Italy Hits Back at German Economic Criticism ; Prime Minister Accuses Central Bank in Berlin of Blocking Europe's Revival

By Kanter, James | International New York Times, July 5, 2014 | Go to article overview

Italy Hits Back at German Economic Criticism ; Prime Minister Accuses Central Bank in Berlin of Blocking Europe's Revival


Kanter, James, International New York Times


The Italian prime minister on Friday responded to criticism by the head of Germany's central bank that Rome needs to push harder for economic reforms.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy on Friday accused Germany's central bank of blocking efforts to stimulate regional growth and of putting the interests of financiers before citizens in the European Union.

Mr. Renzi, a left-leaning leader who took power in February, has adopted a muscular stance on the European stage since his party won a strong endorsement in elections to the European Parliament in May. He has called upon the European Union authorities to put less emphasis on debt and deficit targets, a position that has provoked a public dispute with some prominent Germans.

On Friday, Mr. Renzi appeared to relish the chance to deliver a sharp retort to Jens Weidmann, the president of the German central bank, the Bundesbank. Mr. Weidmann has long advocated fiscal restraint by the most vulnerable euro zone countries, including Italy.

"I don't expect the Bundesbank to talk about Italian politics," Mr. Renzi said at a news conference in Rome. "We should all bear in mind that Europe belongs to European citizens, not to bankers -- neither Italian nor German bankers."

Mr. Renzi did not mention Mr. Weidmann by name. But a day earlier Mr. Weidmann suggested that Mr. Renzi should focus on making the Italian economy more competitive, rather than increasing its debt. Italy's national debt stands at about 130 percent of the country's gross domestic product, the third-largest such ratio in the developed world, after those of Japan and Greece.

Mr. Weidmann's comments, made to politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, were carried widely in the Italian news media on Friday morning.

Mr. Weidmann called for "fewer words and more deeds" from Italy, and he criticized Mr. Renzi for "announcing" rather than carrying out policy overhauls, according to a report by Ansa, an Italian news agency.

Mr. Renzi has a new forum for speaking out, now that Italy has taken its turn in the revolving presidency of the European Union. …

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