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Renzi says economic recovery crucial to Italy, EU


Florence, May 8 - Italian leaders have not always
been decisive enough and it is time to change the
crisis-management approach of the past, Premier Matteo Renzi
said Friday.
Speaking to a conference on the State of the (European)
Union, Renzi called for stronger financial management in members
States such as Italy but also urged the EU to help, by allowing
more tools and flexibility.
"The problems in Italy are born of the inability of Italian
politicians to manage the challenges (they face) and make
decisions," Renzi said in the keynote address to the conference
organized by the European University Institute.
If reforms he proposed had come to fruition in Italy a
decade ago, these could have permanently improved the country's
labour market and helped it to better weather the lingering
economic crisis, he said.
Italian unemployment averaged 12.7% last year - the highest
annual average since 1977.
Renzi has been pushing through government a series of
controversial reforms to the labour market and, most recently,
to Italian election laws.
If such action had been taken years ago, Italy would be in
much better shape, he said.
"If the electoral law, which now gives us stability, had
been made (sooner) the country today would be different and
stronger," said Renzi.
The law aims to ensure stronger, majority governments are
elected to avoid minority and coalition administrations that are
often hamstrung by political wrangling.
Good management might also help both individual countries
and the European Union to better weather crises that in recent
years have ranged from the global financial disaster to civil
war in Ukraine, he said.
Renzi also repeated his call for the EU to permit more
flexibility in its budget rules to allow national governments to
increase spending on infrastructure and other stimulative
projects at times of economic turmoil and weakness.
"There is much to do, we need a lot from you", said Renzi.
The premier said that some changes have been made, an
acknowledgement that the EU has allowed Italy more wiggle room
in how it accounts for spending in its 2015 budget that
continues to cope with eight consecutive years of economic
"In a year, much has been done, Europe finally accepts
flexibility," said Renzi, who had lunch after his speech with
Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European
Meanwhile, Renzi also said that the world needed a strong
Europe and urged the EU to be more daring.
"There's a great need for Europe in the world and Europe
must be more daring," Renzi said, calling on the participants to
work to recover the true spirit of Europe.
He compared the EU to a "student of great talent who does
not apply himself" complaining about relatively low growth rates
and high unemployment levels.
"The EU's margins of action are extraordinary, but we
don't manage to take all the opportunities...
"Fifteen years ago, Europe depicted itself as the
continent that would be the most competitive on the planet.
Today we can make an appraisal and say that's not the case.
"Europe is the continent that grows the least".

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