news conference.

"First and foremost the chancellor has respect for Giorgio Napolitano," Seibert said, adding they had frequently been in contact during Napolitano's first term as Italian president, most recently at talks in Berlin end of February.

He said the German government and Merkel had been following developments in Italy since the February elections towards the formation of a new government "with attention and with great interest".

Sparring politicians in the recession-ravaged country have been at loggerheads for two months since the elections that left no clear winner and revealed growing social unease.

In a surprise move, the main parties appealed to Napolitano Saturday to stay on and elected him later in the same day.

"For us it remains clear that a resolute consolidation policy and sustainable growth go hand-in-hand and that, having said this, Germany will always stand beside Italy and the future government whichever one it will be," Seibert said.