Transcript: PM and Italian PM Monti Press Conference

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

PM: discussion focussed on European economy and on generating wealth and jobs.

Prime Minister Cameron:

Thank you. I’m delighted to welcome Prime Minister Monti to Number 10 Downing Street today. I think Britain and Italy have very common interests. We’re both leading members of NATO, leading members of the European Union. We’re both supporters of free enterprise economies and obviously we co-operated very closely together over the Libyan conflict and I’ve thanked Prime Minister Monti for hosting our aeroplanes and crews for all the missions that they flew over the skies of Libya.

Today our discussions are focussed on the European economy, on the urgent need for a credible solution to the Eurozone crisis, and on how we can release the brakes on growth to generate wealth and jobs and enterprise. We both agree that the EU single market with 500 million customers, €11 trillion of economic activity, this is a unique resource and we must make the most of its advantages. There are three priorities where I want to see action.

First, a new EU growth test. I think we should subject every EU proposal to a growth test about whether it’s going to benefit growth in the European Union.

Second, I want to see the completion of the single market in the services. This alone could generate €140 billion of additional growth in our economies and it’s time to get rid of all of those special restrictions that have been allowed to stay for too long, whether its recruitment agencies or travel agencies or building surveyors. All these things can make a big difference.

Third, I want to see an ambitious programme of EU trade deals with some of the fastest growing areas of the world - India included. This would link us up with some of the largest markets and make sure we can benefit from those trade deals. I’ll be advocating these ideas at the European summit later this month. If the EU doesn’t get to grips with these fundamental issues of competitiveness we will all be permanently worse off but if we take the right decisions now I believe Europe can still compete and succeed in a fast-changing world. So it’s very good to welcome Prime Minister Monti here, who is such a strong and consistent leader on these vital issues in the European Union. Prime Minister Monti, a very warm welcome and over to you.

Prime Minister Monti:

Thank you very much Prime Minister. It was a real pleasure and privilege to be here at Number 10 with Prime Minister Cameron. Thank you very much for your hospitality and for the straightforward and highly constructive nature of our conversation on the European issues and broader international issues.

As the Prime Minister said there is, between the UK and Italy, a long-standing, deep co-operation. We share values. We share policy initiatives. We share a deep interest in the EU as a whole and also in the speedy solution of the Eurozone crisis. And it is very important also to put the difficulties of the Eurozone into a wider and better perspective to accelerate work towards European economic growth and job creation and there we fundamentally share the view with the British Prime Minister, the British government, that Europe should first of all exploit the assets it has and the single market is possibly the most basic and most fundamental of these assets. That’s why we renewed our joint willingness to work for the single market to move a further step ahead particularly as regards to services, the opening up of national markets and also - and we are very attached to this on the Italian side - to have a more credible enforcement of the existing market rules. So it’s important to not only complete the single market on paper, so to say, but also to make sure that it is a credible and well-respected single market and we know that the British interest as a member state which - I can say this as a former European Commissioner - is on average, a prompter and better complier with the rules than many other member states.

We believe it is in the British interest as we know it is in Italy’s interest for the two countries to work together for a more credible single market as one of the instruments for economic growth. I’m delighted of this great similarity and indeed similarity of views and readiness to work together with the Prime Minister and with our respective teams already in view of the European Council of the 30th January.

Thank you very much Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Cameron:

Thank you very much indeed. We’ve got time for a couple of questions.

Sky News:

Thank you very much. Prime Minister, if the IMF increases its bailout fund to the euro to the tune, possibly, of a $1 trillion, would Britain increase its contribution proportionally which I think is something like 60 or 70 million, and how difficult would that be to get through the House of Commons? And I noticed that the Falklands is back on the agenda. Why is that, and how serious is the threat? And I wondered Prime Minister Monti if I could ask you this. For days we’ve been watching these harrowing images of the Costa Concordia lying on its side and hearing the harrowing tales of the survivors. Was this a disaster that could and should have been avoided? Thank you.

