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Renzi chooses Tunisia for first trip abroad

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News,World,Tunisia

ROME (AP) — Premier Matteo Renzi told lawmakers on Tuesday that his first foreign trip as Italy's leader will be to Tunisia, not Brussels or Berlin, though he underlined Italy's place in Europe.

Renzi's plan to make Tunisia his first visit as premier, and not strategic European capitals, was a clear signal of discontinuity with Italy's last two governments, which emphasized ties with Europe even as ordinary Italians bristled at austerity measures imposed at the EU's behest.

Still, Renzi said he wanted to have the first reforms of his government completed before Italy takes up the head of the rotating presidency of the EU in June, so that Italy does not carry the same baggage as Europe's laggard.

"Europe is not our enemy," he told lawmakers ahead of a confidence vote on his government.

Renzi's government won a confidence vote in the upper house in the early hours of Tuesday. The coalition has a wider margin of support in the lower house.

Renzi, at 39 Italy's youngest premier, was sworn into office on Saturday following his brash maneuver to push aside the former premier, Enrico Letta, through an internal Democratic Party power play.

Letta, who exchanged a frigid handshake with Renzi at Saturday's swearing in ceremony, received big round of applause when he entered the chamber for the vote.

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