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Renzi: EU must 'change' austerity

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 02:03

With Italy taking over the EU presidency next week, prime minister Matteo Renzi calls for changes to Europe's austerity policies - and says discussion on the next Commission president can't ignore the result of last month's European elections. David Pollard reports.

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Al fresco Italy. Hard to believe it's still struggling out of recession. Or that 40 percent of its young people are unemployed. But without growth, Europe won't stand squarely on its feet again. According to prime minister, Matteo Renzi. SOUNDBITE (Italian) ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER, MATTEO RENZI, SAYING: "We need to say: Europe has to change its path or there will be no possibility of growth and development, because without reducing the number of unemployed, without being able to create wealth there will be no stability. We will go to Europe with this spirit." Renzi's preparing for Italy to take over the EU presidency - a role it assumes next week. The change of path he wants is one that eases away from austerity. But there's no question of changing the bloc's budget discipline rules, he says. Only of making greater use of existing scope for flexibility. That in exchange for the promise of reform - sorely needed in a country with public debt among the highest in the world. On another question vexing the EU at the moment - the likelihood of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next Commission president - Renzi had this to say. SOUNDBITE (Italian) ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER, MATTEO RENZI, SAYING: "Anyone who imagines that the democratic gap which has grown up in Europe would be filled simply by appointing Juncker or someone else as president of the Commission lives on Mars." In fact, it's Brussels at an EU leaders' summit this week where the matter will be contested. Renzi's words may provide a few crumbs of comfort for UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. His insistence that EU leaders vote on Juncker could set the stage for uncomfortable negotiations. And, it seems, leaves Cameron increasingly isolated in his opposition to the former Luxembourg PM. While, in his latest remarks, Juncker himself dampened any hope of a softening in EU budget deficit rules. SOUNDBITE (English) FORMER LUXEMBOURG PRIME MINISTER AND CANDIDATE FOR THE PRESIDENCY OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION, JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, SAYING: "It will not be the case that the Stability Pact will be changed. It will be interpreted as is foreseen in the text version of the Stability Pact, like the amendment of the pact in 2005 made possible." It's not clear whether his remarks were aimed at Italy. He did add that one of his priorities would be to achieve a ''fair agreement'' with the UK.

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Renzi: EU must 'change' austerity

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 02:03