BERLIN (AP) -- Italy's prime minister is urging the European Union to drop its insistence on austerity policies and promote initiatives fostering growth instead.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta said Tuesday in Germany "it is absolutely necessary" to foster growth and job creation to help the 27-nation bloc's stalling economies "so that our citizens see Europe not as something negative but as something positive."

Letta's visit in Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel marked his first official trip abroad and came only hours after his winning approval by the Senate in Rome.

Letta said his government will respect Italy's European commitments to bring its public finances in order.

Merkel acknowledged Italy's "substantial" progress in reforming its economy and bringing its finances in order but stressed budget consolidation and growth don't exclude each other.

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