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Renzi pumps Florence to host G8

Emboldened premier has reason for concern after Le Pen victories

24 March, 20:04
Renzi pumps Florence to host G8 (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - The Hague, March 24 - An emboldened Premier Matteo Renzi used a gathering of leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries Monday to propose his hometown of Florence play host to a G8 summit in 2017. Florence, as a symbol of Renaissance and rebirth, would be a fitting host city, the city's outgoing mayor said in a letter officially marking his handover of the local government to new leadership after being sworn in as premier last month.

Renzi was in The Hague Monday for a major global summit on nuclear security with heads of the G7 for two days of meetings that also included intense discussions on Ukraine and Russia's role in the crisis there. The meetings included leaders from the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The US has called on those partners to suspend Russia from the G8. Before the summit, Renzi met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said the Italian economy "is dependent" on the actions of Renzi's government, and that the world will be watching Italian developments closely. Renzi followed by saying the relationship between Italy and Japan is "crucial and important". Abe's remarks were seen as the latest vote of approval in Renzi since he took the reins of Italy's government last month. Last week he was praised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso for his plans to jumpstart the anemic economy after its worst recession since World War II. Renzi has pledged to deliver more than 12 billion euros in personal and business tax cuts, invest 1.74 billion euros in social housing programs, spend 3.5 billion euros on schools, and repay 68 billion euros in outstanding bills for government services by July - all without going over EU-imposed budget limits. He has also pledged dramatic changes to Italy's labour market.

Another endorsement came Monday from Italian Business group Confindustria. Its president, Giorgio Squinzi, said it will be "the most loyal supporter" of Renzi's policies, dismissing media reports suggesting a rift. "I can guarantee you now that we will be the most loyal supporters of the government, in anticipation of (Renzi's) reforms and to see them implemented", said Squinzi. Earlier this month, Squinzi said that while Renzi has talked about making important changes, his effectiveness cannot be judged until some of those plans are put into action. But Renzi, head of the center-left Democratic Party (PD), had reason for concern Monday following far-right victories in French local elections over the weekend. "We need to get our house in order, straighten out the country, and we'll do that," said Renzi when asked to comment on the National Front's better-than-expected results. Right-wing and Euroskeptic parties in Italy are expected to do well at European Parliament elections on May 25.