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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Enrico Letta, Prime Minister of Italy
2 May 2013
Prime Minister Letta and I just had our first meeting here in Brussels, over a cappuccino and some croissants.
And I want to tell you how pleased I was to meet Prime Minister Letta so soon after his nomination as Prime Minister. I congratulated him and I wish all the best for him, for his government and for Italy.
And I am very pleased that Prime Minister Letta chose to come to Brussels as part of his first trip abroad and that he engages actively with Italy's European partners from his very first week in office.
Having carefully listened to the Prime Minister's speech in parliament and after our discussion here today I am very positively impressed with the strong European commitment of a Prime Minister who sees his country firmly anchored in the European Union and recognises the enormous benefits of Europe to its citizens. We both share an ambitious view on Europe's future, a federal future, a future as a political union that will enable the European Union and our citizens to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Our main focus today was of course the current economic situation in Italy and the European Union as a whole. Prime Minister Letta gave me his honest and very comprehensive assessment of the situation that confronts Italy with huge challenges, including the unacceptably high levels of unemployment.
I listened carefully to Enrico Letta and have no doubt that his strong sense of responsibility and also his bridge-building capacity will allow his government to work effectively for the people of Italy, for their hope and their future.
Political stability is back in Italy: from the newly elected parliament, to the President of the Republic, also re-elected, and the government, that is now carried by a large cross-party support. A government that is a young government, with young people, and I want to say with an historic number of women as members. I think this stability is extremely important, because stability is a vital precondition for adopting and implementing the right policies that will help the country recover from the crisis.
As you can imagine, Prime Minister Letta and I share the view that the European Union and its Member States need to implement urgently the growth and job-enhancing measures that are indispensable. We are also both firmly convinced that you can only build lasting growth and competitiveness on the back of healthy public finances. Every euro spent on debt is a euro not invested in jobs, not invested in youth, not invested in entrepreneurs or education or research. This is why we need to keep healthy public finances, we need to go for structural reforms and we need to have measures to foster growth, mainly to try to tackle the urgent and dramatic issue of the unemployment, specifically youth unemployment.
Growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, structural reform and targeted investment are not in contradiction but should go hand in hand.
Continuing to implement wide-ranging structural reforms while reducing further deficit and debt are therefore inevitable tasks for the government in Italy.
The country has embarked on an ambitious road. I'm sure it cannot and it will not stop here, if the steep slope of mistrust, high debt and recession is to be avoided. Of course, the road is difficult, but it is the only way to get to the highway of growth and jobs.
To conclude: I am really very pleased that Enrico Letta and his government are embracing the fate of their country with such courage and ambition, with responsibility, national responsibility, but also a clear sense of European responsibility. And the European Commission stands ready to assist Italy in this effort.
And I wish you, Prime Minister, dear friend, and all Italian citizens the best for months and years to come.