Obama hails Renzi’s Ital­ian re­forms, slams EU aus­ter­ity

PM ne­go­ti­at­ing with Brus­sels over 2017 bud­get

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ROME: Barack Obama praised the po­lit­i­cal “vi­sion” of Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi in a news­pa­per in­ter­view yes­ter­day ahead of a state visit by Renzi to Wash­ing­ton, and crit­i­cized EU rules that rein in na­tional bud­gets. “I be­lieve the aus­ter­ity mea­sures have con­trib­uted to slow­ing growth in Europe,” the US pres­i­dent told la Repub­blica daily, adding that Renzi un­der­stood the need for re­forms to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and stim­u­late in­vest­ments.

Obama’s words are a boost for Renzi, who faces a ref­er­en­dum on con­sti­tu­tional re­form that could de­cide his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture and whose 2017 bud­get tar­gets a fis­cal deficit higher than pre­vi­ously agreed with the Euro­pean Union. Obama said Euro­pean poli­cies aimed at cap­ping bud­get deficits and low­er­ing debt had led to years of stag­na­tion and high un­em­ploy­ment in sev­eral coun­tries. “That is why I be­lieve the vi­sion and the am­bi­tious re­forms Prime Min­is­ter Renzi is fol­low­ing are so im­por­tant,” he said. Renzi “rec­og­nizes the need to make the in­vest­ments nec­es­sary to sus­tain growth and jobs and in­crease op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Renzi’s re­forms in ar­eas such as the la­bor mar­ket, the state bu­reau­cracy and ed­u­ca­tion have so far failed to boost Italy’s chron­i­cally slug­gish growth and his pop­u­lar­ity has fallen over the last 18 months. He has said he will re­sign if he loses a Dec 4 ref­er­en­dum on his plan to over­haul the con­sti­tu­tion by re­duc­ing the role of the Se­nate and cut­ting the pow­ers of re­gional gov­ern­ments. A large ma­jor­ity of opin­ion polls over the past month have put the “no” camp ahead. For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Mario Monti, whose aus­ter­ity mea­sures are widely cred­ited with sav­ing Italy from a debt cri­sis in 2011 and 2012, said yes­ter­day he would vote “no”.

He told Cor­riere della Sera daily the new role of the Se­nate was un­clear and crit­i­cized Renzi for what he said was an ir­re­spon­si­ble bud­get that un­der­mined pub­lic fi­nances by of­fer­ing hand-outs to per­suade peo­ple to sup­port the ref­er­en­dum. Brus­sels will is­sue a ver­dict this year on the bud­get. Euro­pean Com­mis­sion of­fi­cials are con­cerned about Italy’s in­abil­ity to bring down a pub­lic debt of around 133 per­cent of na­tional out­put, the high­est in the euro-zone after Greece’s. How­ever, they are also re­luc­tant to hurt Renzi ahead of the ref­er­en­dum which they fear could bring po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity if he loses and fa­vor the rise of the eu­roscep­tic 5-Star Move­ment. — Reuters

WASH­ING­TON: Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi, and his wife Ag­nese Lan­dini, wave from the Tru­man Bal­cony of the White House in Wash­ing­ton yes­ter­day, dur­ing a state ar­rival cer­e­mony. — AP

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