BRUSSELS Feb 27 Italy should press ahead with
reforms to improve its economic growth potential, the head of
the European Union's executive arm said on Wednesday, after
Italians voted to reject the austerity policies applied by
outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti.
"The crisis is not yet over and efforts must not be
relaxed," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said
in a joint statement with Monti after the two met for talks in
Monti was widely credited with tightening public finances
and restoring its international credibility after a debt crisis
sent Italy's borrowing costs rocketing and brought the euro zone
to the brink of collapse in 2011.
But he struggled to pass the kind of structural reforms
needed to improve competitiveness and lay the foundations for a
return to economic growth.
The inconclusive election result this week gave no party a
parliamentary majority and left comedian and anti-establishment
figure Beppe Grillo, who has campaigned against Monti's
austerity reforms, holding the balance of power.
"President Barroso expressed his full confidence that Italy,
as one of Europe's and the world's biggest economies, will
ensure the conditions of political stability in the interest of
Italy and Europe as a whole," said the joint statement from
Barroso and Monti.
It said Italy was undergoing an ambitious reform process
that, if fully implemented, would significantly raise its growth
The two agreed that "continued and determined action at
European and national levels is needed to ensure that the return
of confidence into the euro area is sustained".
Barroso said the Commission was still committed to helping
Italy and all other EU member states meet that challenge, which
involved reform of public finances.