German president hails new Rome govt during visit

Rome: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier hailed the pro-EU stance of Italy’s new coalition government as he began a two-day visit to Rome and Naples on Thursday.
“The EU and Germany need an Italy that firstly aligns itself with Europe but that also has a strong determination to help shape Europe,” Steinmeier said as he met his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella.
“That is why I am very happy that Prime Minister (Giuseppe) Conte and the new government have once again accepted this role,” he added.
Conte leads a left-leaning, EU-friendly coalition comprising the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which took office two weeks ago. It replaced a rightist, eurosceptic government, also led by Conte, between the M5S and the far-right League party. That coalition collapsed in August after League leader Matteo Salvini had a fallout with the M5S.
In his remarks, Mattarella stressed Italy and Germany’s close economic ties, noting that Germany trades more with Italy’s northern region of Lombardy than with Japan.
He said the two countries have a relationship “at the top level of excellency,” as they work well bilaterally, within the European Union and on key international issues.
Calling for greater EU cooperation on migration, Mattarella thanked Germany for its willingness to take in migrants, and said the EU should take responsibility for helping countries repatriate failed asylum seekers. Steinmeier, who also stressed Italy and Germany’s close, special relationship, also met Conte and was due to see Italy’s nominee for the new European Commission, former premier Paolo Gentiloni, early on Friday. Discussions were expected to revolve around the migration crisis in the Mediterranean as well as Britain’s looming exit from the EuropeanUnion.
In Naples, Steinmeier was due to meet former Italian emigrants to Germany and young emigrants looking to emigrate to Germany now, take a guided tour of the city and visit the community music project “Sanitansamble” in the run-down Sanita neighbourhood.
Ahead of his arrival, the German president told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that the new government in Rome meant that Italy was “back in the European playing field”. The goal of his visit
would be to give “a new impulse” to German-Italian cooperation on Europe, he said. — dpa