by Marzia De Giuli
ROME, March 27 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday concluded his visit to Rome where he spent a busy day discussing a wide range of topics with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Obama, who had been last in Italy in 2009, arrived in Rome on Wednesday evening as part of his six-day tour in Europe.
Obama had lunch with Napolitano at the presidential palace, before meeting Renzi, who was sworn in at the helm of Italy only last month. Their talks ranged from Italy's promised reforms and the improvement of economic situation in the European Union (EU) to the crisis in Ukraine.
Obama expressed admiration and confidence for the "energy" of the 39-year-old new premier, who "will know how to take Italy forward."
Renzi has presented an ambitious plan of structural reforms to restart the economy of his recession-plagued country.
Speaking at a joint press conference after meeting Renzi, Obama also praised Europe's improving economic health, recalling the recent time when the United States was very worried about "the eurozone spiraling out of control."
He warned the EU, however, against reducing too much defense budgets, saying that the gap between spending by the United States and NATO allies in Europe - 3 percent against 1 percent of GDP - was "too significant."
Days ago, the Italian government said it could cut defense spending, including a multibillion budget for the F-35 fighter jet program beginning in 2015.
On the Ukraine crisis, Obama welcomed the financial aid package the International Monetary Fund agreed to extend to Kiev's authorities.
"We will do everything we can in order to help Ukraine ... What we can make sure is that Ukraine's government is financially stable and elections go ahead as planned," he said.
Renzi stressed that his meeting with Obama reflected the "common values and ideals" shared by Italy and the United States.
He added he hoped to complete the free-trade treaty between the EU and the United States during the Italian six-month EU presidency, which will begin in July, or early in 2015.
Meanwhile, Obama announced on Thursday the official U.S. participation to the Milan Expo 2015 that will take place in Italy's business capital from May 1 through Oct. 31 next year.
Obama concluded his intense day of meetings with a guided tour of the ancient Colosseum, which was sealed off to the public along with the nearby heritage sites in the heart of the Italian capital.
More than 1,000 police and helicopters were deployed in armored Rome to watch over his visit.
Obama, who was set to leave Italy early on Friday, was also reportedly escorted by around 200 U.S. special forces and military personnel, media reports said.