The commission’s Vice-President and former Prime Minister of Latvia, Valdis Dombrovskis, stated: “Today, for the first time, the commission is obliged to request a euro area country to revise its draft budgetary plan,” Dombrovskis said. “But we see no alternative … Breaking rules can be tempting on a first look. It can provide the illusion of breaking free. It can be tempting to try to cure debt with more debt. But, at some point, the debt weights too heavy and you end up having no freedom at all.”
A spokeswoman for the Italian economic ministry was quick to respond, defending the governments ambition to wipe public debt and re-affirming their commitment to boosting domestic economic growth. Similarly, the co-deputy Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio, commented via Facebook: “This is the first Italian budget that the EU doesn’t like… No surprise: This is the first Italian budget written in Rome and not in Brussels!”
Italy’s crisis is now a bigger threat to the EU than Brexit. Everyone needs to start paying attention https://t.co/jPJNh9Bew5
— The Independent (@Independent) 23 October 2018
Italy is currently in 2.3trillion euros of public debt, which as a share of the economy’s output, is second behind only Greece. However, the Government – a coalition of the right-wing League and anti-establishment 5-star movement – says it needs £15bn to fund election promises. These pledges will seek to create the financial manoeuvrability to ensure a lower retirement age and commit to higher welfare payments.
Whilst the Brexit process assumes the majority of the EU’s energy and attention, friction with the Italian government will have consequences too. Before the Commission announced its refusal of the Italian budget plans on Tuesday, European shares dropped to their lowest levels in two years. As both sides are showing little signs of backing down it is likely that tensions are set to hang in the air. The Italian Government now have three weeks to put forward a secondary submission to the EU authorities in Brussels.