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Renzi affirms commitments to EU at summit, plugs reforms

Vows crackdown on tax dodgers, not to cut pensions broadly

21 March, 15:49
Renzi affirms commitments to EU at summit, plugs reforms (ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Premier Matteo Renzi said at his first EU summit Friday that Italy's stance regarding commitments to Europe "has not changed," vowing to implement economic reforms without exceeding EU budget rules.

Speaking after his first summit in Brussels, Renzi is hoping to shore up support for his government's plans to cut over 12 billion euros in income and business taxes without exceeding EU budget limits.

Sworn in as premier last month, Renzi said that Italy will continue to honor the fiscal compact, an EU treaty that imposes budget discipline on EU members if their deficits become too high. It will respect the pact "just like all (EU) rules," Renzi added. He then pointed out that Italy's economy is recovering, albeit "modestly". Strong exports have been important to the recovery but confidence is also a condition for economic development, he added.

Renzi believes a key to boosting recovery further is a series of economic reforms he aims to pass through parliament. That topic, as well as time lines for their implementation, "were the most important ones discussed" at the summit, he said, as Italy's six-month EU duty presidency approaches in July. "Italy can get there with a lot to do and say, only if first we're able to put in place this gigantic work on reforms".

Unemployment, climate change and enhancing innovation will all be important issues on Italy's plate when it assumes the duty presidency, Renzi said. He added that it would be wrong to think the EU deals only with abstract issues.

He also stressed the importance of taking care of other domestic issues before the rotating presidency is upon Italy. For instance, in addition to cutting taxes, he aims to rein in "those who have never paid" in a plan to crack down on tax dodgers using "digital innovations" to monitor financial data. The effort, he said, aims "to pay back citizens who have paid for the crisis due to nearsighted politicians who are far from the needs of the people". He also promised not to cut pension spending across the board, despite recommendations by the spending review commissioner. Carlo Cottarelli's work is "a good starting point on some things" but suggestions of broad pension reductions are not acceptable, said Renzi.

He went on to comment on Italy's relationship with Europe, which he said "does not seem to bear any conflict," and stressed that Italy has no reason to go to Europe with "cap in hand". "We have great faith in European institutions and a great desire to invest in Europe, which represents not our past but our future," he said. He added that EU-imposed austerity measures since the start of the economic crisis and other penalties did not mean Italy should feel ashamed. "We are Italy. I have never and never will have this downtrodden and subordinate attitude of coming to Europe with cap in hand," he said.