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Italian PM fumes over EU summit

Mr Renzi was in Bratislava last Friday for a summit to discuss the EU's future in the wake of the Brexit vote. He later said he was "not satisfied" with the conclusions of the summit and that little had been achieved.
Mr Renzi was in Bratislava last Friday for a summit to discuss the EU's future in the wake of the Brexit vote. He later said he was "not satisfied" with the conclusions of the summit and that little had been achieved.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

ROME • Italy is not ready to pretend everything is all right when Europe is not functioning properly, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said, the day after a key European Union (EU) gathering.

"I don't think it would be right for Italy to pretend not to notice when things are not getting any better," he told a conference in Florence, several hours after expressing his dissatisfaction that so little had been achieved at last week's summit in Bratislava.

EU leaders had gathered in the Slovak capital last Friday to discuss the bloc's future in the wake of Britain's vote to leave it, wrapping up the summit by issuing a road map for tackling problems such as migration, security and the faltering economy.

But Mr Renzi said little had been achieved. "We said more or less the same things" as in previous summits, complained the Italian leader, who had been hoping for concrete action on both migration and economic growth.

As a mark of protest, he had refused to participate in a closing press conference with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying he did not agree with them on key issues such as migration and the economy.

"I am not satisfied" with the conclusions of the summit, he later said, explaining his absence. "I cannot take part in a press conference with the German Chancellor or the French President when I don't share their conclusions."

And on Saturday, he insisted that Italy would not "serve as a fig leaf" for others, in an apparent allusion to France and Germany.

For Mr Renzi, Italy - which has been on the front line of the migrant crisis - has been largely left to its own devices in coping with the influx, and the solutions it has proposed have not been taken into account.

Italy has been pushing for international agreements with African states to help close migrant routes to Europe and take back some of those arriving via Libya, in exchange for increased aid and investment.

But Mr Renzi said the issue was not even raised at the Bratislava summit where the documents presented "didn't even mention Africa", he complained.

On economic growth, the Italian leader reiterated his critique of Europe's adoption of austerity policies over Washington's choice of investment.

Although Italy is respecting the EU's budgetary discipline rules, it retains the right to say that such rules are "not working", Mr Renzi said, stressing that Italy is not prepared "to pretend not to notice".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2016, with the headline 'Italian PM fumes over EU summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe