Italy approves final budget draft yet vows dialogue with EU

Italy approves final budget draft yet vows dialogue with EU”

The European Commission has already warned Italy that its higher-than-expected targets represent an unprecedented deviation from EU budget rules.

In Brussels, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz showed little tolerance for Rome's profligacy, in a sign of a looming confrontation that could destabilize Italy's economy, the eurozone's third largest.

Italy's deficit is now projected at 2.4 percent of GDP, far higher that the 0.8 percent estimate given by the earlier centre right government.

Speaking to reporters in Rome, EU budget chief Pierre Moscovici said the EU Commission and many other EU nations are anxious by Italy's spending plans, which will see the country's budget deficit rise to 2.4 percent of GDP, three times higher than agreed upon by the previous government.

Rome will now have until Monday to respond to the letter before the European Union begins the formal process to reject the budget.

Moscovici said Italy would be treated like any other member state, adding: "I can not imagine a Europe without Italy or Italy without Europe".

But Italy is one of the 19 European nations who use the joint euro currency - and its eurozone partners have been more outspoken than Moscovici about the need for Italy to give up plans that will push its deficit up to 2.4 percent - three times higher than promised by the previous Italian government.

Euro commissioner Pierre Moscovici was in Rome on Thursday to hand a letter raising concerns over the draft budget to Italian finance minister Giovanni Tria.

The head of one of Italy's two ruling parties says the government won't fall over a dispute on the budget draft, which would offer a tax amnesty to Italians with accounts overseas.

The EU's budget chief says that the European Commission won't interfere with Italy's economic policies and called for disagreements over the draft budget to be resolved in an "intelligent and serene way".

Brussels says Rome needs to cut the deficit in order to begin reducing its massive debt, which exceeds 130 percent of annual economic output - way above the EU's 60 percent ceiling.

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.

The so-called structural deficit, a key measure for the commission, which strips out effects of the economic cycle and one-off spending items, is also off the mark. He told a late-night talk show that the draft budget presented to President Sergio Mattarella's office contained a proposal to extend a tax amnesty on money held overseas and brought back to Italy.

Premier Giuseppe Conte told reporters in Brussels that he would review the draft law line by line when he returns Friday to Rome.

Markets reacted to Italy's plans by pushing up borrowing costs Friday to the highest levels in five years.

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