BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Friday it was confident that Italy’s new anti-establishment government would cooperate “constructively” with its EU partners.
Italy’s governing coalition was being installed on Friday, calming markets spooked by the possibility of snap elections that might have become a de facto referendum on quitting the euro.
“We have full confidence in the capacity and willingness of the new government to engage constructively with its European partners and EU institutions to uphold Italy’s central role in the common European project,” a spokeswoman for the EU executive told a regular news briefing in Brussels.
She dismissed as “misleading” media reports suggesting that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had shown a lack of respect toward Italians at a conference on Thursday.
Italy’s new nationalist deputy premier Matteo Salvini called Juncker “racist” after media reports that he had said Italians needed to work harder and be less corrupt.
The Luxembourger Juncker, speaking in English, had defended EU support for southern Italy as generous and said it was the responsibility of national leaders in Rome to do more to help the region, to promote employment and combat corruption:
“Italians have to take care of the poor regions of Italy. That means more work, less corruption, seriousness,” he said.
“We will help them, as we always did. But don’t play this game of loading with responsibility the EU. A country is a country, a nation is a nation. Nations first, Europe second.”
The spokeswoman said on Friday: “President Juncker is committed to work with the new Italian government to take on the many common challenges that Italy and Europe are facing, from trade to migration and many more.”
She said Juncker would meet new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte next week at a Group of Seven meeting in Canada.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Alastair Macdonald