The austerity policies that the European Union prescribed to its members in recent years were not dictated by Berlin, German President Joachim Gauck said in a Tuesday interview with Italian news agency ANSA.
"There is no austerity forced only by Germany. Decisions on the measures needed to handle Europe's debt crisis were adopted jointly by [EU] member states in the respective fora," Gauck was quoted as saying.
Anti-austerity resentment is strong in Italy and other highly-indebted southern European nations. Gauck is due to meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday in the north-western city of Turin.
With ANSA, the German head of state stressed the importance for the EU to stay united "especially at a time when populist and nationalist movements are having success," and said his country needed to be a more active international player.
"I have been advocating for long for Germany to take on more responsibilities in Europe and the world," he said, specifying that he was not calling for Berlin to take a domineering role over EU partners.
"Probably, there cannot be a strong Europe with a weak Germany," Gauck said.