Italian PM urges EU to tackle anti-European sentiment
(BRUSSELS) - Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti urged European leaders to counter what he said was a growing public backlash against EU integration.
Speaking at a 'Friends of Europe' meeting in Brussels, Monti said that European heads of state and government should pay urgent attention "to the real political problem that we have; the backlash against integration in public opinions."
He added that the enduring economic crisis in the eurozone "has created a number of pretty tough mutual suspicions, prejudices," evoking a "north against the south" split.
This and the growing austerity measures in heavily indebted nations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal "is undermining the raw material on which European integration is constructed: the sympathy for the European idea," Monti warned.
The Italian prime minister insisted that in the current troubled times "we need more Europe" not less, and exhorted his fellow leaders to spread the word.
In particular Monti took aim at the "prejudice" which he said existed notably in the Nordic countries that Italy, the eurozone's third largest economy, is a debtor nation.
"Italy has never made use of any of any of the supportive instruments that exist in the panoply of Europe" to bail out struggling economies, he said.
Despite the financial turmoil, Monti also expressed faith in the financial markets.
"But we must recognize that they went to sleep for ten years once the euro was created and then all of a sudden they woke up and created nightmares, doldrums."