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CNBC Transcript: Matteo Renzi, Former Italian Prime Minister

Below is the transcript of a CNBC Exclusive interview with Matteo Renzi, Former Italian Prime Minister. The interview was first broadcast on CNBC's Squawk Box Europe on 30 August 2019. All references must be sourced to a "CNBC Interview'.

Interviewed by CNBC's Joumanna Bercetche

Joumanna Bercetche: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat to us. We're in a very different situation today from where we were at the results of the last election which saw a big defeat for the PD party, and in fact you stepped down as leader of the PD. Now, today, all of a sudden things have changed and PD are back in government. Why is this time going to be any different?

Matteo Renzi: The problem is the proportional system because in Italy the results in the election unfortunately are not clear as in USA or in France. In France you see there is a winner in the election night, you know Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama, Mr. Macron, Mr. Hollande won and the winner is able to make the government for five years or four years. In Italy there is a proportional system and that proportional system gave a lot of powers to forces in parliament. What is the point? Mr. Salvini who achieved a good result in the last Italian election with 17 per cent, decided in the last three weeks to try to call new election but nobody could decide alone on a new election in Italy. My party and myself decided to block them for a lot of reason. For the message of hate speech from Salvini in the Italian public debate. For the polemics against Europe and particularly against Emmanuel Macron and for the lack of clear message about the relation between Russia and Salvini. So he try to call election, he lost and now there is a new government.

Joumanna: And yet what he's saying now is that what the PD party is doing are doing is not democratic. It's not democratic that a party that actually lost in the last elections is finding a way back into the government. He said "through the back door". How do you respond?

Renzi: It's not easy to explain to Mr. Salvini the democracy and the Constitution but I tried to explain to him the numbers. In the last Italian election, Salvini achieved 17 percent, Democrat Party achieved 19 percent. So we had a result better than him in the election. But of course then the complicated and confused Italian constitutional system permitted the force in parliament to create a government. What is the point? Salvini in the first 40 months made a government with the five star movement. And I think the results are very negative. Please consider that once again, the numbers. When I became prime minister, the GDP in Italy with Mario Monti's government and Enrico Letta's government was negative minus 2 percent. With our government we come back to growth - plus one point seven percent of GDP. Now we the Salvini and the Five Star Movement that we came back to zero.

Joumanna: Of course the world has changed since then, you've got a trade war, you've got Brexit you've got the rest of Europe slowing down. But I just want to bring it back to your policy objectives because everyone on the outside is saying it's very strange to see Five Star partnering up with PD. Where are you going to find common ground?

Renzi: First of all yeah it's true there is Brexit and there is a lot of that. There are a lot of different things around the world. But during our period, all the indicators became positive and with this government became negative. Just to underline this point. The question about the relation with the Five Star Movement and our party is very difficult. Please let me be very frank with you. Also in the personal level. Because I received a lot of attacks from Five Star Movement. They told me about me about my wife about my family. Every type of fake news and with lots of them I'm in front of trials in the court because I received too much attacks, so there is also a personal sentiment, a feeling of refusing this attack. But the politics. Politics is a very important thing. And today it's important for Italy to avoid the risk of Salvini and Putin, Salvini and anti-euro, Salvini and sovereigntists in the government. For that, I decide to accept the agreement with Five Star Movement with only one thing: myself out of every type of role. I don't make this decision for myself - but for my country.

Joumanna: Two follow ups on that. One: so you're saying you're not going to be a part of this future government?

Renzi: I decided I cannot stay in the government with the Five Star Movement. I can vote. The vote of confidence. I can support. I can block Salvini and I can give a message to international investors: please invest in Italy because Italy come back to be a part, a protagonist of Europe and a land able to attract international investment.

Joumanna: It seems to me though that the calculation that you're making is that LEGA will start declining in the polls, but actually if you look at the current polls, LEGA is still the most popular party. So in theory what Mr. Salvini was trying to achieve was to call a snap election so he could consolidate that power. You're buying a little bit more time by entering into this coalition government. If you don't see LEGA popularity falling then that surely is a warning signal to you.

Renzi: I know this is a time of polls. This is a time of social message. In Instagram in your profile, my profile, the profile of the people in Facebook. But the our Constitution is a little more important than Facebook than polls and than Instagram. So in the Constitution there is this law, this obligation - we go to election every five years. There is not an expression "we go to the election when Salvini have a good poll". But every five years. This is very important because, okay, the world is different. We saw the world is different and in respect to 50 years ago. But if Winston Churchill decided for the war following Twitter on Instagram. maybe there is a different story about the world and this is the same for John Kennedy. This is the same for every great leader in our, in our world. My opinion is that: please come back to normality. Please come back to constitution. In Italy we vote every five years and there is not a man, as Matteo Salvini, who could decide. Please respect the law, respect the Constitution. Salvini is not a minister. Salvini is an influencer. You think important but only give a good message in the social network. But I think politics is different to Populism. With this result Politics one - Populism Zero. This is the result of the first half of the match.

