Remarks by EU commissioner draw accusations of defamation from Berlusconi backer

The European monetary affairs commissioner has been accused of defamation for his remarks about Silvio Berlusconi's response to Italy's growing economic crisis in the second half of 2011.

Ollie Rehn told the European Parliament on Tuesday that then-Premier Berlusconi did not "respect commitments" to get Italy's fiscal house in order as Italian borrowing costs rose to dangerous levels. Berlusconi resigned in November 2011 under market pressure, making way for Mario Monti's technical government.

Rehn's remarks prompted a swift response from a key Berlusconi supporter, Renato Brunetta, who accused Rehn of defamation and demanded an official inquiry.

Rehn tried to calm the storm with a statement saying that his comments needed to be seen in the context of his responsibilities for fiscal and economic oversight within the European Commission.