Don't bash Commission too much, EU's Juncker tells Renzi

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 15, 2016 5:45 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Italy is wrong to bash the European Commission, the head of the EU executive said on Friday, in an attempt to quell Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's increasing criticism of EU policies on migration, banking and the budget.

"I think that the Italian Prime Minister, whom I respect a lot, is wrong to criticize the Commission at each street corner," Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference in Brussels, hinting at possible domestic reasons for the criticism.

In recent weeks, 40-year-old Renzi has openly attacked Europe and Germany for policies that he sees as biased towards Berlin.

After criticizing German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an EU summit in December, Renzi's government is said to be blocking an EU plan to set up a 3-billion-euro fund to help Turkey stem the worst inflow in decades of asylum seekers into Europe.

Italy is also in talks with the Commission on whether it can be granted more fiscal leeway in its 2016 budget. Rome wants to have more flexibility in applying EU fiscal rules.

"We have introduced a dose of increased flexibility against the will of some member states. Italy benefits from all the flexibility that has been introduced," Juncker said.

The Commission will take a formal decision on the Italian budget in spring. To calm relations, Juncker will go to Italy at the end of February, in what will be his first visit to the country as president of the EU Commission.

"I keep my bitterness, which is big, in my pocket," Juncker said.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Catherine Evans)