Italian Prime Minister calls for fairer Europe, faces European Union anger

Vastavam web: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called on Tuesday for a less austere European Union more in tune with popular demands for economic growth, but he faced a barrage of criticism after his keynote speech in the EU legislature. Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg as part of a series of contributions by national leaders to a debate on the future of the Union, Conte stressed the continued commitment of Rome’s populist government to EU integration – a commitment some doubted after the coalition’s election last year.

“The powerful opposition that the European people, in its various forms, is demonstrating in the face of the elites speaks to our consciences and reminds us that politics, too assertive on economic rationales, has not done its homework and has given up on its mission,” Conte told the assembled lawmakers. Insisting his administration was keeping its “accounts in order”, he said it was also seeking to stimulate growth.

But leaders of mainstream political groups, whose Italian allies found themselves excluded from power in Rome by the rise of the populist League and 5-Star Movement coalition, lined up to criticize Conte’s government for straying from euro zone budget rules, passing measures against asylum-seekers or siding with Moscow to thwart EU support for the opposition in Venezuela.

The sharp exchanges with a prime minister who, as an academic and political novice, is seen as the moderate face of a government dominated by radical voices, illustrated themes that will be aired in elections to the EU assembly this coming May.