News ID: 233303
Published: 0409 GMT October 24, 2018

Salvini: Italy won't change budget, 'Italians come first'

Salvini: Italy won't change budget, 'Italians come first'

Italy will not change its 2019 budget, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday after the European Commission rejected the government’s fiscal plan and gave it three weeks to present a new one.

In a radio interview with RTL 102.5, Salvini insisted the expansionary budget, which raises the deficit next year to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product from a targeted 1.8 percent this year, was the only way to lower the public debt, Reuters reported.

“Italians come first ... Italy no longer wants to be a servant to silly rules,” said Salvini, who leads the right-wing League party that governs with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

The commission called on Rome to present a new draft budget that cuts the structural deficit, which excludes one-offs and business cycle swings, by 0.6 percent of GDP, rather than increase it by 0.8 points as in the current plan.

The EU executive was exerting for the first time a power obtained in 2013 after a sovereign debt crisis, to send back a budget of a euro zone country it says violates the rulebook.

Salvini said in order to boost the economy and lower the debt as a proportion of GDP Italy had to “do the opposite” of previous governments whose fiscal plans had been more acceptable to Brussels.

Italy’s public debt stood at 131.2 percent of GDP at the end of last year, the highest ratio in the Eurozone after Greece’s.

Despite his defiant tone on the budget, Salvini said Italy’s membership of the single currency was not in question.

“I don’t want to leave euro or leave the European Union,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview, Salvini also said he had evidence that France was taking immigrants across the border and depositing them in Italy, and that this could be part of an attempt to destabilize the Italian government.

After the EU’s unprecedented rejection of Italy’s budget on Tuesday, also an Italian MEP went up to the European Commissioner for finance, slammed his shoe on his notes and shouted “Italy deserves respect!”

Italian MEP Angelo Ciocca – who represents the League, the right-wing junior partner in the coalition with the Five Star Movement – was perhaps the most luridly vocal of those expressing opposition to the EU’s approach, France 24 reported.

After European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici spoke against the budget, Ciocca took his shoe and used it to crush the commissioner’s notes, shouting “Italy deserves respect!”

“In Strasbourg, I used my shoe (with a sole made in Italy!) to walk on the mountain of lies that Muscovici wrote against our country!” Ciocca wrote on Twitter.

Moscovici responded on the same platform: “Those who crush texts and decisions with footwear do not respect rules, institutions or democracy.”


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