Thursday, 15 November, 2018

EU Hands Italy Unprecedented Budget Rebuke on Rules Breach

Asia shares rally as China surges on stimulus hopes Italy Very Much Not Taking The Hints
Elsie Buchanan | 25 October, 2018, 03:18

"Today for the first time the Commission is obliged to request a euro area country to revise its draft budgetary plan", said EU Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis.

Chancellor Kurz, who now chairs the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), hit out against the Italian populist government budget saying: "Austria is not ready to support the debt of other states, while those states are actively legitimating market uncertainty".

European shares gained on Monday amid relief over Italy's budget, following rallies in Asia after China promised to provide stimulus to stabilize its economy and offset the impact of US tariffs.

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said that Rome "won't subtract one single euro" form its spending plans.

Italy has a current account surplus while much of the Italian debt is funded by the country, he said.

Under EU rules, no country should have a budget deficit larger than 3 percent of GDP or debt above 60 percent.

Italy's debt load is the second-highest in Europe, after Greece, and there are worries that losing control of spending could rekindle financial turmoil in Europe. The government foresees a deficit of 2.4% of annual economic output next year - triple the amount forecast by the previous government.

On Monday Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria sent a letter to the commission to say Rome will stick with its budget plans despite criticism.

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He said Italy was already spending as much on servicing its debt as it did on education - an average burden of €37,000 per year per capita.

The eurozone's bailout fund director, Klaus Regling, said shortly before the announcement there was no need to panic over Italy's high-spending plans.

The Italian government, which includes the anti-EU League party, will have three weeks to respond to Tuesday's decision by the European Commission with revisions of its proposal or ignore the commission's warnings.

"We know that we are the last line of defense for social rights of Italians". We know that if we give up, the pro-bank and pro-austerity "experts' will return", he wrote.

Italy now has three weeks to submit a new draft budget to Brussels. European parliament elections loom in the spring and Di Maio and Salvini are jostling to gain influence before then.

He added that "one or two" Greek banks had also partly been affected by Italy, but noted that problems at these banks were also caused by very high levels of bad debt.

Eni, which is 30-percent government-owned, said in a statement that the action was taken despite "favorable prospects for the company and the expectation of strong credit metrics".

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