BERLIN (AP) — Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni said Friday he expects his country to continue to have a pro-European government after next month's elections, rejecting suggestions that growing populism might force a change of course in Italy.

Speaking after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Gentiloni told reporters that he believes "Italy will have a stable government, and I don't see the risk of a government led by populists or anti-Europeans in my country."

Rising populism in Europe has rattled several countries over the past year and Gentiloni's center-left party is expected to lose votes to the right and to the upstart 5-Star Movement on March 4.

In Germany, a new nationalist party came third in last year's elections, putting pressure on Merkel by limiting her options for a new government. Earlier this month her conservative Union bloc agreed to a new coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, but that party has since been wracked by a leadership dispute and internal opposition to joining another government under Merkel.

In an interview with Munich-based daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, published Friday, Gentiloni called for "a strong German government," warning that Europe's economic upswing mustn't be endangered by hesitancy among center-left politicians when it comes to taking on political responsibility.

Berlin and Rome have been among the strongest advocates of European unity in the face of disputes over the bloc's handling of the migrant crisis and Britain's decision to leave the EU.

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Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.