France - Italy - Germany

Italy's new PM joins Hollande in opposing Merkel's austerity

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

France and Italy look set to present a united front against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s austerity policy in Europe after Wednesday’s visit to Paris by new Italian prime minister Enrico Letta.


“Europe must help people, not frustrate them,” Letta warned after a meeting with French President François Hollande that lasted over one and a half hours.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

“We must lose no time” in establishing banking union to help growth, he declared, adding that his country will stick to its promises on balancing the budget.

Hollande himself repeated his message that austerity is “no longer enough”.

A leaked document produced by his Socialist Party caused a storm this week by accusing Merkel of “selfish intransigence” for insisting that Europe’s economic policy should continue to squeeze budgets.

On Tuesday she told Letta that budgetary discipline and economic growth were not incompatible, although the International Monetary Fund last month changed tack and warned that the eurozone is heading for trouble if it does not refocus on growth.

Hollande on Wednesday said a compromise could be found "beyond what separates us, or beyond the different situations of for instance Germany, France and Italy" and insisted that Paris and Berlin will "work together whatever the situation, whoever the individuals who manage it are and whatever the sensitivities".

The Italian prime minister, who spoke French at the Paris press conference having spent some of his school years in France, went on to Brussels Thursday.

There he said that his government’s priority is tackling youth unemployment, standing at 38.3 per cent in Italy.

European Commission president José Manuel Barroso called for an “ambitious” plan to end the “nightmare” at June’s European summit.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app