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Renzi says Europe in difficulty, risk of populism rising

Premier says EU must not just 'check homework'

19 March, 14:57
Renzi says Europe in difficulty, risk of populism rising (ANSA) - Rome, March 19 - Premier Matteo Renzi said Wednesday that the European Union was suffering a major crisis and there is a danger of a sharp rise in support for populist, Eurosceptic parties.

"When I met (former Brazil president) Lula (Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) it struck me that he said he had never seen Europe so resigned, pessimistic and tired," the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) said.

"I think that those who represent a country inside the European Council should start from the fact that Europe is going through a clear period of difficulty and there is a risk of populist parties getting strong support". Renzi, Italy's youngest premier at 39 after unseating his PD colleague Enrico Letta last month, has made several calls for Europe to focus more on growth and employment and less on the austerity that was its main response to the eurozone debt crisis.

He presented a major package of tax cuts and public investments last week and, while stressing that Italy will not breach the 3% deficit-to-GDP ratio allowed by Brussels, he says the EU must radically change approach. "It's fundamentally important that we get away from the vision of the EU checking homework and going through things with a fine tooth comb," Renzi said.

"The EU is not distinct from us. If we are not able to say that Italy and Europe are in the same boat, there will be no space for politics". The European Commission recently said the 2014 budget passed by Renzi's predecessor Enrico Letta did not do enough to bring down Italy's massive public debt of over two trillion euros, around 133% of GDP.

As a result it put Italy under "specific monitoring" over its "excessive macroeconomic imbalances", which include high debt and poor competitiveness, as part of an in-depth review.

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