EU likely to reject Italy’s budget, but no decision yet: Oettinger

REUTERS  Chris Wattie

Next year's projected 2.4 percent of output deficit is well below the EU's 3 percent ceiling-a policy to discourage member states from going down a path of unsustainable spending-but it is up sharply from a targeted 1.8 percent this year. The budget proposes increasing both Italy's overall government debt and its deficit in the short run, pushing the deficit as high as 2.4% of GDP over the coming years.

The magazine later corrected its report and said a letter from the commission would only come after final discussions between Moscovici and the Italian government. The EU executive has never taken this step since it was given beefed-up powers in 2013.

Giuseppe Conte was on the wires earlier today, via Reuters, addressing the parliament ahead of European Union meeting on the Italian budget.

Italian ministers, who have repeatedly bristled at what they see as unnecessary interference from Brussels, urged greater respect for Rome.

The Italian budget is set to increase spending largely to pay for the minimum basic income proposed by the Five Star Movement but Juncker said he would not condemn the specific policy, saying: "If I said that we are against those measures, this would have as a effect that some in the Italian government would attack the Commission because it prohibits fighting against poverty". The extra deficit will help pay for tax cuts, a lower retirement age and new benefits for the poor.

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"Europe works according to pre-established rules before the arrival of governments", Juncker said. Tria said he expects "continued dialogue" with the Commission over Italy's plans. Officials sought to play down the chances of a major clash, with Giovanni Tria, Italy's foreign minister saying that the "idea that this budget will blow up Europe is totally unfounded".

FILE PHOTO: Italian Minister of Labor and Industry Luigi Di Maio speaks at the Italian Business Association Confcommercio meeting in Rome, Italy, June 7, 2018.

To help fund spending measures, the budget makes life harder for Italy's struggling banks, reducing the proportion of interest payments they can deduct from their taxable income.

While attracting worldwide criticism, the budget is popular with Italians. A survey by pollster Demopolis on Friday showed 52 percent backed the plan, compared with 38 percent who gave it the thumbs down. After Italy receives the commission's requests, which will occur by late October, it will have three weeks to submit an updated budget proposal.

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