Italy backs Merkel call for stronger Europe in age of Trump

AFP , Tuesday 30 May 2017

Italy on Tuesday backed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's call for Europe to be a stronger player on the world stage in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit.

"We certainly share the idea that the future of Europe has to be in our own hands -- global challenges impose that," Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said after meeting his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau in Rome.

The centre-left leader added: "That does not take anything away from the importance of transatlantic relations or the alliance with the United States.

"But the importance we give to these ties cannot lead to us renouncing fundamental principles such as our commitments against climate change and for open societies and free international trade."

Gentiloni was speaking after Merkel made waves with weekend remarks in which she suggested that Brexit-bound Britain and a Trump-led United States may no longer be reliable partners for the European Union.

The German leader reiterated the main thrust of her remarks on Tuesday, saying the "current situation" gives Europe more reasons "to take our destiny into our own hands".

Both Merkel and Gentiloni stressed that a more prominent leadership role for Europe did not necessarily mean any less cooperation with the United States.

The eurozone's big three economies, Germany, France and Italy, are sharply at odds with the US over climate change, the future of international trade and the management of mass migration.

These divergences were aired at a summit of G7 leaders in Sicily at the weekend at which Trump found himself isolated over his threat to ditch the 2015 Paris accord aimed at slowing climate change.

Trump's abrasive style also helped sour the mood, according to diplomats present, but Gentiloni and Trudeau both stressed the importance of maintaining cordial relations.

Highlighting Canada's strong political and trade ties to Europe, Trudeau said: "We will always work together and highlight the shared values that are equally important on both sides of the Atlantic, including in the United States."

He said discussions on subjects of disagreement needed to continue on the basis of "openness, frankness and robust exchanges."

Trump has vowed to decide this week whether to pull the US out of the Paris framework on climate change but left his counterparts in the G7 with no idea of which way he was leaning.

Trudeau reiterated an argument made repeatedly to the US president in Sicily, saying: "With regard to climate change in particular, the only way to move forward is to protect the environment while creating the jobs we need for today and tomorrow."

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