Joumanna: Even though, Five Star is a populist party too and you're partnering up with the populist party?

Renzi: You know, you speak with a man who was hate from the Five Star Movement. I think now it's time to change for them - because they lost the European election and they have to decide if to accept an alliance in Europe, a different alliance. I'm very clear - last European legislator Five Star Movement was in the same chair with Nigel Farage. Now I think it's time to change the position of Five Star Movement and maybe they will enter in the group of Macron or the Green Party in Europe. This is my goal not for myself - but for the future of European institutions.

Joumanna: How do you see Italy's relationship now with the rest of Europe? Because you could argue that a lot of damage has been done in the last 15 months. Can it be fixed?

Renzi: I think this is a very strange time in Europe. First of all for Brexit there is an unbelievable problem at an unbelievable chaos is Brexit. I joke with some friends like Tony Blair. Because I grew up with the idea of great leaders in London. Winston Churchill. Tony Blair. A lot leaders. It's my admiration when I was young boy. Now if I look what happened during Brexit I think this is not a British politics. This is an Italian organisation - a terrible chaos in every way. So I really worry for Brexit and this will be a disaster for UK and a problem for Europe. Second point. Very complicated for Europe is the crisis in Germany. Nobody speak about it. But the double message negative in the GDP in Germany is very very very worrying. And I think we have to change business model in Germany. For that reason, my opinion: chaos in Brexit, crisis in German, Italy have to come back in Europe. That means stop the attacks against Emmanuel Macron, stop relations with Visegrad countries, and Putin leadership and a great message of Italy as a pillar of European unification.

Joumanna: Do you think it's time to review the Stability and Growth Pact in the sense that it's time to actually pursue pro-growth policies even if it means a bit of relaxation on the fiscal side?

Renzi: My view is that we need a change in the economy politics not from now but from a long time ago. And I proposed that when I was prime minister. Maybe you remember in 2015 President Jean-Claude Juncker for the first time used this expression "flexibility" against the idea of austerity and the pact of stability and growth. I think it's important to have a pact for stability but without growth there is not stability, without growth, the countries risk instability and Italy show that very clearly. My view is that we need a new strategy for European institutions. Let me be very clear - today the risk for Europe is not populism is not sovereignism, is not nationalism. The risk is the lack of vision of the institutions. The euro bureaucracy has to change. And it's very important for also for the (inaudible) all the team will support to be very clear and committed about the necessity of a new order of development in Europe. And I'm confident, I believe in Europe. I'm very proud to be European. But we need a different Europe.

Joumanna: I want to ask you about your personal plans. You're no longer the leader of the PD party but you're still very popular within the party. There's some talk that maybe in the future you could plan to spin off and do your own thing. What do you say to that?

Renzi: We will see. Everything is possible in the crazy Italian politics. Let me be honest with you. I'm a very lucky man. I became mayor of Florence, the most beautiful city in the world, when I was 34 years old. I became the youngest prime minister in Italy. I won the competition. The second was Benito Mussolini. So the benchmark is not very good. When I was 39. And we achieved a lot of result in terms of civil rights, in terms of presence of women in the cabinet - the only cabinet with half women in the history of Italy. We achieve a result in term of reduction of taxation and investment in economy. So I'm really really happy for my life. I don't need to write a new page because this is my priority my desire. I'm really happy with myself. The problem is in Italy I think the necessity to invest in a new direction for the future of this country. Unfortunately I lost the referendum to change the constitution because my idea was exactly to align the proportional system with the same traditional games in Italian politics. My dream was: I will invest in a new model more similar to USA or to France with a winner in election night and five years four years of stability. I lost in the referendum. 2016 wasn't a very good year to celebrate the referendum in Italy as in UK. Now we will see what could happen in Italian politics but before to discuss about my party about the left in Italy also in UK in USA, everywhere there is a discussion about the future of the left. My opinion is first we have to block Salvini and that is very dangerous idea about the relation with Russia about the relation with the anti-European parties and about hate speech against women and black men. Then we will discuss the internal division of my party. First priority Salvini - please come back to home, or come back to beach with mojito and all the dancing, because this is his dream. Second, we will discuss about politics.

Joumanna: Final question. Do you think that this coalition government will make it to 2023?

Renzi: I'm sure this Parliament will arrive to 2023. About the government, we will see… Also because it depends on the quality of the ministers and about the quality of the cabinet...

END

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