Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Italy defends budget as European Union warns of unprecedented rules breach

Italy takes pro-Russia stance Italian finance minister Giovanni Tria faces EU scrutiny on budget
Ellis Copeland | 21 October, 2018, 18:14

The Italian government has until midday Monday to respond to the European Union letter, which expresses concern about Italy's structural deficit and its high debt level, and seeks more information about Italy's growth outlook from its new populist government.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says after a day of defending the country's budget plan to allies that there is no reason to fear the EU's criticisms.

The letter was delivered by Moscovici, the EU's economics chief, during a meeting in Rome with Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria on Thursday. But Italy is one of the 19 European nations that use the joint euro currency, and its eurozone partners have demanded that it give up the increased spending. I will continue to make the case that in Europe this principle applies: "responsibility and solidarity, liability and control - those are two sides of the same coin", she added to laud applause. "Nor a euro without Italy or Italy without the euro".

The concerns about the budget Italian, however, have pushed the rating agency Moody's to lower Friday night the rating of Italy by one notch to "Baa2" to "Baa3", the last level of investment grade.

Italy's government borrowing rose, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year bond on Friday hitting its highest level since 2013.

"We all know that the situation is delicate and we don't want to create more tensions", Moscovici said.

The Italian government is looking to boost spending in the hope of engineering faster economic growth.

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"The fact that the EU Commission is clear in its rejection of Italy's draft budget is an important message from the EU to Italy", said Guntram Wolff, Director of Brussels-based Bruegel think-tank, describing the letter as a "significant political rift" with the rest of the euro area.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who heads the Five Star Movement, blamed Brussels for the movement, saying in a video posted on his Facebook page that the spread widened "because the markets think that the government is no longer united".

Officials earlier this week said Italy's draft budgetary represents "an obvious significant deviation" from European Union rules.

The League and the 5-Star Movement, the two parties in the coalition, had been at odds over widening the proposed tax amnesty to shield financial criminals, including money launderers.

But Salvini, who is also leader of the right-wing League party, said the decree containing the proposal had to stay as it was if they did not want to create a risky precedent.

Conte, in a post on Facebook Thursday, said that the measures are "well-considered, well-constructed and well-realized", and he said the draft was "the only instrument that we have to ensure economic growth and social development to our country".

Rutte said in a statement that he expressed Dutch concerns regarding Italy's budget plans and said he was giving "full support" to the European Commission, which is vetting the draft after having expressed its skepticism.

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