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Italy’s welfare minister cries while announcing cuts

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Italy’s welfare minister Elsa Fornero was reduced to tears at a press conference as she outlined tough reforms to pensions contained in the government’s plan to regain control of strained public finances and help solve Europe’s debt crisis.

Under the austerity plan unveiled on Sunday, Italy will raise the minimum pension age for women and men to 66 by 2018, and will scrap annual inflation adjustments for many pensions.

“We had to... and it cost us a lot psychologically... ask for a...” Fornero said, but was unable to complete her sentence as she wiped tears from her eyes.

Prime Minister Mario Monti finished the sentence for her, speaking the word “sacrifice” that she’d been unable say.

Monti has unveiled a 30 billion euro ($51.7 billion) package of austerity measures, raising taxes and increasing the pension age in a drive to shore up Italy’s strained finances and stave off a crisis that threatens to overwhelm the euro zone.

Packed into a single emergency decree which comes into effect before formal parliamentary approval, the measures followed growing pressure for sweeping measures to restore confidence in the euro zone’s third-largest economy.

Monti said the package, divided between 20 billion euros of budget measures over 2012-14 and a further 10 billion euros in measures to boost growth, was painful but necessary.

“We have had to share the sacrifices, but we have made great efforts to share them fairly,” he told a news conference, in which he said he had renounced his own salary as prime minister and economy minister.

The measures come before one of the most crucial weeks since the creation of the single currency more than a decade ago, with European leaders due to meet on Thursday and Friday in Brussels to try to agree a broader rescue plan for the bloc.