Letta Speaks Merkel’s Language on Europe in First Trip to Berlin

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta used his first official trip to Berlin to appeal to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s vision of Europe, telling her fiscal rigor is fine so long as it is allied to efforts to spur economic growth.

“We don’t want a Europe that allows debt to whoever wants to run it up,” Letta told reporters alongside Merkel today. “We will do everything necessary to keep our accounts in order. But Europe must do something for growth.”

Letta underscored Merkel’s leading role in Europe by traveling to her chancellery 24 hours after his inauguration. He paid tribute to the chancellor, casting budget discipline as a moral imperative in Europe and echoing her sentiments on the need for closer economic and political integration to help the region over the crisis. Merkel reciprocated by saying that growth has an equally important role to play as budget cuts in her Europe of more competitive states.

“If we hadn’t made a clear commitment, we wouldn’t even have gotten to where we are now” in stemming the debt crisis, Merkel said, citing the European Union’s German-inspired fiscal compact as a necessary part of that struggle. “Of course, fiscal policy isn’t everything” and Europe must create jobs, boost investment and persist in overhauling its economies, she said. “There’s still a lot to do in this area.”

Letta, 46, reiterated his commitment to deliver on deficit- cutting targets even as Italy’s longest recession in at least two decades turns voters against the EU’s austerity program. The new premier invited Merkel to endorse stimulus programs, while evoking the metaphor of family responsibility to reassure her on his intention to maintain rigor.

“Europe can’t be only about austerity,” Letta said. “If Europe on the other hand is able to be both the guarantee that we don’t leave debts for our children, and for every father this is the most important guarantee of all, and also that we can give our children work,” then that would be a success.

Letta said he would ask Merkel’s advice of coalition governments over dinner.

To contact the reporters on this story:

Tony Czuczka in Berlin at aczuczka@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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