The Commission has put the finger in the gear. Thursday, October 18, from Rome, where he embarked on a travel of two days, Pierre Moscovici, the european commissioner for the economy, confirmed that the community institution had to send an official letter denouncing “a deviation unprecedented” budget Italian 2019 compared to the rules of the Pact of stability and growth.
This letter is the first step towards an eventual rejection of this budget. An act without precedent, which, if it materializes by the end of October, may cause a serious political crisis between the european authorities and the coalition M5S and the League.
“We have never had such a gap in terms of structural deficit, between what was asked [to Italy] and what she has planned, in a context of high debt,” said Mr. Moscovici, as he held a joint press conference with Giovanni Tria, the minister of economy and finance, italy.
It is not a question, said Mr Moscovici, ” to intervene in Italian politics : we are in favour of policies which support economic growth and employment. The Commission loves Italy “. And in its assessment of the estimated budget in Italian, ” we need to stay extremely accurate, totally neutral and even if we do have political opinions, we let them in the door “.
online on the website of the Commission in the evening, the letter was co-signed by Mr Moscovici and the vice-president of the Commission in charge of the euro, Valdis Dombrovskis, gave the Italian government until Monday October 22 to explain, and possibly amend its own copy.
The Commission alleges that in Rome a public deficit forecast of 2.4% of GDP in 2019, instead of as a commitment of 0.8% is taken in the spring of 2018. And above all, a structural deterioration (widening of the deficit is linked to reforms) of 0.8% of GDP transalpine in 2019, while the Commission hoped, on the contrary, a structural effort of 0.6 % (budget reductions related to reforms).
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The Commission is preparing to publish other letters of ” requests for information “, “to four, five or six countries” has dropped to its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, on Thursday. France and Belgium are probably in this list. These countries, too, have budgetary targets, with deviations up to their commitments. The Commission could decide that the structural effort in 2019, France is insufficient. However, it is highly unlikely that the budgets of French or belgian will be released at the end of this month, their differences being judged much less alarming.
History does not put oil on the fire, the Commission has also taken care to wait for the conclusions of the summit of the euro area, which stood Thursday afternoon in Brussels, before sending his letter to Rome. In order to leave with Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, the opportunity to express themselves – rather than defend – in front of his peers.
” This is not the budget that was waiting for the Commission. It is understandable that he reacted, ” said Mr. Conte, on his arrival in Brussels. “Me, the more time that passes, the more I find that our budget is very beautiful “, he also launched. For his part, Mr. Juncker said that his institution would examine the budget in italy, with ” the same rigour, the same flexibility as others. “
At the summit on Thursday, Mr Juncker was also come to seek support of other eurozone leaders, facing the prospect of a rejection of the budget Italian. It has generally obtained, most of them saying ” defer to the judgment of the Commission “. This last “is the institution with which Italy needs to talk” soberly said German chancellor Angela Merkel. More explicitly, Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, is the voice of the supporters of a strict application of the stability Pact. He was said to have had testy exchanges with Mr. Conte : “We’re all concerned about Italy. “
The president of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron is also, prudently, delivered to the Commission. “On these subjects, France does not give lessons, after having spent ten years in the procedure for excessive deficits “. But, ” there are european rules, and it is up to the Commission to assess, in the same way for everyone “.
Tensions in Rome
on the Italian Side, the message from Brussels was expected and the substance of the remarks of the Commission was more than predictable. But the harshness of the terms used, as well as the isolation of the country in Brussels, which became every day more apparent, were not of a nature to reassure the spirits. The “spread” (the spread between the interest rates of the loans of ten-year German and Italian), which was slightly relaxed in recent days, has exceeded Thursday night, 320 points, its highest level in five years, and the eyes are now on the rating agencies, which could by the end of the month lowered the rating of Italian sovereign debt.
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in the Face of these threats, the margin of manoeuvre of the Italian government seems to be extremely low, especially as the relations between the two coalition partners, the League (far-right) and the Movement 5 stars (anti-system) are brutally strained in recent hours. In question, the very generous tax amnesty wanted by the League, and registered in the budget, which goes to the heart of his convictions to the electorate of the M5S.
the extent of the negative reactions from his own camp, the political leader of the movement, Luigi Di Maio, attempted to escape by claiming on Wednesday evening, on television, that the text on the “peace tax” had been changed in his back, even announcing its willingness to file a complaint. A council of extraordinary ministers has been convened for Saturday in order to seek an exit from the crisis, and the head of the League, Matteo Salvini, after having announced his desire not to go there, seems to have accepted the appointment.
While the minister of finance, Giovanni Tria, is working on the response to be sent to Brussels by Monday, the leaders of the two components of the majority may be too busy with their arguments for looking seriously for a compromise.