Italy, EC agree on flexibility - Renzi

Italy 'exemplary' on refugees says Juncker

(ANSA) - Rome, February 26 - Premier Matteo Renzi said after meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Rome on Friday that Italy and the EC see eye-to-eye on flexibility.
    "We share the Commission's line on flexibility," he said.
    "Our reference point is what the European Commission wrote on flexibility - we're not asking for changes".
    Juncker later replied that the EC introduced in January 2015 "elements of flexibility that Italy is rightly using at this time".
    Renzi said "Italy is at a historic low in terms of EU infraction procedures - we went from 199 (such procedures) when we came to power to 83 today". The Italian government "believes in respecting the rules and does its all to be in the vanguard," the premier said. He and Juncker had "elements of a different vision on banks and...State aid" as was "normal in a dialectic," he added.
    Renzi also said "Italy fearlessly and with head held high is working for Europe to once more become a place of souls and not just a single market" and that a "strong European initiative" was needed to bolster solidarity in the face of the migrant and refugee emergency. "We cannot imagine solidarity in one direction only, either you always show solidarity or you never do," he said, voicing the hope that Juncker "can win the contest with other heads of government that do not have the same sensitivity" and want to stop the refugees from entering the EU.
    Juncker replied that raising barriers against refugees "doesn't solve problems" and that Italy's conduct has been "exemplary and should serve as a model" to other European countries.
    Italy "is a great country, a founding member of the European Union," Juncker said. "There are widely shared views (and) there are more meeting points than partial - and sometimes clumsy - disagreements".
    "Italy is a great beneficiary of the (EC) investment plan and the leading light of the plan," Juncker went on. "Matteo and I want to prolong it for longer than the three years". Renzi earlier voiced the hope the 315-billion-euro plan could be extended.
    Juncker also said the EC is not just "technocrats and bureaucrats in favor of...austerity". "You have to interpret the rules in the best way possible, but not lose sight of the path towards a more intense and lasting growth," Juncker added when asked about Italian flexibility margins allowed by the EC. Renzi followed this up by saying "Italy is doing more than its homework - it is showing concrete results. We will use the flexibility that will be allowed - it mustn't be called into question".
    "Those who trust in austerity make a mistake," Renzi added.
    "Today Juncker said it is stupid. I agree with that". Italy was bent on cutting its large public debt "for the sake of its children and not because Juncker and Europe are demanding it", the premier added.