0742 GMT February 29, 2020
La Repubblica newspaper reported on Tuesday that the European Commission is willing to accept an increase in Italy’s deficit target to 1.95 percent for next year. Meanwhile, it said that Italy’s Finance Minister Giovanni Tria was ready to target a budget deficit of two percent for 2019, CNBC wrote.
Although not an agreement over the budget deficit targeted by Italy in 2019, the report suggested that both sides are willing to compromise after Italy’s spending plans put it on a collision course with Brussels.
Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, the leaders of the Lega party and Five Star Movement respectively, formed a coalition government in May and produced controversial 2019 spending plans that envisage the introduction of a basic income (called a ‘citizen’s income’) for the poor, a lower retirement age and a proposed flat tax rate.
The 2019 budget had envisaged a deficit of 2.4 percent in 2019 as a result and while this is within the official EU limit of three percent, Brussels rejected the budget. It said that it goes against EU rules that states should work towards lowering their budget deficits (Italy’s previous government had already agreed to a lower budget deficit of 0.8 percent) and debt piles (Italy has the second highest debt pile in the eurozone of 133 percent of GDP).
The commission started what’s known as an ‘excessive deficit procedure’ against Italy and said the government needs to amend its spending plans if it wants to avoid sanctions, including a possible fine and reduced EU funds.
Italy’s Finance Minister Giovanni Tria is pushing the government to reduce its deficit target to two percent, to find a compromise with Brussels, La Repubblica said, Reuters reported.
There has been resistance from the Deputy Prime Ministers Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio to amend their spending plans, however.
Il Messagero newspaper reported onTuesday that time is running out for the Italian government to respond to the EU’s rejection of its budget, saying it has until Wednesday – when Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is due to meet the commission’s president Jean-Claude Juncker – to produce ‘concrete proposals’ that correct the budget.
Fellow Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday that Rome and Brussels ‘are still far apart’ and that Juncker was asking for more cuts to spending, of around €10 billion, that would have been used towards the proposed citizen’s income and pension reform.