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Berlusconi Reassures EU on Rome's Commitment to Europe - 2002-01-12


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has given European officials assurances of Rome's commitment to the European Union. He made clear that there are no doubts about Italy's pro-European stance and its continued efforts to work toward further integration within the European Union.

The Italian prime minister said there was "absolute agreement" between the foreign policies of Rome and Madrid, following a meeting late Friday with the Spanish foreign minister, Josep Pique.

The Spanish politician met with Silvio Berlusconi to discuss European policy-making. Madrid took on the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on January 1.

Mr. Pique outlined Spain's EU program which includes the creation of a common judicial area, strengthening of the euro as the common currency, EU expansion, the launching of a convention to prepare a constitution for the union, and the strengthening of a common foreign policy.

Mr. Pique expressed satisfaction at his meeting with Prime minister Berlusconi and said the recent resignation of Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero was not a cause for concern in Europe.

Mr. Berlusconi took on the foreign portfolio following Mr. Ruggiero's departure and has been under pressure to clarify Italy's position on the European Union since then.

In an interview with a leading Italian daily Saturday, Mr. Pique stated: "The replacement of a minister is normal in every country. It is an internal problem of the Italian government and will have no repercussions on Italy's foreign policy."

After his talks with the Italian prime minister, Mr. Pique had declared that he saw no reason to doubt Italy's pro-Europe position.

Earlier Friday, Mr. Berlusconi had met with former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who heads the new convention set up to chart the way forward for the EU. Following that meeting, Mr. Giscard d'Estaing said he was satisfied with Mr. Berlusconi's guarantees that Italy would give "an active contribution to the future work of the European convention."

Seeking to put an end to any doubts on Italy's position toward the EU, Mr. Berlusconi said: "We believe in a strong Europe that can express itself on the world scene with one voice."

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