Italy's Letta: UK 'is EU's big risk'

 

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta spoke to the BBC's Gavin Hewitt

When Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta visits London later today his words will be analysed closely. He is, at 46, a relatively young Italian leader.

He is open, a fluent English-speaker and pragmatic. He is precisely the kind of European leader that David Cameron will have to get on side if he is to have any chance of successfully renegotiating Britain's relationship with the EU.

Mr Letta describes himself as "very pro-European" and an optimist. He seizes on Croatia joining the EU and Latvia's intention to join the euro as evidence of the European success story.

He even brands the euro a success - and then he throws in a caveat. The European Union, he says, is close to a big risk. That risk, in his view, is Britain.

The exit of the United Kingdom, Mr Letta told me, "would be a disaster for Europe and it would be a very negative step also for the UK and for our common future".

He says the role Britain is playing in the European Union "is a very positive one".

He cites London's support for expanding the single market, for liberalising trade, for security and defence and for pushing for a big trade deal with the United States.

'More flexible Europe'

When I asked him whether Britain could win back significant powers he said: "It can be possible and it could be useful for us too."

He does not indicate what kind of powers Britain might be able to repatriate, but what he does say is that "we need a more flexible Europe".

"We can have a new treaty negotiation," he said, "for the UK to have a different link, but remaining on board and for Italy or other countries in the euro to have a more integrated eurozone".

It is a vision David Cameron will want to explore. To sell continued membership of the EU to the British public he will need to convince other leaders of the need for a more flexible Europe.

Mr Cameron has spoken at length to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She says there could be room for some powers to be returned to the nation states from Brussels, as long as that included all 28 EU members. There could not be just opt-outs for Britain.

The Dutch, too, are exploring a looser relationship. In June the Dutch government produced a report on "subsidiarity"- on what powers can best be kept at national level.

"The Netherlands is convinced that the time of an 'ever-closer union' in every possible policy area is behind us," the report concluded.

In all this there is an opening to negotiate and that is why a leader like Enrico Letta will be listened to so attentively in London.

Italy's struggle

The priority, of course, for Mr Letta is the Italian economy, mired in recession. He is adamant that Italy will not need a bailout. Italy is one of the very few European countries with a deficit below 3% and has a primary surplus.

That doesn't disguise the depth of the Italian recession - the worst in 20 years - nor a debt-to-GDP ratio heading towards 130%.

Businesses are struggling to find credit and many are still owed thousands of euros by the Italian government. Youth unemployment is at 40%.

Enrico Letta agrees there is a risk that an entire generation might conclude that Europe cannot deliver. He describes youth unemployment as the "nightmare of my job". He says it risks creating an "exodus generation" which opts out.

He says he has adopted a plan of cutting labour taxes for employing young people, but he knows that everything depends on growth returning.

In the midst of the economic storm there are questions over how long his coalition will survive.

He is a centre-left leader in coalition with Silvio Berlusconi's party from the centre-right. At the end of the month the Italian Supreme Court will hear the final appeal of Mr Berlusconi against corruption charges.

If his appeal is rejected he risks being barred from holding public office. He and some of his closest supporters maintain he is the victim of a political conspiracy. They have described the magistrates as being "in a secret association whose members are not known".

Some of Mr Berlusconi's allies have threatened to bring down the coalition - although how that will influence the court is unclear. But Enrico Letta felt it necessary to warn that for foreign investors Italy had to demonstrate a complete separation between political and judicial power.

He is optimistic his coalition can survive, but he is also making it clear there will be no influencing of the legal process just to save his coalition partner.

Even with its deficit under control Italy is a reminder that the crisis in the eurozone is not over.

 
Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 642.

    641Don't be surprised if those fired are re-hired in new govt jobs.It'll be just one more deception in a long string of them, not just for Greece but for the whole EU.What's the main argument against the EU?It promised a utopia of prosperity and democracy, it delivered a bankrupt tyrannical hell. It follows the same path, same promises made, same promises broken as the USSR.Only they can't hide it

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 641.

    ´Greece approves scheme to fire thousands of public workers´

    Don´t hold your breath !

    25,000 by end of next year from Ca 700,000

    -and that after 3 years of lying and cheating --at EU tax-payers expense !

    http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_18/07/2013_509972


    Even Russia is getting tired with them !

    http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite2_1_16/07/2013_509703

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 640.

    #638 BritPris

    "My prime objection is to the criminals and parasites. But ðere are too many of them. In the UK many foreigners say ðere are 2 many foreigners."

    As I said--

    "No Brit here gives a damn about Italy or Denmark or any other country for that matter except the UK -- so don´t give me that story."

    --at least my prejudices are well researched --yours apparently not.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 639.

    633.mh

    "We were promised a referendum. We did not get it. 82% wanted it and 70% wanted to say NO!"

    Did you get those figures by being able to see " into the minds of others from afar"?

