Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, has said that Italy will push for a “United States of Europe” during its six-month EU presidency, in a move likely to raise hackles in Britain.
Launching an appeal to convince European leaders to show “that a stronger and more cohesive Europe is the only solution to solve the problems of our time”, Mr Renzi said: “For my children’s future I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe.”
He further called for “courageous leaders” to work towards achieving that goal – something that Britain has always objected to. In 1988 Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, dismissed the idea that the United States might be a model for the future of Europe and David Cameron is actively trying to prevent the election of a committed federalist, Jean-Claude Juncker, to the head of the European Commission.
Italy takes over the rotating EU presidency from Greece on July 1. Its job will be to steer the EU at a time when the so-called “European Project” is coming under renewed attack, in the wake of an EU-wide surge in support for Eurosceptic parties in the recent European elections.
Mr Renzi, whose country will preside over the EU until December, said the only effective response to the outcome of the European elections is to offer “an idea of Europe that corresponds to an attractive adventure, rather than just a financial or economic exercise.” He said it was vital to show that the EU “is not only a common past but a common destiny.”