By Mick Krever, CNN
Despite a dismal and worsening economic situation, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday that his country could, in the next ten years, become “the leader of Europe.”
“I see there is in my country the possibility to create the future. But after twenty years of politics, discussions, [and] ideological crisis, we lost a lot of opportunities. Now I think for a politician, it's absolutely important, this message: We can lose the elections, but we cannot lose this opportunity.”
The 39-year-old Renzi, who took office in February, must first overcome extremely worrying economics.
In August, the country slid back into its third recession in six years; unemployment is over 12%; and youth unemployment is a staggering 44%, causing a massive brain drain of young professionals.
“We change a lot of times the prime minister” – four in the past five years – “but we don't change our country. And our country is an incredible country, very beautiful, with an incredible past, an incredible present – but we need a future.”
The future of Europe is unclear not only because of the extremely sluggish economic recovery, but also because of the “in-or-out” referendum that British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised in 2017, should he win reelection.
“Now, obviously, I agree – we must absolutely change Europe, because it's correct, because it's right – before the referendum of 2017 in the UK,” Renzi said just after meeting with Prime Minister Cameron. “And not only because there is a referendum, but because it's absolutely correct.”
“I believe [it is] important [to] reduce the power of bureaucracy in Europe. I believe absolutely [it is] important [to] reduce the level of technocrats’ power in Brussels. For me, Europe is not simply a community of money. It’s a community of soul, a community of future.”
“For me, it's important the UK stay inside European Union. But it’s absolutely important the European Union stay in the hearts of the citizens. This is a moment [that is] very dangerous. We must change Europe.”
Amanpour asked Renzi what keeps him up at night – the same question she asked Renzi’s predecessor, Enrico Letta, almost exactly a year ago and in the very same room in Italy’s London embassy.
“The lack of confidence,” Renzi said. “Everything is possible for Italy.”
“I am absolutely convinced because I see the eyes of entrepreneurs who invest in the future despite the problem of bureaucracy, of civil justice, of the labor market. I see the eyes of young women in Italy – I am the first [prime minister] with half presence in my cabinet of women.”
Renzi said that he was unworried by the hordes of young, professional Italians leaving the county to find work elsewhere.
“Let me be very frank,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a big problem, unemployment, this is clear.”
“Why I said it's not a problem if a part of Italian people left Italy – because I think around the world, there are a lot of Italians very able, very intelligent, very smart, who change the world.”