ITALY GERMANY DIPLOMACY.jpg
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) talks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C-L) as she arrives to the Italo-German intergovernmental summit at the Ferrari headquarters in Maranello, Italy, 31 August 2016.
Photograph: EPA/GIORGIO BENVENUTI

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday promised to help Italy rebuild its earthquake-damaged towns, and joined ranks with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in calling for stricter European Union policies on migration.

Renzi and Merkel met in the flamboyant setting of the Ferrari headquarters in Maranello, seven days after a 6-magnitude quake which devastated a remote mountain area about 150 kilometres north-east of Rome and killed nearly 300 people.

"This summit falls at a particularly sad time in the history of our country," Renzi said in a press conference that preceded a wrap-up dinner with Italian and German business representatives, including Ferrari and Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne.

Merkel said Germany would finance the rebuilding of a school yet to be selected, and offered support for Rome's demands for a derogation from EU budget discipline rules to spend billions of euros on a national quake prevention programme.

"Italy will present a plan in a transparent manner and then I think that we will find a solution in Europe," she said, stressing that the European Commission would have the final call. "We will find a reasonable, sensible solution," she insisted.

The chancellor was earlier introduced to about a dozen Italian earthquake rescuers and police dog Leo, a black labrador that made national headlines after contributing to the rescue of 4-year-old Giorgia, who was trapped under rubble for 16 hours.

Merkel also said Italian and German football teams were planning a charity match, while Renzi reported that summit host Ferrari would auction one of its cars worth at least 1 million euros (1.1 million dollars) to raise money for quake victims.

Renzi and Merkel presented a united front on migration, urging the EU to repatriate migrants who do not qualify for asylum, sign readmission deals with African nations, and boost development aid so migrants have less of a reason to flee poverty.

"We will continue saving human lives," the Italian leader said after a near-record 12,000 were plucked from the Mediterranean in the past three days. "But we know that there are limits ... it is unthinkable to welcome everybody."

Merkel, who is under fire for her open-door migration policy and faces the embarassing prospect of a breakthrough by the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in Sunday elections in her home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, sent similar messages.

"Germany has a problem with the many people who came to us last year, and not all can stay," she said about the more than 1 million arrivals. However, she stood by her famous phrase "we can do it," saying: "I am deeply convinced that it was right to say [it] at the time."

It was the second meeting in ten days for Renzi and Merkel, after last week's Italo-Franco-German summit. They were accompanied by their respective ministers of foreign affairs, interior, defence, finance, economy and transport.

Both leaders are facing domestic challenges, but Renzi is confronting stronger headwinds, with a flagging economy and an uphill battle to win a referendum on constitutional reforms due in November. He has committed himself to resigning if the 'no' camp wins.

Merkel had kinds words for her peer. "I wish Matteo Renzi a lot of success in the implementation of his reform agenda, which, in my mind, I am an outside spectator, is good for Italy and Europe," she said.

Rome is Berlin's sixth-largest trading partner and main interlocutor in southern Europe, since Spain is mired in a political deadlock after two consecutive elections. That could change if Renzi's resignation triggers political chaos in Italy as well.

The EU's future following Britain's decision to leave in a national referendum, as well as EU anti-terrorism cooperation and actions to boost growth and fight youth unemployment were also on the agenda in Maranello.

Latest news

SpaceX plans to fly two passengers around moon

SpaceX is planning to fly two private citizens around the moon next year, the first manned trip to the Earth's satellite in more than four decades, the private company said Monday.

Key congressman has 'no evidence' of Trump contacts with Russia

The chairman of the US House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee said he is not aware of any evidence of improper contacts between Russian officials and Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Gambia's new President Barrow fires army chief

Gambia's new President Adama Barrow has sacked army chief Ousman Badjie, replacing him with a presidential military aide.

Star investor Buffett takes a bigger bite of Apple, doubling shares

Stock market guru Warren Buffett on Monday revealed that his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway doubled its share of iPhone producer Apple stocks last month.

Minister: Erdogan not welcome in Austria for referendum campaign

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should not come to Austria to campaign to Turkish citizens living there ahead of a constitutional reform referendum in his country, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said Monday.

Migrant group: Britain hits 'new low' by deporting grandmother

Britain has hit a "new low" by deporting a grandmother from north-eastern England to Singapore, a migrants' rights group said on Monday.

Turkish judge remands German reporter in custody

A Turkish judge remanded German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in custody Monday, according to newspaper Die Welt, sparking strong condemnation from the German government.

1.4 million people without water after deadly floods in Chile

More than 1.4 million people were without drinking water in the Chilean capital of Santiago on Monday following catastrophic flooding that left at least three people dead.

Serbia PM says no snap parliamentary election

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that an early parliamentary election would not be held simultaneously with a presidential vote, although the state leadership had announced such a possibility.  

Trump touts 'security budget' with 10-per-cent defence spending hike

US President Donald Trump says he will present a "public security and national security budget" that hikes military spending by 54 billion dollars or about 10 per cent.

National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen fined for Roma comments

The founder of France's far-right National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, had a 5,000-euro (5,300-dollar) fine for inciting racial hatred and discrimination confirmed on appeal on Monday.

Croatia-Montenegro relations example for region, says minister

After meeting Croatian Ambassador Veselko Grubisic in Podgorica on Monday, Montenegrin Defence Minister Predrag Boskovic said that relations between Croatia and Montenegro were very good and could serve as an example to other countries in the region.

Over 31,000 South Sudanese flee fighting and hunger to Sudan

Fleeing escalating fighting and famine in South Sudan, over 31,000 people have arrived in neighbouring Sudan so far this year, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Monday.

SDP urges gov't to pull statement making radical turn in human rights

The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Monday called on the government to take a position on the Croatian foreign policy's turn in human rights, which it said was initiated by Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier, and to withdraw a Foreign Ministry statement on that sent to Brussels.

Police says photoshopped photo of Milanka Opacic motivated by hate

An investigation has proved that a photograph showing Parliament Deputy Speaker Milanka Opacic wearing a shirt with four Cyrillic letters "S" (standing for "only unity saves the Serb", a popular motto and slogan in Serbia and among Serb nationalists) is a photomontage and the police suspect that publishing and distributing the said photo has been motivated by hate and intolerance.

Finance Ministry says didn't analyse HEP's readiness for IPO

The Ministry of Finance on Monday announced that it had not analysed the justification or the readiness of power provider Hrvatska Elektroprivreda (HEP) for an initial public offering with regard to a possible acquisition of Hungarian energy company MOL's stake in Croatia's INA.

Berlin confirms murder of German hostage in the Philippines

Berlin confirmed on Monday the murder of a German hostage by the militant Islamist group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines with Chancellor Angela Merkel condemning the killing as "barbaric" and "abominable".

Syrian refugees arrive in Italy with help from Christian groups

A group of 50 Syrian refugees, more than half of them children, landed in Italy early Monday, entering the country on humanitarian visas obtained with the help of a lay Catholic NGO, Protestant organizations and the Italian government.