Juncker had stored a stir on Thursday for his criticism of Italians. Photo: Olivier Matthys/AP/dpa
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned Germans to respect the new eurosceptic Italian government, having told Italians to work harder and stop blaming the EU for the country's problems.
"We should show respect towards Italy," Juncker said in an interview with the German press group Funke Mediengruppe.
Italy's new anti-establishment government took power on Friday promising an end to EU-inspired austerity and a harder line on relations with Brussels, especially on immigration and the role of the euro single currency.
Juncker caused a stir on Thursday when he had said: "Italians have to take care of the poor regions of Italy. That means more work, less corruption, (more) seriousness."
Italy should not "play this game" of holding the EU responsible, he added. Asked about Italy's massive debt mountain and the new government's plan to increase public spending, Juncker said in the interview that he was "not at all in favour of giving lessons to Rome".
"That was what happened too much with (thrice bailed-out), Greece, especially by the German-speaking countries (of the EU)," he said.
Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a strict enforcer of EU fiscal rules, insisting member states restore their public finances to balance, including the use of stinging cuts to government spending if necessary.
Juncker said that Greece had suffered as a result of this approach, with "the dignity of the Greek people trodden under foot" when left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took office in 2015.
"That must not happen again in the present case with Italy," he said, stressing: "I absolutely do not want to get involved in questions of domestic Italian politics."
"Italians have a clear understanding of what is good for their country. They will sort it out."