sábado, 30 de janeiro de 2016
Merkel and Renzi bury the hatchet
Merkel and Renzi bury the hatchet
Berlin signals flexibility on finances, Rome unblocks EU aid for Turkey.
By MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG 1/29/16, 4:08 PM CET Updated 1/29/16, 5:59 PM CET
BERLIN — Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi offered a picture of unity as they emerged from an extended lunchtime summit in Berlin, signaling that they had resolved the tension that had weighed on Rome’s relationship with Berlin in recent weeks.
The Italian premier arrived in Germany Friday seeking Merkel’s backing for more “flexibility” in the European Commission’s analysis of its finances. He appeared to have achieved that aim, as the German leader praised Renzi’s reform agenda and the recent progress he has made.
“We can see step by step that this agenda is being implemented,” she said, adding that the reform process in Italy was moving “in exactly the right direction.”
“This is an important contribution for the future of Italy and an important for the future of Europe,” she added at the conclusion of a meeting that lasted an hour longer than scheduled.
Merkel was keen to avoid an open dispute with Italy at a time when the refugee crisis is testing her leadership at home and in the EU. Berlin also viewed Renzi’s recent harsh tone as a tactic to win Merkel’s quiet endorsement for his fiscal maneuvers.
But Merkel also appeared to have gotten what she wanted from Renzi. Italy has been blocking €3billion euro in EU aid to help Turkey cope the with the refugee crisis. The money is the centerpiece of a broader agreement between the EU and Ankara reached in late November. Merkel views Turkey as the linchpin to her effort to reduce the flow of refugees into Germany.
Without the aid, however, Ankara is unlikely to take steps to stem the flow.
Renzi said Italy was prepared to do its part and the aid should be approved within days.
“Italy has said yes,” he said, adding that “it would please” him if the aid could be released before a donors’ conference for the refugees in London set for next week. He blamed the delay on the Commission, which he said had yet to prove Italy with technical information on the agreement that it had requested.
Friday’s meeting was viewed as crucial for both sides. Renzi has been pelting Berlin with accusations for weeks, complaining about its slavish devotion to austerity policies and what Rome regards as its hegemony in EU decision-making.
Italy is preparing for a Commission review of its state finances and is seeking more leeway in the evaluation. Italy has Europe’s biggest debt burden after Greece and is under pressure to reduce it. A failure to comply could result in sanctions.
But Renzi faces as series of municipal elections next year and a crucial referendum on a government overhaul in the fall. To prevail against a rising populist tide, he needs to more flexibility than Europe’s fiscal rules allow.
“The mountain of debt needs to be reduced. Everyone knows that,” Renzi said. “I’m not saying that to flatter Angela but for my children and my children’s children… But austerity alone won’t work.”
While the German leader didn’t state outright that the EU should show Italy leniency in its evaluation, she hinted that Berlin wouldn’t stand in its way. Merkel stressed that it was up to the Commission do determine how much flexibility was merited when evaluating Italy’s finances.
“Fortunately it is up to the Commission to offer its interpretation and I’m not going to get involved,” she said.
The two leaders displayed what appeared to be genuine amity after their meeting, stressing that they agreed on most issues, despite their differences on economic policy.
Renzi, recounting a recent dinner between his and Merkel’s families, said he shared her view that Europe needed to show more pride in its past and optimism about its future.
“I think Italy and Germany are going to defend Europe,” the Italian premier said at one point. “We may not agree on everything but at least we discuss our differences with a smile.”