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matteo renzi.jpg
Photograph: EPA/GIUSEPPE LAMI

Italy's ambassador to the European Union will leave his position, less than two months after being installed, to become minister for industry, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said in a surprise announcement.

"I asked him to return from Brussels," Renzi said in a late Sunday interview with RAI state television.

Carlo Calenda, 43, started his stint as EU ambassador on March 21, after serving for almost three years as deputy minister for industry and a previous career at Ferrari, business lobby Confindustria and Sky television's Italian subsidiary.

The fact that Calenda's mission was cut short so soon is likely to reinforce perceptions that there is not enough political talent within Renzi's inner circle to fill the necessary governing positions.

"One one hand, it makes sense, because Calenda is very qualified to fill that [ministry] post; on the other, it is certainly baffling for people in Brussels, as nobody appoints an ambassador for just 47 days," Franco Venturini, an editorialist for Corriere della Sera, told dpa.

Renzi said he called him back to Rome because he represented a safe pair of hands for "an important ministry" whose previous chief, Federica Guidi, was forced to resign in late March over conflict-of-interest allegations.

Calenda made waves when he was sent to Brussels, because it was the first time in more than 60 years that a non-career diplomat was nominated ambassador - a development that caused resentment in Italian diplomatic circles.

He was tasked with giving Italy a sharper voice in EU affairs, bolstering Renzi's ambition to rival Germany's hegemony, whereas the style of the previous ambassador, a career diplomat who also worked in EU institutions, was seen as too soft.

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