Rajoy’s Losses Show Danger of EU Austerity, Renzi Says

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
Matteo Renzi, Italy's prime minister. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Election results in Spain and Poland, like the crisis in Greece, show the European Union must relax its insistence on budget austerity or face increasing push back from voters, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

“The wind in Greece, the wind in Spain, the wind in Poland don’t blow in the same direction, they blow in opposite directions, but all these winds say that Europe must change,” Renzi said in an interview with Tuscan television channel RTV38. “Either Europe manages to change its own economic policy or the movements against Brussels and against Strasbourg will become stronger and stronger.”

Spanish opposition parties channeled voters’ frustration with the budget cuts dictated by the country’s EU creditors to hand Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party its worst result in a municipal election in 24 years on Sunday. On the same day, opposition candidate Andrzej Duda claimed the Polish presidency with promises to tax banks and increase benefits for families.

While Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s clashes with his country’s creditors have allowed many European leaders to focus on the problems in Greece, voters across the rest of Europe are still feeling the effects of the budget cuts that European officials meted out as a solution to the debt crisis.

In Barcelona, the activist Ada Colau, who came to prominence leading a campaign against evictions, won control of city hall at the head of a coalition including Podemos, Tsipras’s Spanish ally.

Renzi, 40, called for “a third way” between the rigid adherence to austerity and “the demagogy of everyone against the euro.”

Renzi, who came to power in February 2014, also faces an electoral test on May 31, when voters in seven Italian regions will go to the polls.

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