ITALY – Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has said he is open to changes to pension reform devised by welfare minister Roberto Maroni and finance minister Giuilio Tremonti.

The move is seen as an attempt to appease squabbles among parties of the governing coalition over the pension reform, which was unanimously approved by the coalition parties in 2003. Maroni is part of the Lega Nord while Tremonti is a member of Berlusconi’s own Forza Italia party.

Berlusconi’s comments, which came during a TV show called “Porta a Porta”, should go down well with Alleanza Nazionale. This is the party of deputy prime minister Gianfranco Fini, which was reported this week to have pressed for a gradual implementation of the reform.

Fini’s party is reported to be critical of the “abrupt implementation” of the reform that from 2008 would push back the retirement age.

Maroni’s Lega Nord, on the other hand, is adamant that the reform should not be implemented before 2008.

Maroni, who until recently advocated a no-change policy, says he would have the reform start in 2008 and that any alternative pension reform should result in a saving of 0.7% of gross domestic product.

Cabinet minister Gianni Alemanno, who has clashed with Maroni on more than one occasion and had even recently hinted that his Alleanza Nazionale party might have a more fair pension reform in store.

“We are available to improve the pension reform under suggestion of anyone, including the opposition, provided that it an alternative_reform would have the same effects,” Berlusconi said on TV on Wednesday.

He added the financial target of the reform should be the same as that which Tremonti had already presented to the European Union and the Group of Seven.