Italian PM vows reforms, cool on Juncker at EU Commission

TRENTO Italy Sun Jun 1, 2014 9:12am EDT

Candidate for the European Commission presidency Jean-Claude Juncker arrives at an European People's Party (EPP) meeting in Brussels, ahead of an informal dinner of EU leaders May 27, 2014.  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Candidate for the European Commission presidency Jean-Claude Juncker arrives at an European People's Party (EPP) meeting in Brussels, ahead of an informal dinner of EU leaders May 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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TRENTO Italy (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Sunday promised reforms to cut red tape and encourage investments and suggested Jean-Claude Juncker may not get Italy's backing to be the next president of the European Commission.

Speaking at an economic conference in the northern Italian town of Trento, Renzi said that by the end of July he would present a package of measures called "Unblock Italy," to try to get the economy moving after a two-year recession.

The legislation would eliminate complicated authorisation procedures for all sorts of economic initiatives and "unblock programmes that have been held up for 40 years," said the 39 year-old former mayor of Florence.

When asked about European affairs during a 90-minute question and answer session, Renzi said a discussion was needed over who would be the next president of the European Commission and that Jean-Claude Juncker was not the only candidate.

Juncker, the former president of Luxembourg, was presented as the candidate to lead the Commission by the European People's Party, which won the most seats in last week's election for the European Parliament.

However Renzi, leader of Italy's centre-left Democratic Party which won more than 40 percent in the election, said Juncker had no guaranteed majority and no automatic right to the job.

"Juncker is 'one' name for the Commission, but he is not 'the' name," he said.

The European Commission president is selected by EU leaders but must be approved by the assembly, where Eurosceptics from the right made gains in last week's election.

German news magazine Spiegel said on Saturday that British Prime Minister David Cameron had warned fellow EU leaders that if Juncker were elected to the job, he would no longer be able to ensure Britain's continued membership in the European Union.

PACKED AGENDA

The "Unblock Italy" package adds to an already packed reform agenda for Renzi, who has promised to reform the electoral system, abolish the Senate as an elected chamber and overhaul labour rules, the public administration and the tax system.

However he has fallen behind the timetable he set himself for these reforms when he replaced Enrico Letta in an internal party coup in February. So far the most significant measure he has managed to turn into law has been a cut in income tax which will boost pay-packets of low-paid workers up to 80 euros per month over the second half of this year.

While critics say Renzi is failing to back up his promises with facts, his triumph at the European Parliament elections showed he is still enjoying a honeymoon period with Italians who welcome his dynamic, informal style and can-do rhetoric.

In a typically lively performance on Sunday he promised to tackle corruption, increase the transparency of government and generally revolutionise what has been Europe's most sluggish economy for more than a decade.

"We have to be more transparent than Britain and America, more efficient than the Germans and even more inventive than we have been. And we can do it," he said.

(Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Jane Baird and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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