Prime Minister Cameron:

 Firstly, on the IMF we’re founder members and great supporters of the IMF. It’s a key international institution. We set out our conditions at the Cannes G20 about expansion of the IMF. We believe the IMF must always lend to countries, not to currencies. We would only act if that was with others, not just as part of a Eurozone measure. But above all, we want to see that the Eurozone is standing behind its own currency but the case has to be looked at in that context, but we’re founder members of the IMF and strong supporters of it. In terms of the Falklands, the point is this is the 30th anniversary. As I said in the House of Commons, it’s right to commemorate the people who served, the people who were wounded and the people who tragically were killed in that conflict. But it is, I think important for Britain to send a very clear message that as long as people in the Falkland Islands want to remain British, we respect their right of self-determination and the reason for holding a National Security Council which discussed other things as well, but to discuss this issue, is just to make sure no one is in any doubt that Britain supports that right of self-determination and we will go on doing so for as long as people in the Falklands want to continue in that way. And I think it’s very important that everyone understands that.

Prime Minister Monti:

On the terrible ship accident which occurred in Italian seas a few days ago, obviously any such disaster could and should be avoided. I cannot run ahead of what will be the conclusions of the multiple and meticulous enquiries that are being conducted by the pertinent authorities. I can attest of the extremely generous co-operation that was given by the population of the localities near the accident. And by the way, I was very grateful to the Prime Minister for his expressions of solidarity in relation to this incident and everybody can be assured that the Italian authorities are both taking care of the prevention and limitation of any environmental negative implications of this accident as well as obviously in the first place providing all the necessary help to those affected.

Prime Minister Cameron:

Okay, a question from your press.

Italian translator:

A while ago Mrs Merkel has made a declaration which I can sum up in this way, ‘I’m still trying to understand what Germany can do to help the euro but nobody can tell me’. So I’d like to know if you have any suggestions, and I would like to address the same question to Mr Monti.

Prime Minister Cameron: 

 Would you like to go first?

Prime Minister Monti:

With pleasure, Prime Minister.

(via translator)

Germany is at the basis of the euro. The euro couldn’t have been born without Germany and the German citizens who wanted - just like all of us - a solid and stable euro for their purchasing power, like in the case of the Mark, hence all the mechanisms to have discipline in public balances, and I am very grateful to Germany for this. I think that there are difficulties for the European… for the euro countries because there are deadlines with respect to public balances such as in countries like Italy. And I don’t think that we can ask specific questions to Germany, and there is this problem of the governance of the Eurozone and some challenges cannot be met. Therefore Italy is contributing to finding a solution and in this the role of Germany is extremely important. Governance must be improved - and I’m referring to discipline, fire walls and the need to avoid contagions. And growth policy is also very important. And we have talked about this with Prime Minister Cameron and this is something that is affecting not only the Eurozone but the whole of the European Union.

Prime Minister Cameron: 

Well thank you. There is much that I would agree in what Prime Minister Monti has said. It’s true that some progress has been made in dealing with the crisis of the Eurozone in terms of the additional support that’s been made available to European banks. This has clearly had an impact and that is welcome but I think we need to be frank about the overall situation where interest rates are still very high in many European countries which I think shows that so far what has been done is not working well enough. It’s not enough and so we have to ask ourselves what more do we need to do and I would just make one point about the short-term and one point about the longer-term.

In the short term those things that we’ve spoken about at many European councils, the fire wall - the bazooka as I have called it - the need for a deliverable, sustainable solution for Greece, and the importance of strengthening the banks, we still haven’t completed that agenda and we’ve got to complete that agenda. But the point I would make is it’s only a short-term agenda.

There’s a longer term agenda which is about competitiveness. We focus a lot in the European Union about fiscal deficits and of course that is important but we also need to look at current account deficits, we need to look at competitiveness. And that is where the single market reforms, the changes that Prime Minister Monti and I have been discussing are so important. But we need to emphasise the importance of countries that need to become more competitive - the deficit countries. But also, we can’t ignore - and Martin Wolf of the FT is often writing about this - we can’t ignore that for every deficit country there has to be a surplus country. So there are steps that everyone can take to help ease these longer term problems and fractures in the Eurozone that I think will make a fundamental difference. But I think we can start on the 30th January with a really convincing set of steps on digital market, on services market, on energy markets, on growth tests, that will help open up all of the European economies and help those deficit countries deal with their deficits, and help those surplus countries also make sure that they are growing and consuming and expanding at the same time. That in the end is how we will make sure that we have a sustainable future in the European Union.

Thank you very much. Thank you for coming. And thank you once again Prime Minister Monti for joining us today.

Prime Minister Monti:

Thank you very much.