Matteo Renzi in attack mode ahead of vote

Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, facing a key referendum at home later this year, accused Germany, France and Spain of breaking European Union rules on deficit control and spending.

Nations “will have to justify themselves for failing to respect the rules,” he said.

“The size of Spain’s deficit is twice ours, France does not even respect the Maastricht Treaty — having a deficit still over 3% of GDP — Germany breaks the trade surplus rule.”

Renzi spoke out against fellow EU leaders after attending a summit in the Slovakian capital Bratislava on Friday.

The gathering was a “wasted opportunity” and didn’t address the key economic challenges facing Europe after the UK’s vote to leave the bloc, he said. He called on EU leaders to acknowledge that austerity policies have failed.

Renzi said he refused to join a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande after the meeting.

Talking to Corriere, he denied that his criticism was aimed at fostering support among Italian euro-sceptic voters before a key vote on constitutional reform expected in November or December.

“I have never been more optimistic than now” about the outcome of the referendum, he said.

Renzi has previously insisted the constitutional reforms would simplify the legislative process and boost political stability in Italy, and has said he’ll quit if voters don’t approve the changes.

A poll published by newspaper La Stampa on September 4 gave the No vote 51% against 49% in favour. A previous poll in May had Yes at 56%.

Last month the government asked that the EU afford Italy the necessary “flexibility” to budget for reconstruction in the regions hit by a devastating earthquake.

Renzi told Corriere that Italy will abide by the EU’s “exceptional-event” clause and exclude from its deficit calculation all costs related to reconstruction as well as to the flow of migrants.

The premier also criticised an EU document on migration agreed on at the Bratislava meeting, saying that the summit failed to address the issue. Renzi will be in New York today and tomorrow and will speak to the United Nations General Assembly.


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