(Adds economy minister comments on budget)
LONDON, April 1 Italy can get its unemployment
below 10 percent in the medium term with signs of improvement
beginning to show through in the economy, Prime Minister Matteo
Renzi said on Tuesday, after the jobless rate hit its highest
level since at least 1977.
"We want to get under 10 percent in the coming months, the
coming years," he told a joint news conference in London with
British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Earlier on Tuesday, statistics agency ISTAT reported
headline unemployment running at 13 percent, the highest level
since current records began 37 years ago.
The prime minister has embarked on an ambitious campaign of
economic and constitutional reforms aimed at pulling the euro
zone's third-biggest economy out of its longest postwar slump
since he took office in February.
He said foreign investors had picked up on signs of a
turnaround in the economy, which emerged from two years of
recession at the end of last year, and there had been "great,
great, great" interest in Italy.
Renzi, 39, has repeatedly argued that the European Union
must change its focus from budget austerity to do more to
promote growth and cut unemployment.
On Tuesday in Athens, Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan
reiterated that EU rules would permit Italy more time to reduce
its 2-trillion-euro debt as long as economic reforms were
"There are mechanisms that tie structural reform efforts
that a country makes to the exceptional conditions of the debt
level, allowing structural timing adjustments," Padoan said
after meeting euro zone finance ministers.
While European leaders have generally praised Renzi's reform
plans, there is concern that Rome may backslide on its budget
Italy's debt, which exceeded 132 percent of economic output
last year, is the second highest in the euro zone to Greece.
(Reporting By Francesco Canepa, James Mackenzie and Giselda
Vagnoni, Writing by Steve Scherer, Editing by Angus MacSwan)