Renzi presents Italy's plans for EU presidency

Higher growth, employment and migration on agenda

24 June, 20:23

    Premier Matteo Renzi presents Italy's plans for EU presidency Premier Matteo Renzi presents Italy's plans for EU presidency

    (By Sandra Cordon) (ANSAmed) - ROME - Boosting growth and reducing unemployment while maintaining stability will be the focus of Italy's plans when it assumes the six-month duty presidency of the European Union next week, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said Tuesday.

    That will mean steering the union away from its emphasis on fiscal austerity towards growth policies - both of which are essential to meeting the conditions of the EU's Stability and Growth Pact, added Renzi, who spoke to both houses of parliament separately. EU partners who speak only of budget stability and not of growth are in fact violating the EU's pact, Renzi said, as he prepared for a summit of EU leaders in Belgium that begins Thursday.

    "There is no possible stability without growth; without growth, there is no movement," said Renzi, who spoke one day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to open the door to increased flexibility within the stability pact for certain types of investment and infrastructure spending.

    "Either Europe changes direction or there is no possible chance of development and growth," said Renzi who, at 39, is Italy's youngest premier. "Italy goes to Brussels focusing on a timely, specific package of reforms, linked to a unified vision...and asks that the flexibility that is inside the EU rules be recognised," Renzi told the Senate.

    Italy "has always respected the rules but there are different ways of doing so," he said, adding that Rome is not asking to break the pact's 3% limit on budget deficits compared to gross domestic product (GDP).

    In exchange for greater flexibility under the pact, he pledged to outline a "1,000 day" program for Italy by fall that will see the country implement a series of domestic structural reforms to be completed by May 2017.

    Renzi's government has been implementing some tax and labour-market reforms with plans for streamlining the public service, election rules, and reviewing all spending as it tries to kick-start an economy still struggling to emerge from its worst recession since the Second World War.

    The rising jobless rate remains an enormous problem for the economy and demonstrates its deep problems.

    The official unemployment rate reached 13.6% in the first quarter of 2014, the national statistics agency Istat said earlier this month, adding that youth joblessness has hit 46%.

    Renzi said that Rome aims to pass its sweeping range of reforms in the 1,000 days from September 1, 2014 to May 28, 2017.

    These reforms of taxes, welfare, agriculture, civil rights and growth generation "will change Italy," he said, while also demonstrating its fitness to lead the EU.

    At this week's summit, European leaders must also step up the fight against joblessness and agree to work together to combat waves of migrants from war-torn or troubled lands crossing the Mediterranean, he said.

    The EU cannot turn a blind eye to migrant deaths but must do more to help Italy's Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operations, Renzi said.

    "Europe, when it turns away at the sight of dead bodies, is not worthy of calling itself a civilized Europe," the premier said. Renzi told the House that the Italian duty presidency would be a success because of the determined and energetic approach it would assume.

    Renzi won a popular mandate for his ambitious reform package when his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) won over 40% of the vote in last month's European elections. "Today, Italy is stronger and not just because an Italian party won the most votes in Europe, but also because it has regained the self-confidence and authoritativeness to sit at European negotiations," Renzi said.(ANSAmed).

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