    EUp: Not at all. ðose figures were available from many sources at ðe time. If you didn't notice ðem it was presumably because you don't care what oðer "EU citizens" θink.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 638.

    634.qot

    " With all the vitriol against EU citizens coming to Britain --on this and ALL other BBC blogs"

    My prime objection is to the criminals and parasites. But ðere are too many of them. In the UK many foreigners say ðere are 2 many foreigners. I am told that the same happens here in Germany

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 637.

    #632 BritPris

    "Another stupid comment by OOT. If everybody was leaving the UK would be empty and Australia fuller."

    Australia got the best poorly paid and desperate UK citizens --

    The places were filled with Commonwealth Citizens --especially the NHS drained the Colonies of their doctors after its introduction.

    -Remember the Link showing it was Govt. policy ?

    --for Her Majesty´s Dominions ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 636.

    612.mh

    "When decent people are committing suicide, I'd say it's far too much"

    Have you any figures to support your argument?
    ==

    609 demo

    "The EU lawyers want the UK out."

    Doesn't everybody

    EUp: Have you any figures to support your argument?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 635.

    QOT & MH … It is hubris one of the main dangers to the survival not of the EZ - it’s unlikely that it will survive in its present form, but of the EEC. You are both competent, but due to stubbornly ideological reasons and hubris, it very often sounds like it’s your way, Brussels’ or Berlin’s way, or the highway. Now, I’m tired. Good luck with your Hanseatic League.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 634.

    #631 BritPris

    -- With all the vitriol against EU citizens coming to Britain --on this and ALL other BBC blogs (and others)

    I stand corrected ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 633.

    631 EU

    "Yet again an "EU"-lover claims a God-like power to see into the minds of others from afar"

    A bit like you claiming at *559:

    "We were promised a referendum. We did not get it. 82% wanted it and 70% wanted to say NO!"

    Did you get those figures by being able to see " into the minds of others from afar"?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 632.

    608.quietoaktree

    '"Before the EU came along there weren't very many issues surrounding immigration." ???

    --everybody was leaving the UK for 10 Quid --on a one-way ticket to Australia !'

    Another stupid comment by OOT. If everybody was leaving the UK would be empty and Australia fuller.

    Duh!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 631.

    620.quietoaktree

    "No Brit here gives a damn about Italy or Denmark or any other country for that matter except the UK"

    That is just a really stupid comment. Yet again an "EU"-lover claims a God-like power to see into the minds of others from afar.

    "EU"-lovers frequently talk at you rather than with you. They don't listen and yet they claim to know what opponents of the "EU" think.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 630.

    618 QOT

    "more misinformation !"

    The anti-EU arguments are getting flimsier and flimsier - grasping at straws

    Headline in the Spectator tonight:

    "Billionaire Tells Americans to Prepare For "Financial Ruin"

    Moneynews

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 629.

    ´Greece agrees to defense cuts to convince troika about lower VAT at restaurants´

    "Samaras stressed that the reduction, which will be in place until the end of the year, will only be made permanent if it is deemed a success by the troika... he said, restaurateurs and bar owners would have to pass on their savings to their customers and make a better job of declaring their revenues.

    Ha! Ha! Ha!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 628.

    616 demo

    "with a lot of city lawyers out of work and up in arms"

    To which most people here would say 'good riddance'

    Lawyers are about as popular here as banksters and politicians. In fact because of the exhorbitant fees they charge most people can't afford to go to law which I believe is a denial of democracy

    Why should that overshadow any trade deal between the US/EU? Or China?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 627.

    #626 WolfiePeters

    "Lagarde, predicting that the debt crisis has yet to run its course, adds: "Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax." She says she thinks "equally" about Greeks deprived of public services and Greek citizens not paying their tax."

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 626.

    612.margaret howard



    Look at the websites of Italian newspapers

    or Google for some reports English:

    ww.euronews.com/2013/04/05/elderly-italian-couple-commit-suicide-over-economic-plight/

    ww.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/06/21/suic-j21.html?view=print

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 625.

    Well: the euro has gained 10c against the USD and 10p against GBP over the last year, so whoever the big buyers and sellers are, they think differently from a few on this thread, apparently.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 624.

    36.ByChance

    "THE EU HAS NEVER, EVER, FILED A SET OF AUDITED ACCOUNTS"

    ===

    Sorry to mention it, but the reason for that is ALWAYS (I can use caps too) the nation states' accounts lack as to what they've done with EU money. The EU's own are always signed off ok.

    (For instance, the UK recently had to return £100 million of misused farm subsidy).

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 623.

    QOT @620
    'No Brit gives a damn
    A lot better, a lot worse, than that

    Good Thoughts For Day, Election Addresses, lives given in ''public service' even in so-called 'private sector'

    But all, UK, Europe, all the world (outside family, friendship & equal partnership business), reduced to the most squalidly ignorant hypocrisy

    Far from promoting democracy, BBC derision: 'leftist panglossian idealism'

 

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