Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, has said that Italy will push for a "United States of Europe" during its six-month EU presidency, in a move likely to raise hackles in Britain.
Launching an appeal to convince European leaders to show "that a stronger and more cohesive Europe is the only solution to the solve the problems of our time", Mr Renzi said: "For my children's future I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe."
Italy takes over the rotating EU presidency from Greece on July 1. Its job will be to steer the EU at a time when the so-called "European Project" is coming under renewed attack, in the wake of an EU-wide surge in support for Eurosceptic parties in the recent European elections.
Mr Renzi, whose country will preside over the EU until December, said the only effective response to the outcome of the European elections is to offer "an idea of Europe that corresponds to an attractive adventure, rather than just a financial or economic exercise." He said it was vital to show that the EU "is not only a common past but a common destiny."