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Italy President to Meet Merkel as Voters Weigh German Influence

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany next week after Italy votes in a parliamentary election permeated by concerns about Germany’s influence in Europe.

Napolitano will be in Germany from Feb. 26 to March 1 on the invitation of German President Joachim Gauck, the office of the Italian head of state said today in a statement posted on its website. Beyond Merkel and Gauck, Napolitano will see Bundestag President Norbert Lammert and Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer and give a speech at a Berlin university.

Italian voters are sizing up Germany’s influence in their country and the wider European Union as they prepare to cast ballots Feb. 24-25. Germany’s push for fiscal austerity in the EU has been criticized by candidates including Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo, who say Italy needs stimulus to end the country’s recession. Napolitano’s visit to Germany will be made before the head of state appoints Italy’s next prime minister.

“Looking at things through the eyes of the common person, I would say, ‘My god, why is he doing this?’” said Giovanni Orsina, a professor at Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome. “It can give Italians even more the impression that this is a country with limited sovereignty. And of course, the reaction to this is anger and frustration, with anger and frustration playing into the hands of Berlusconi and Grillo.”

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