The news that ex-Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud has been greeted with almost universal glee.
The king of bunga bunga avoided paying taxes on the rights that Mediaset, his television company, paid for American films, an Italian court ruled this afternoon.
But Berlusconi's real crime in the eyes of his fellow eurozone leaders was the way he held hostage any attempts to solve the sovereign debt crisis for many months.
Privately, officials from eurozone governments, the European Council and the European Commission, could barely conceal their fury at the way he refused any serious efforts to bring the crisis under control or how he promised to implement reforms that could have had a positive knock-on effect around the eurozone, and then failed to do so.
It all came to a head at about this time last year at the G20 summit in
At first Berlusconi denied that the IMF was being brought in, but the pressure had built up and within a fortnight he was gone: forced out of office and replaced by EU technocrat Mario Monti.
The sense of relief among EU officials was palpable. If they were going to have to give
Indeed, the series of crisis-solving measures that have been agreed over the past 12 months would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, if Berlusconi had not left the scene.
From the European Central Bank's cheap loans to banks in December and its more recent bond-buying programme to Germany's softening stance on a larger eurozone ‘firewall' and direct bank recapitalisation – these would have been much harder to achieve if Berlusconi still held the Italian purse strings.
They simply didn't trust him.
Ian Wishart reports on the eurozone (crisis) for European Voice and has done so since the early days of Greece's first bail-out. He also covers other EU issues affecting business, including technology, financial services legislation, competition and the internal market. This blog brings you commentary on those topics as well as any other subject that may come into his head. Comments are encouraged below each post. Ian can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter.
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