Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti left for EU headquarters in Brussels today for an unscheduled visit, his spokeswoman said. The programme of his visit is not yet known.

His spokeswoman Elisabetta Olivi said that "talks are ongoing" regarding which EU officials the premier will meet.

The former eurocrat, whose government adopted a draconian austerity plan before Christmas to tackle the country's financial woes, has called on the EU for a "united, joint and convincing response" to the debt crisis.

The trip comes ahead of talks between Monti and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris tomorrow.

The Italian premier will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next week before travelling to London for talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron on January 18.

Merkel's office has said their discussions will focus on "bilateral and international issues, the situation in the euro zone as well as the economic development in Europe".

Youth unemployment in Italy hits record high

Italy's youth unemployment shot up to a record high of 30.1% in November and the jobless rate in the active population rose to 8.6% from 8.5% in October as the country slid towards recession.

According to seasonally adjusted figures released by ISTAT, the unemployment rate for young people aged from 15 to 24 years broke through the 30% barrier for the first time, up from 29.2% in October.

The number of people looking for work across Italy rose to 2.142 million in November, up 0.7% compared to a month earlier (15,000 more people) and 5.6% rise over the year (114.000 more people). The jobless rate of 8.6% in November is the highest since May 2010.

Unemployment in Italy has been increasing since the summer, when the country - which is battling a fierce debt crisis - began sliding into recession with a 0.2% drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the third quarter.

Prime Minister Mario Monti's government adopted a draconian austerity package to help tackle the crisis before Christmas and next week will negotiate reforms to the labour market - a sensitive issue which has riled trade unions.

Since taking over from ousted premier Silvio Berlusconi in November, Monti has aimed to bring in reforms fast and redress imbalances such as excessive privileges and job protection in some sectors and vulnerability in others.