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(MNI) London
-MNI: Fedriga Says Populist Lega Party Softening Anti-Euro Stance
-Lega Lower House Leader Fedriga: Now Seeking Euro Fix, Not Exit
-Anti-Euro Referendum Call No Longer Factor In Italian Elections
By Silvia Marchetti
     ROME (MNI) - Italy's leading populist party Lega is softening its anti-euro
stance ahead of the March general election and adopting a more market-friendly
approach to lure less extreme and more liberal voters, leaving no major party
pushing for a euro exit, a top party figure told Market News.
     In an exclusive interview Massimiliano Fedriga, Lega leader in the Lower
House, said a Brexit-style referendum on exiting the euro was no longer on the
party's agenda were it to come to power within a center-right coalition.
     "We need to change the rules that govern the euro through a revision of all
European treaties. We don't want to drop the single currency tout court, just
give it a thorough makeover that can address current economic and monetary
challenges", said Fedriga.
     Italy's place is in Europe, he said: "The EU is our common house, we just
want it to become a better place. The Lega is not an enemy of the European
project."
     The sudden change in tactics has been triggered by the electoral
campaigning opening and the party rebrand to lure liberal voters across the
whole country.
     The Lega, born in the 1990's as a northern regional group with only 4%
supported, has scrapped from the "North" moniker from its name and is expected
to obtain over 15% of the votes in March.
     Fedriga argued that there should be an "adjustment" of the single currency
mechanisms to ensure automatic support for the economic recovery needed across
the union without forcing the European Central Bank to intervene each time in
order to fix any "dysfunctions".
     "It's obvious that the ECB's quantitative easing program has benefitted the
economy, but it was a unilateral move by the central bank. We want to make the
euro flexible, able to adapt to different economic cycles. If the euro is too
strong but the economy is still weak, the single currency will never function
properly," he said.
     The Lega's goal is to fix the euro, not to reject it.
     "Nobody has really understood our position: we have been negatively branded
as populists and yet we are amongst the greatest of all pro-Europeans, that is
why we push for radical change for the good of Europe", Fedriga added.
     Fedriga, currently on Lega's electoral campaigning frontline, said his
party would also fight for a new, reformed pro-growth Europe based on
accommodative policies and investments: "Austerity has backlashed. Strict budget
rules harm public coffers, like we saw during the government of premier Mario
Monti. His fiscally orthodox 'cure' only led to a further rise in public debt."
     The Lega voted against the adoption of the strict fiscal compact rule on
debt reduction, Fedriga recalled, which he believes has proven to be
counterproductive in exiting the recession and kick-starting the recovery across
the bloc.
     Lega leader Matteo Salvini, candidate premier, has teamed up with former
prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia group in a fragile center-right
coalition. In the event of a victory of the right, whoever wins the most votes
will rule the next government.
     But tensions over leadership and program are putting this alliance at risk.
     Fedriga warned that "if this coalition fails to define beforehand, and
soon, a clear government agenda that includes the abolition of previous pension
reforms introduced by Monti, our participation and support are not guaranteed."
     "We could pull out of it any minute as we're not interested in winning the
next election just for the sake of it. The Lega wants to make a difference and
contribute to fixing Italy", he added.
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2223; email: david.robinson@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: M$E$$$,M$I$$$,M$X$$$,MC$$$$,MX$$$$]
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-586-2223 | david.robinson@marketnews.com
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-586-2223 | david.robinson@marketnews.com

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