Merkel 'sympathetic' to Italian calls for budget flexibility
German leader Merkel promised a "sympathetic hearing" to Italian PM Renzi's post-quake reconstruction plans, which would likely require sidestepping EU budget discipline rules. "Given the catastrophe we have seen ... I am certain the [EU] stability and growth pact will enable us to find good solutions," Merkel said on Wednesday. Renzi said the disaster response efforts should not be included in end-of-year deficit calculations.