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18 November 2013

FT: Italy's leader warns Germany of rise of anti-European sentiment

Enrico Letta, Italy's centre-left prime minister, has urged Germany to spur economic growth in Europe rather than be left "alone in a desert" and watch the rise of anti-European sentiments in neighbouring countries.

“They know very well they can’t stand alone in a desert, in a European desert around them,"”Mr Letta said of Germany’s politicians. Calling for what he called “shared growth”, Mr Letta said billions of euros channelled into Europe’s stability funds should not be “put in a freezer” and that the EU had to get “serious” about implementing a Banking Union.

Remarking on the rise of anti-European parties in France, the UK and Italy and directing his remarks at European commissioner “Olli Rehn and others”, Mr Letta warned that elections next year would result in the most “anti-European parliament” in its history.

Mr Letta’s renewed criticism of EU austerity policies and his blunt warnings to Berlin reflect the fragility of the prime minister’s six-month-old coalition as it tries to bring a spark of life to the Italian economy after nine straight quarters of recession. Italy was “on the road” to recovery Mr Letta said, describing a government caught in the middle of trade unions, politicians and people calling for less austerity and Brussels demanding “more discipline”.

Mr Letta said he was on the “same path” with Matteo Renzi, the reformist mayor of Florence who is the frontrunner to become party leader in a primary election on December 8. But the question dominating Italian politics is whether Mr Renzi will be willing to bide his time before making a bid for prime minister in elections in 2015 or try to force Mr Letta’s hand early next year.

Full article (FT subscription required)

© Financial Times

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