Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

EU warns Italy on budget but walks a fine line

A man stares at a street-art installation in Rome inspired by Banksy and Italy's budget dispute with Brussels Italy takes pro-Russia stance
Jeannette Daniel | 21 October, 2018, 16:30

The European Commission's letter said the difference between the expected budget deficit and the one now foreseen was "unprecedented in the history" of EU budget rules, and that it means Italy would be unlikely to lower public debt as promised.

Conte will fly home to another controversy.

In her ruling populists are going to increase public spending.

The commission gave the Italian government until 1000 GMT on Monday to respond.

European Union officials stressed they were seeking Italy's reply and changes to the draft budget before taking any further measures.

The European Commission formally warned Italy late Thursday that its budget plans for 2019 are a serious concern, launching a high-stakes process that could see Rome hit with unprecedented sanctions for breaking commitments to Brussels.

"The available cyclical indicators suggest that in the third quarter, gross domestic product growth slowed to about 0.1 percent compared with the previous quarter", the Bank of Italy said today.

"It's a combination of concerns in regards to the somewhat strong language at the European Union commission has taken in regards to the submission of the Italian budget", said Bipan Rai, head of North American foreign exchange strategy at CIBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

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Yesterday Brussels told Italy the budget's deviation...

If it is not amended, the Commission could reject the draft by October 29 in what would be an unprecedented move that could further rattle financial markets.

A sell-off of Italian bonds over the country's level of debt and proposed expansionary budget hit other eurozone debt this week, with the yield on decade-old Spanish debt reaching its highest level since March past year today, hitting 1.83 per cent, according to reports.

And Moody's said "stalling of plans for structural economic and fiscal reforms" also had negative implications for the country's growth outlook and debt.

Interviewed on the sidelines of the summit, German chancellor Angela Merkel has passed the buck to the Commission and pleaded for "dialogue" with Rome, when its Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, has said to him "very concerned".

In what could be a further source of concern at home, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star party, said on Wednesday a legislative text on a partial tax amnesty had been "manipulated" before its final approval, raising doubts about the stability of Italy's coalition government and about the budget's revenues. The 5-Star Movement opposes such a move, fearing possible money laundering.

Di Maio said on Thursday the dispute needed to be sorted out because it was upsetting financial markets.

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