Wednesday

1st Dec 2021

Italy must back Renzi's reforms, Obama says

  • President Obama and prime minister Renzi with their wives, Michelle Obama and Agnese Landini. (Photo: Palazzo Chigi)

US president Barack Obama lauded Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi in the White House on Tuesday (19 October), ahead of a referendum that will be crucial for Renzi's political future.

"Look at him," Obama said of Renzi, speaking at a joint press conference.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"He's young, handsome. He's put forth a vision of progress that's not rooted in people's fears, but rather in their hopes,” the American said.

Tuesday’s official state dinner was the last to be hosted by Obama before he leaves the White House in January.

Renzi could also soon be without a job.

He has threatened to step down if he loses a 4 December vote on constitutional change.

The bill would limit the power of the Italian senate. Renzi said it would also make it easier for Italy to fight for reform of the EU.

The Italian prime minister would like to change EU budgetary rules, which make it difficult to pursue the type of expansive politics he thinks are needed to address his country’s sluggish growth.

Polls show a majority of Italians oppose Renzi’s proposal. Opposition parties say the bill is badly written and will put too much power in the government’s hands.

Obama threw his weight behind the proposal.

"The upcoming referendum to modernise Italy’s political institutions is something the United States strongly supports because we believe that it will help accelerate Italy’s path towards a more vibrant, dynamic economy, as well as a more responsive political system," the US president said.

He agreed the EU must shift away from austerity if it wants to relaunch economic growth and create jobs.

Obama added that Renzi, in his opinion, should stay in politics no matter what the outcome of the vote.

Both leaders stressed the importance of US-Italian relations and showed admiration for each other’s policies.

"I think Matteo embodies a new generation of leadership, not just for Italy but also for Europe," Obama said. He praised Italy’s efforts to save migrants in the Mediterranean sea and fight against the Islamic State.

Italy has the second largest number of troops in Iraq, after the US.

Renzi also highlighted Obama’s merits.

“Many people think politics is only about screaming and fighting each other, creating hate and division,” Renzi said.

”You are different, Mr President. We are different,” he said.

Analysis

Renzi's EU attacks are survival strategy

Faced with a difficult referendum campaign, the Italian prime minister is playing the antiestablishment card, including verbal attacks on the EU and Germany.

Agenda

Obama visits EU This Week

The US election, wide-ranging security concerns, and the EU budget dominate the agenda this week.

Countdown to Italy's future

The long-running campaign for Sunday's referendum has wrapped up, but market jitters and the rise of euroscepticism risks Italy's shaky post-recession growth.

Italy referendum spooks eurozone

Prime minister Matteo Renzi's resignation, followed by a crushing rejection of his reforms, has sent the euro plunging against the dollar and put the country's fragile banking system at risk.

News in Brief

  1. Poland curtails media access to Belarus border
  2. Report: Germany's Scholz 'backs compulsory Covid jabs'
  3. Omicron 'present in Europe at least 10 days ago'
  4. German court finds ex-Islamic State member guilty of genocide
  5. Report: Shell is considering return to Libya
  6. Report: EU to reveal €300bn infrastructure plan
  7. Barbados becomes world's newest republic
  8. Far-right Zemmour will run for French presidency

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. No obligation to defend Ukraine from Russia, Nato chief says
  2. EU agency: 'Omicron vaccine' approval to take 3-4 months
  3. Ombudsman launches probe into Commission tobacco lobbying
  4. Lead MEP wants 'mandatory relocation' in EU asylum law
  5. The EU's 'global gateway' - an answer to China, or a dead-end?
  6. Osman Kavala in a Turkish jail - taking injustice personally
  7. Frontex implicated 'to some extent' in violations, says officer
  8. Omicron shows need for pandemic global pact, WHO says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us