Obama endorses 'Yes' Renzi referendum vote

EU must turn to growth says U.S. president

Obama endorses 'Yes' Renzi referendum vote

Rome, October 18 - United States President Barack Obama threw his hat in the ring Tuesday in favor of a 'Yes' vote in a December 4 referendum on Premier Matteo Renzi's constitutional reform law. A 'Yes' victory could help Italy, Obama told reporters at a press conference after meeting with Renzi at the White House. The American president added he is "rooting for" Renzi, and said Italy's young reformist premier should remain in politics no matter what the outcome of the referendum. The two leaders heaped praise upon one another, with Obama hailing Renzi's leadership qualities and Renzi calling the U.S. a model of economic growth policies. "Matteo represents a new generation of leaders not only in Italy but in the EU and the world," said Obama, warning that if Europe fails to shift away from austerity towards more expansive economic policies its fragility will return with negative impacts on the U.S. and the globe. "The US are a model and I think Europe can and must do more," Renzi said. "Italy considers the American example as a point of reference in the battle (against austerity)". "If we win the December referendum it will be easier for Italy to carry on the battle to change the EU," he explained. "If we win... things will be more simple for Italy, and the battle to change Europe will be easier," Renzi said. "We respect European rules, albeit a bit unwillingly at times - we would like them to be different, but we will respect them until they change". "I don't think there will be any cataclysms if the 'No' vote wins," he added. Obama chimed in, saying "Matteo is right" in stating Italy has kept its word in the EU and carried out structural reforms as requested, and now Europe must do its part to stoke growth and create jobs faster than it is at present. On the international front, Obama thanked Italy for its "key role" in the international coalition to fight the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group and for its diplomacy in Libya. The American president also said "our thoughts are with" the stricken population of the town of Amatrice, which was razed to the ground by a devastating August 24 earthquake in central Italy that claimed 298 lives, left thousands homeless, and caused billions in damage. Italy is haggling with the EU for flexibility on its 2017 budget due to exceptional spending on quake relief and reconstruction as well as the cost of asylum seeker rescue, identification, processing, and hosting. Obama hailed Italy for saving "hundreds of thousands of lives" in the Mediterranean, where its southernmost islands are the first landfall for asylum seekers fleeing war and persecution in Africa and the Middle East.

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