Italy urged other EU countries to redesign the budget

Italy urged other EU countries to redesign the budget

EU finance ministers have urged Italy to bow before Brussels to formulate budgets that violate European rules on spending. Next week Rome must set a deadline to bring about or escalate a dispute with the European Commission.

On Monday, ministers urged the populist government of Rome to open talks with Brussels after Italian leaders repeatedly warned that they had no plans to change their spending plans

The Commission rejected the plans last month for failing to meet its previous commitments to restrain expenditure.

According to EU rules, Italy has to submit revised proposals by 13 November. However, figures like Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini have pledged to fight for the existing plans, even if they would increase the budget deficit to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2019.

Brussels has said the plans are "unprecedented in history" [of the EU]"Because they so strongly reject the commitments made by previous governments. The budget provides for a sharp increase in public spending to pay for measures such as higher social benefits for the poor and a reduction in the retirement age.

Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of Economic Affairs, said he hopes Italy will use the remaining window for talks with Brussels to adjust the plans.

"France shares the Commission's assessment, but the Italian Government also offers a hand, and I think it would be wise to do so [it]"Mr Le Maire said when he came to the meeting in Brussels.

His call was repeated by Mário Centeno, Portuguese Finance Minister and President of the Eurogroup. He further said he continued to hope that Italy would agree to submit a "draft new budget".

While Brussels has asked national governments to explain their reflections on parts of their draft budget, the Commission has never formally requested a revision.

The Commission has already indicated that if Rome sticks to its plans, it is likely to launch an excessive deficit procedure against the country – a process that could ultimately lead to sanctions.

On Monday, the first official discussion of finance ministers took place since the presentation of the draft budget.

Luigi Di Maio, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Five Star Movement, said earlier this month that the plans would not change, but hoped to convince Brussels that they would act as a "recipe" for growth.

"I do not think we will come to penalties [from the European Commission], The process will be initiated, but there will be a dialogue phase, "he said.

Pierre Moscovici, EU Economic Commissioner, said ministers were "completely in sync with the Commission" in their decision to reject the draft budget.

"It is not absolutely necessary to increase growth and reduce debt by increasing public spending," he said, adding, "We are always discussing and talking to the Italian government."

Ministers on Monday emphasized that Italy should comply with the procedures set out in the EU rules, including the timely response to Brussels calls.

The Commission will deliver its final opinion on the draft budgets of all euro area countries on 21 November.

Peter Kazimir, Minister of Finance of Slovakia, said he was "convinced that we are a rules-based association and that makes us more resilient and stronger."

He said he was "scared" that "the steps and approach of the Italian government" put more of the euro area's more general goals, such as growth and crisis resilience, "at risk".

Austrian Finance Minister Hartwig Löger said the governments of the other eurozone had "expressed their great surprise at Italy's behavior".

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