Renzi calls for 'daring' Europe at State of the Union

Premier says economic recovery crucial to Italy, EU

08 May, 19:00

    Italian premier, Matteo Renzi Italian premier, Matteo Renzi

    (by Sandra Cordon).
    ROME - The world needs a strong Europe ready to lead both globally and within the European Union, Premier Matteo Renzi said Friday as he called on the organization to be more daring. "There's a great need for Europe in the world and Europe must be more daring," Renzi said during the keynote address at the State of the Union conference in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio.
    There, he called on participants to work to recover the true spirit of Europe. In his speech, Renzi also called for stronger financial management in members States such as Italy but also urged the EU to help, by allowing more tools and flexibility.
    The premier compared the EU to a "student of great talent who does not apply himself", complaining about relatively low growth rates and high unemployment levels across the continent.
    "The EU's margins of action are extraordinary, but we don't manage to take all the opportunities," said Renzi.
    "Fifteen years ago, Europe depicted itself as the continent that would be the most competitive on the planet," he said.
    "Today, we can make an appraisal and say that's not the case.
    "Europe is the continent that grows the least".
    Turning to home, he said that Italian leaders have not always been decisive enough, and now is the time to change the crisis-management approaches of the past.
    "The problems in Italy are born of the inability of Italian politicians to manage the challenges (they face) and make decisions," Renzi said to the conference organized by the European University Institute.
    If reforms he proposed had come to fruition in Italy a decade ago, these could have permanently improved the country's labour market and helped it to better weather the lingering economic crisis, he said.
    Italian unemployment averaged 12.7% last year - the highest annual average since 1977.
    Renzi has been pushing through government a series of controversial reforms to the labour market and, most recently, to Italian election laws.
    If such action had been taken years ago, Italy would be in much better shape, he said.
    "If the electoral law, which now gives us stability, had been made (sooner) the country today would be different and stronger," said Renzi.
    The law aims to ensure stronger, majority governments are elected to avoid minority and coalition administrations that are often hamstrung by political wrangling.
    Good management might also help both individual countries and the European Union to better weather crises that in recent years have ranged from the global financial disaster to civil war in Ukraine, he said.
    Renzi also repeated his call for the EU to permit more flexibility in its budget rules to allow national governments to increase spending on infrastructure and other stimulative projects at times of economic turmoil and weakness.
    "There is much to do, we need a lot from you", said Renzi.
    The premier said that some changes have been made, an acknowledgement that the EU has allowed Italy more wiggle room in how it accounts for spending in its 2015 budget that continues to cope with eight consecutive years of economic stagnation.
    "In a year, much has been done, Europe finally accepts flexibility," said Renzi, who had lunch after his speech with Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission.

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